Just Keep GOING!

I prayed big strong confident prayers that morning. I asked the Lord to make the lines short and to grant me preferred parking as I made plans to renew 3 of my daughters’ passports. I got to the parking lot and it was full to the brim. But as I drove in a great spot just opened up out of nowhere and then another. I smiled and parked and proceeded to the passport office. I smiled again, there were only 2 persons in line. God is not only good, but He also works miracles in 2022! I went up to the window to have the documents processed. And lo and behold, I knew the agent at the desk and caught up for a minute. Then she started to review the forms. “Your JP seems to have signed the wrong date when certifying the documents,” she advised. “What does that mean?” I asked. She proceeded to offer me 3 new blank passport forms. I stopped smiling.

We stepped outside the building and I called my JP friend who thankfully was available and at home at a time when she would normally be at her office. So, we drove hastily to her home, got the new forms completed and went back to the passport office. The parking lot was full, again, except for 1 nearby spot seemingly hidden from everyone else and waiting for us. We hurried into the building since it was near closing time, and this time no one was in the line. Thank God. I smiled a little. I went up to counter for the forms to be processed. It was a different agent but equally thoughtful and thorough. “Miss, your JP didn’t include the number of years she knows the children.” I felt like I was in some kind of prank. We weren’t. “What does this mean?” I asked. She didn’t proceed to offer me 3 blank forms. Instead she wrote a note for the attention of the JP to enter the number of years and to sign again at that line. Unbelievable.

“Are you sure that there is nothing else missing from the form, could you check?” I asked exasperatedly. She took them all back and went through with her red pen and then confirmed that it was only the number of years that was missing and reiterated that it must be inserted by the JP and the JP must sign at the line where the years are entered. (In other words, I shouldn’t yield to temptation to go outside, input the years myself and come back in).

We again exited the passport office. My daughters and I were distraught. But three words came into my spirit as we stood in the parking lot, “just keep going.” So, we did. I called the JP again, who had left her home at the time but serendipitously was on her way back. I told her what happened and after expressing dismay and distress about the whole situation, we had a good laugh. I again met her at her home. By the time we were finished, it was too late to go back to the passport office. I will go back by the end of the week, I said to myself.

The next day however I got a nudge in my spirit to go back. So, we did. We went and again I got excellent parking in a bustling parking lot. I smiled. We went into the passport office, but this time it was full. Just about every chair was taken. But within a minute the agent called us to the counter. She took the documents and fiddled with her red pen. We collectively held our breaths. Then she asked, “what kind of service do you want, regular, express?” We exhaled with relief knowing that all was now well with the forms.

She gave us another ticket to go into an area for further processing. Before I could enter the door of that other building, we heard our ticket number being called on the intercom. Wow. That was fast, we thought. About 20 persons were seated and waiting but we went straight to the counter and the documents were further processed, stamped and collected etc. Within a few minutes that agent then sent us to the cashier to pay. Again, no one was in the line. So, we went right up, paid, had friendly banter with the cashier and left, smiling and downloading the life lesson in all this.

When we pray our big confident strong prayers it sometimes doesn’t go according to our plan. I did get great parking and short or no line. That is a miracle in and of itself at the Passport Office. But of course, it wasn’t as seamless as I envisioned. And so is life. This whole scenario taught us that God is in the details and is oftentimes whispering, “just keep going” when things don’t go as planned. The going is your faith in action. I have found that God will carry you, show you favour and make a way for you, even when you or other folks in your life make mistakes, fall short or forget important things. So, lets continue to trust God and just keep going this year.

Shelly-Ann Harris is the author of God’s Woman and the Goodies on Her Tray. She is also the Founder of Family & Faith Magazine.

Commitment is thicker than blood

As we ease into the New Year, we can approach our relationships with one of the most powerful takeaways from the Christmas season – the power of commitment. As the Scripture teaches, Mary, the mother of Jesus, was pregnant and Joseph, her husband, was not the biological father. Being a just man, Joseph, before receiving the revelation that the baby was from God, was unwilling to put Mary to shame, so he planned to divorce her quietly. But having received word from God that Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit, Joseph faithfully accepted the assignment and lived out his commitment as husband to Mary and earthly father to Jesus.

So, Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ father by blood, but his commitment and covenant with Mary, created the pathway and alignment for Jesus to be placed in the lineage of David. Commitment is thicker than blood. And through this commitment, the scripture is fulfilled, and behold the generations outlined at the beginning of the book of Mathew in the New Testament. 

“And Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. So, all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations” – Mathew 1: 16-17 ESV.

The genealogy of Jesus is a powerful reminder that our commitment is what counts. How many people do we know, who are related by blood, who don’t care for each other? How many fathers do we know who have abandoned their wives and children and leave them to struggle to eat and get by? How many fathers do we know that grumble and complain when they are called upon to support the children that came from their loins? How many mothers do we know that have left their children on someone else’s doorstep or near a garbage heap?  How many mothers do we know about who have led their girl children into abominable ‘situationships’ with grown men? How many children do we know that have abandoned their elderly loved ones in state care or hospital during this season? We all know or have at least heard enough stories to know that blood relation doesn’t mean love or commitment.

As we step into 2022, let us reflect on the power of faith, decision and commitment. Who has God provided for you to love and care for in your life? If they are related by blood, strengthen that bond with the power of your commitment. If they are not related by blood, like Joseph and Jesus, you can accept an amazing assignment and provide a channel and lineage of love. Let this year be a year of building and strengthening your family, knowing that family are not necessarily the people who have a similar DNA, but the people you choose to love. Strengthen that love with commitment and reap the blessings of God.

Shelly-Ann Harris is the author of God’s Woman and the Goodies on Her Tray. She is also the Founder of Family & Faith Magazine. Email familyandfaithmagazine@gmail.com

Best friends from high school – Sean & Ruth-Ann Taylor’s Love Story!

This week we continue our Happy Marriage Summer Series with beautiful couple, Sean and Ruth-Ann Taylor, who have been married for about 13 years. The couple have 4 children: Caleb age 11, Eden 9, Benjamin 8, and Israel 5. Sean is presently the Head of Digital Marketing at Barita Investments Ltd. and one of the Pastors at Grace Family Church. Ruth-Ann, who has homeschooled the kids up to this point, is in the midst of a transition where she will be working as a breastfeeding specialist helping new moms to successfully nurse their babies. The Taylors shared their marriage story with Editorial Director of Family and Faith Magazine, Shelly-Ann Harris.

Shelly-Ann: How did you know that your partner was the one?

Ruth-Ann: Sean and I dated from high school on and off and we were best friends. I personally knew because God whispered to me one day that he was the one. I then carried him to all the people who loved me and who I trusted, and we went to several different counselors together.

Sean: Ruthy was and still is my best friend. I would be sorry for any other woman that I would have married. They would be jealous of our closeness and I knew I would not want to lose our relationship. Simply put – she is a godly woman who I loved and wanted to marry.

Shelly-Ann: I had a chance to hear you introduce your husband who was the main speaker at Grace Family Church one Sunday. Your intro was sweet, vulnerable and honest – what’s the thing you value most about your husband Ruth-Ann? And Sean, what do you value about Ruth-Ann?

Ruth-Ann: I guess it would be how humble and teachable he is.

Sean: Ruthy daily shows us what it means to live sacrificially. She is who I call my “end-times woman” because there is nothing she puts her mind to that she isn’t able to do. She chooses every day to live a life of service to God and her family.

Shelly-Ann: What’s one of the most challenging issues you have faced as a married couple and how did you overcome it?

Ruth-Ann: Getting married so young meant there was lots we had to learn so I would say the hardest part of the learning was doing so while being very sick during pregnancy and raising several babies at once with adequate but not much money while still loving God, my husband and maintaining a church community.

Sean: They tell you to study hard, get good jobs and make enough money so you can start a family. We have chosen to walk a path that isn’t the norm. That has meant we have often been in a season of life that looks different from most people our age. That looked like choosing things like living in a one-bedroom apartment, with 3 children, while Ruthy stayed home during the formative years. Or deciding that we would move our family overseas while I studied to be a Pastor with our entire family not knowing exactly how we would do that financially. Such things add pressure to any marriage, but being willing to learn from others and being engaged in Christian community have been important means of God’s grace to keep us strong.

Shelly-Ann: Describe the role your faith plays in strengthening your marriage?

Sean & Ruth-Ann: Jesus is our everything. He is our rescuer, our sustainer and in Him we also have hope for his return. These truths shape our every interaction in marriage. We take the Bible very seriously and seek to live out the Gospel truths in our conversations. That in mind, we say sorry often. We are quick to revisit arguments until they are things we can laugh about together. We have had a single income family for years and have trusted God to provide because we wanted to prioritize certain things with our kids for years. Sean left his Job to pursue pastoral study because He felt God was leading in that way, which meant no salary for a family of 6; again a walk of faith. We have given ourselves in humility to the church and to believers there to speak into our marriage and we have welcomed it through the years as we have seen in scripture the importance of prioritizing such things.

Sean, Ruth-Ann and their 4 lovely children.

Shelly-Ann: Has parenting challenged or strengthened your marriage?

Sean & Ruth-Ann: Parenting has humbled us immensely and has definitely caused us to rely on Jesus more and more. It has caused us to see aspects of ourselves that has had us repenting on a regular basis. We have always seen our kids as the blessings that they are and the ways we have been able to grow in our character and our skill sets in raising them have been amazing. Godly counsel has really served us in these years of parenting, warning us to prioritize our marriage while we parent. So, we have sought to continue building our marriage. We have date nights weekly (in house or out of house) and that’s prioritized by us and respected by our children, church meetings and work schedules. We also try to get away often; at least once a year together. We try to prioritize growing in affection in the midst of the chaos so that we grow while they grow.

Shelly-Ann: What are some of the biggest lessons you have learnt about marriage and family over the years?

Sean & Ruth-Ann: Trust God and His Word and live according to the things His Word says. For example, “do not forsake the fellowship of believers” – we have not always felt like it; sometimes fights get in our way but we continue to prioritize what God’s Word says and it has served us tremendously.

“A soft answer turns away wrath” when applied is powerful and true.

“Love bears all things, hopes all things…” When applied God is at work. We depend on God being at work in us to live out these truths daily and in every moment.

We read marriage and parenting books yearly to help to revive our marriage and strengthen our parenting.

We are part of a local church and we have submitted to its leaders. This helps with accountability for both of us and our kids. Staying in community has definitely served us tremendously.

We did choose as a family to homeschool for the early years of our children’s lives and that has served our family tremendously. Both financially and also in being able to bring stability in the early years. 

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God, wife, children, then others – Michael & Lynier Watson share powerful insights after 16 years of marriage!

This week Shelly-Ann Harris connects with Michael and Lynier Watson for Family & Faith Magazine’s Happy Marriage Summer Series. Michael and Lynier have been married for 16 years and have 3 wonderful children: Michaela (14), Michael Jr. (11) and Matthew Mikhail (6). The two also own and operate ePOH Jamaica Limited, a growing company that provides IT services for small to medium businesses. Michael is also a singer and actor and Lynier is a teacher and actress. The creative lovebirds are also both Ministers of the Gospel.

Shelly-Ann: How did you know that your partner was the one?

Lynier: I had a crush on him from the first time I watched him playing basketball on the court of my alma mater, Edna Manley College (EMC). The Holy Spirit whispered to me at the time that he would be my husband. The only thing is that I wasn’t a mature enough believer at the time to know it was the Holy Spirit and thought it was in my head, especially since I was engaged somewhat to someone else at the time. We became friends and were just inseparable thereafter. I felt he was family and just couldn’t imagine not being with him.

Michael: While playing dominoes on the EMC Campus Dorms, one day I looked up and saw a gorgeous woman open her windows and fix her curtains, after which I saw her beautiful figure silhouetted behind the curtains as she fluffed her pillows and got ready for bed.  I was so invigorated by the experience that I decided that I would sit in the same position every night to “play dominoes.”  I was determined from that time that I had to do something to get this girl’s attention.

Shelly-Ann: Whenever you speak of Michael, you always have a sparkle and admiration. What do you value most about your husband? And Michael what do you value most about Lynier?

Lynier: It’s hard to give just one answer for this but at the top of the list would be his faithfulness and commitment to God and his family.

Michael: Lynier is like no one else that I know.  She loves big and allows nothing to stop her from expressing that.

Shelly-Ann: What’s one of the most challenging issues you have faced as a married couple and how did you overcome it?

Michael & Lynier: We can’t identify one specific event that we could say was the greatest challenge we faced. We have faced many tough challenges including financial struggles, temptations of infidelity, struggles with in-laws – you name it we’ve tasted it. However, our greatest challenge comes not in the tough events because we often deal with those quite well. The toughest times in our marriage is when we turn our eyes on ourselves and look away from Christ and each other. Satan has a field day with our selfishness and floods our minds with thoughts that magnifies the simplest of things. We forget who we are and begin to accept all of satan’s lies about each other. “He doesnt love me, he only cares about himself so I have to take care of me,” is an example of these lies. These thoughts then influence both our behaviors and before you know it, we are constantly arguing.

We have identified that these thoughts are not our own. Whenever we refocus and set our thoughts on God’s word, He gently guides us back into truth. We still struggle from time to time especially when we are to minister. Satan comes at us with everything he has.  Through discipleship with more mature believers and dedicating personal time with the Lord and in His Word, we are learning more and more how to defuse the flaming darts.  As a result, arguments are way less and far between. We forgive each other for teaming up with the accuser of the brethren and we refocus on walking in the peace, love and joy that God has blessed us with.

Shelly-Ann: Turning to the children now, has parenting challenged or strengthened your marriage? Describe how.

Michael & Lynier: Parenting is one of God’s greatest blessings to humanity. Whether you give birth to a child or not we strongly believe that every Christian couple should raise children. According to Malachi 3, it is one of God’s purposes for marriage. We find parenting to be God’s greatest gift to us. We recognize that everything God gives us is geared at building our character. Like gold, character is tested when it goes through fire. Parenting is a character builder. Sometimes it is overwhelmingly rough but at the end of the day it strengthens who we are. As our characters are built so is our marriage, so yes parenting has certainly strengthened our marriage.

One practical way that this happens is that we have to always keep in mind that we are a team. Every disagreement concerning the children must be discussed on the sidelines and not on the court. The kids must always realize that we are a team. If Daddy says no, then it’s no and if mommy says no its no. This gives the children stability and builds our relationship as a couple. It’s not always easy…especially when inside you strongly disagree.  But with the help of the Holy Spirit it can be done and benefits the family greatly.

Shelly-Ann: What are some of the biggest lessons you have learnt about marriage and family over the years?

Lynier: God’s design and order for marriage is perfect. The world, our flesh and satan war against this. We are therefore in continuous warfare and can only win by learning and submitting to God’s way. Secondly, my spouse is not my enemy. We are on the same team. Keeping this at the forefront helps us to see situations from a clearer perspective. It helps us to identify the true enemy.  Finally, we must choose to forgive immediately.  Forgiveness is a decision not a feeling. No matter what is done we can choose to forgive. That frees the Holy Spirit to guide us through working through the challenge. When we choose to forgive immediately, the pain heals faster (though it still takes time), restoration comes and wisdom to not make the same mistakes is given.

Michael: That my primary relationships are God, my wife (the marriage union), my children, our extended family, church family, close friends, then everyone else.  Missing this order can be detrimental to everything.

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It was love at first sight and then a daily decision to love for Monique & Jerry after 13 Years!

This week we continue our Happy Marriage Summer Series with the McLeods! Gorgeous couple, Monique and Calvert (Jerry) McLeod have been married for 13 years and have been blessed with 2 remarkable children, Matthias age 6, and Niara age 10. Jerry is an Urban Planner and Monique is the Founder and Creative Director for Everything Creative Advertising Agency and a professional makeup artist. The two share their journey with Family and Faith Magazine’s Editorial Director, Shelly-Ann Harris.

Shelly-Ann: How did you know that your partner was the one?

Monique: I knew this soon after we met. Lol. The realization took my breath away and I was somewhat scared because this was so new and different from anything I had ever experienced.  I knew Jerry (Calvert) was the one because of a combination of incredible things. By the way, we could talk for hours and lose our sense of time and space. He was charming and humorous. He challenged me but always supported me. His ambition was vast, and I believed he could achieve anything with his drive. He was brutally honest (and trust me sometimes it was not received well but I loved that he would tell it like it is). He was gentle but firm. His love for God was marvelous to watch. When he looked at me, I felt like he was peering into my soul lovingly and fearlessly. I knew I wanted to experience all life had to offer with him, forever.

Jerry: The first time I saw Monique, my physical, emotional and spiritual being were all in agreement that she was the one. At that moment I asked God if she could be mine and we all know how the story unfolded.

Shelly-Ann: You and your husband have been together for a while and have 2 beautiful children. What do you value most about your husband and your life together?

Monique: I value our experiences the most – the good, the bad, and the in-between. I value his commitment, friendship and his connection with God. No matter what life throws at us, he is always by my side and we are a team. I love that he strives to put me and our family first. I love his business sense and his drive to succeed at whatever he touches.

Jerry: The thing I value the most about my wife is her unwavering faith and deep-rooted connection for God which are then translated into her love, devotion, and dedication to me and the children. I also value her spontaneity, creativity, love for life and positive nature.

Shelly-Ann: What’s one of the most challenging issues you have faced as a married couple and how did you overcome it?

Monique & Jerry: Accepting each other as we are, and practicing selflessness were the most challenging areas within our marriage. We have very strong personalities and are set in our ways. So, earlier in the marriage, it was difficult to become one in our thoughts, goals, and desires. After all, we are both individuals with lifelong dreams, expectations of marriage, and baggage from previous relationships.  However, we give God all the credit for all these years and the years to come. The lessons are hard due to our own selfishness and focusing on our own feelings. But with prayer, spiritual and emotional maturity, dependence on God as well as time, the pieces came together.

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Shelly-Ann: Has parenting challenged or strengthened your marriage?

Monique & Jerry: Parenting most definitely challenged our marriage. We grew up differently and had our ideas of how a parent should look, act, and simply be. I grew up without a father and had a mother who was plagued with mental issues, so I wanted to immerse my children in love and affection. My husband on the other hand grew up with his mom and a father who left when he was very young, which forced him to grow up quickly and live a disciplined life to survive. So, you can imagine an artist and a planner coming together and creating a family. It was an interesting ride indeed. However, we both wanted a loving home that was safe, secure, and God-centered; a home with both parents, something we didn’t experience. So, to answer the question it did both challenge and strengthen us. I believe every challenge gave us a new perspective, and either made us stronger or wiser in how to deal with other issues.

Shelly-Ann: What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned about marriage and family over the years?

Monique: A marriage requires God to be at the very center, hands down. It requires dedication and effort. You won’t like your spouse sometimes because of unrealistic expectations, unforgiveness, unresolved issues, stubbornness, or if there is a focus on each other’s faults/weaknesses. Instead, our focus must be set on being the best version of ourselves, using kindness and open communication to build the marriage. Surround yourself with like-minded, faith-based friends and couples. They will hold you accountable and give you a safe space to grow and learn more about this tumultuous marriage journey. Be your spouse’s biggest and loudest cheerleader and always fight your battles on your knees in prayer.

Additionally, my family has taught me how to love unconditionally and not to take them for granted, instead create experiences together to forge deeper bonds. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s a part of life so practice forgiveness daily.

Create a safe space for your children, communicate honestly and listen to understand their point of view, and teach them conflict resolution. Most importantly demonstrate God’s love through your words and actions.

Jerry: I’ve learned that each marriage is unique because it is a union between 2 unique individuals. Opposites don’t attract. Marriage is a union that works better when the individuals are like-minded. It is a daily decision to love your spouse in spite of. Additionally, no other earthly relationship is more important than the one you have with your family.

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Rest and Then Ask!

It was going to be a long hectic demanding day, so I decided to start the day with prayer. Instead, it was more like throwing my stressors and issues at God like darts on a bullseye: “Lord, I have 6 meetings and events today and I don’t see how I am going to blah blah blah… as you know, my housekeeper is out sick and I don’t see how I am going to work and prepare meals for the girls blah blah blah, I am so tired I haven’t had a good nights sleep since blah blah blah….I am concerned about the girls and how school is going, please help them to blah blah blah…” and then I felt the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit to pause, rest in God and then make my requests. The Spirit was urging me to rest in El Shaddai; to exhale and inhale the goodness of God’s presence. I rested and worshipped knowing that in Him I move and breathe and have my being. I rested in His majesty, His sovereignty, His love. I felt His calming presence easing my tizzy. I worshipped some more and then from a place of peace and better clarity I was able to better discern what I really needed and wanted and then make my petitions.

One of my main issues was trying to figure out how to juggle 2 very important face-to-face meetings that were to happen at around the same time. I sensed that the Lord wanted me to participate in both meetings, but the timing was bad. One meeting time was unchangeable but if I could get the 4pm one shifted to 11am that would be perfect for how my day was already structured. After I had prayed, I called the organizer to see what times they had available even though historically a change on the same day was next to impossible. The organizer, said, “no, I am sorry we don’t have any other time today” …. Then, they paused and said, “the best we could do is possibly 2pm.” “I already have a 2pm so that would not be possible for me,” I told them.

I came off the phone without a solution and simply whispered to God, “help, I need an 11am.” I left the issue in God’s hand being at peace that if the meeting had to be cancelled or rescheduled so be it. Remember that story with the three Hebrew boys when they told the king that they know that their God is going to deliver them but that even if He doesn’t, they were not going to bow? A bit of a dramatic reference I know but the peace I was enwrapped with was sort of like that – if it works out great, if it doesn’t, I am not bothered. God is on His throne and I am staying in a place of rest.

I went about the day with this peace and rest and not the tizzy I woke up with. And then at around 10am, I receive a callback from the organizers – “Hi, sorry for the short notice but we literally just had a cancellation and now have another time slot available. How is 11am for our meeting? Of course, I accepted the 11am while smiling broadly in my Spirit at how God works. What are the odds that they would get a cancellation for the exact time that I need? God is sovereign. All things work together for good. It was a brilliant meeting and my other meetings went well on that hectic day.

Friends, I have been walking with the Lord for a long time but there is something I am still learning and applying to my life – the power of resting in His presence, biding in His peace and then without anxiety make my requests. God still hears and answers. Let’s rest and then ask and see Him work.

Shelly-Ann Harris is author of God’s Woman and President & Founder of Family and Faith Magazine.

Loving a Husband Through COVID-19: How a wife’s dedication saved her husband from succumbing to the virus

After enduring days of high fever, lethargy, difficulty breathing, loss of taste, loss of appetite and severe weakness, Bradley James was extremely tired, and incredibly, he had lost 20 pounds in less than 10 days. The 7-mile runner had tested positive for COVID-19 after working as a DJ for a party event for some church friends in Florida. He had worn his mask and tried to keep his distance from guests but sadly he left that mid-June gathering exposed to the virus.

His wife, Kiva remembers those early moments when they were wondering if he had gotten infected.

“One of the things he said when he returned home from that party is that he was annoyed that people were approaching him. He had a mask on but I don’t know if he was consistent with it when he was trying to talk and pull it down sometimes,” Kiva shared with Family and Faith Magazine.

“He was annoyed that quite a few people kept coming up to the DJ booth which was separated and distanced from everybody. But as they were drinking and becoming less inhibited they were being more bold and coming and requesting music, commenting and high fiving and he said he was reminding them to back away but I don’t think they were very cooperative because as I said they were less inhibited – that was on the 13th of June,” Kiva recounted.

Unusual Symptoms of COVID-19

Days later he was suffering from a backache which his family thought was as a result of falling during a soccer game with his kids or his medical history with kidney stones. But they were wrong. Instead, it was the beginning of a frightening fight with the COVID-19 virus.

“He continued to have the aching on Wednesday and then symptoms of vomiting started. He just had 1 or 2 episodes and 1 bout of diarrhea and I was like this is not as a result of your falling (in a soccer game),” reasoned the wife and the mother of their 2 boys, ages 12 and 8 years, and a girl, 10 years old.

Kiva (left), Bradley (right) and their three children.

On the Thursday he started having classic respiratory symptoms and a fever and that is when they decided to get tested. “We got the test that day and I remember that evening he got a couple calls from people who were attending that party saying that there were one or two people in attendance that ended up being positive between the time he started showing symptoms and got tested. So at this point we felt pretty confident that this is what we are dealing with while we are waiting on the results. So we
contacted people we were personally in contact with between the 13th and the 18th and informed them,” the responsible wife revealed.

Bradley’s results came back 2 days later as positive. At this point his symptoms were progressing – the fever was spiking to around 102.5, he was more lethargic and started to lose his appetite. With her husband testing positive, Kiva moved quickly to look about the rest of the family.

“His test came back positive on the 20th. I went and scheduled a test and I was able to get in for the following day, Sunday for a test. At that point I had no symptoms at all. And then on Friday, my 12 year said he was tired and was going to take a nap. He laid down on the floor and took a nap. He never does that in the day. No fever no nothing. He napped for a couple hours and then he was fine. My 8 year old son said he was also feeling tired, I took his temperature and he had a very low grade temp of like 99.5 for about 24 hours and that was it, he was fine running, around, didn’t want to rest much and his fever was gone the next day. My 10 year old daughter had zero symptoms, no complaints, acting normal no fever, nothing,” Kiva remembers of her children’s brush with the virus.

The kids were therefore doing well and interestingly Kiva’s test results came back negative at first. Her second test however came back positive. Fortunately, she was largely asymptomatic but Bradley’s symptoms continued to worsen.

“His respiratory symptoms and lethargy and the weakness were progressing; the appetite was down. He was taking Tylenol when his fever was spiking and he had trouble resting and his back was hurting and I was checking his respiration,” Kiva, a veterinarian by profession explained. Both Kiva and Bradley were born and raised in Jamaica and received their Bachelor’s degree before relocating to the US. The two have been married for 14 years.

After Bradley’s symptoms continued to progress, Kiva, meticulous and forward thinking, started to take more action.


Useful tools and tips for fighting COVID-19

“At this point I had gotten a pulse oximeter – a finger held oximeter – which measures oxygenation. And that is a great tool because a lot of people won’t know when their oxygen levels are falling until it is way too low. Monitoring it early is a good idea and it was like US$20 or US$30 dollars for that so I had ordered it very early. I think I ordered it the Thursday and I think it came the Friday on the 19th . So I was checking it and checking all of ours and we were normally 98% but his was hovering around 96, 97 so he was a little lower than the rest of ours so I was using ours as a reference point. So he was maintaining that until early into the following week when his symptoms (the tiredness, the weakness, a little cough) were progressing and his breathing rate was increasing,” she continued.

The nights were particularly difficult and he had trouble sleeping. Moreover, his oxygen levels started deteriorating even further.

“I started checking his oxygen more often because it started hovering at 95, 96 so it was slowly dropping. We didn’t want to get below 94, 93 which is when I would get really concerned. We were told to practice some breathing exercises which we saw some YouTube videos about; just stretching to open up the lungs, putting our arms in the air and taking deep breaths,” Kiva shared with Family and Faith Magazine.

She added that, “one of the things we knew from the beginning is not spending a lot of time on your back. That seem to be the single most important thing which is kind of the opposite of what most people would want to do when they are feeling this way because they are tired, they are exhausted, and weak. So he did want to be on his back and laying in other positions kind of makes it a little harder to breath. So I had to insist that every few hours he is getting up (which became difficult because he was feeling weak and tired) moving around, so that you’re kind of getting your lungs moving and doing the breathing exercises. The nights were the most difficult. He would feel a little better in the morning but as the day progresses he would feel tired and it seemed like breathing was tiring so as the day progressed it required a little more effort to breath.”

In addition to medication and the oximeter, the Jamaican-born wife added potent herbal teas to her husband’s healing arsenal. “I was steeping ginger, garlic, onion, mint for flavour and mixing that with lemon and getting that at least 3 times a day which was the only thing he would consume plus lots of water,” Kiva revealed. “I said you have to stay hydrated, hydration is super important for the lungs. I also tried to give him broth and he would take a little bit of it,” she explained, noting that his sense of taste had diminished by then and his fever was spiking at nights.


Going to the Hospital or Staying Home


By around day 9 or 10, things had gone to a head. “I realize that at this point this is when people end up in the hospital and the reason is that your body can only fight an invader (virus) for so long. It requires a whole lot of energy, of resources – rest, nutrition – all these things for your body to put up an optimum fight. It can do that for a certain amount of time. After you do that your body is going down and the virus starts to win. At that point, we started getting really scared because we realized he was not beating this. It was weakening him,” Kiva recollected.

But the loving determined wife had prayer support and a plan. “Tons of prayer, everyone in Jamaica, here, because it got to the point where by now I had packed a bag for the emergency room. I talked to the children and I told them they may wake up and not see me or daddy so I would leave a note and we discussed that.” Of course in a situation like that it would be tricky to have someone come over to stay with the children when the family was battling COVID.

Thoughtful and diligent, Kiva continued to put things in place for any eventuality. She continued checking his blood pressure, his lungs, pulse oxygenation and recording them. But after around 10 days, the virus wasn’t only taking a physical toll but an emotional toll on Bradley as well. He was so drained he wanted Kiva to decide on if he should go to the ER.

“And I said we need to go. The bags are packed. But the look of defeat on his face – it was really hard. And I was like he can’t go into the hospital with this attitude and feeling like this,” the woman of faith insisted. Plus Kiva herself was tired and didn’t feel confident about going to a hospital.

“I wasn’t confident about what I was hearing about the hospitals and the stories about ventilators and how they do more damage to the lungs…It forces air into the lungs… in cases of pneumonia and COVID…you are going to cause damage even if not leading to the death, it is long term. But then you are in between a rock and hard place because if we don’t go he could decompensate quickly,” the medical practitioner reasoned. Plus she was no longer comfortable caring for him at home: “I had passed the point of feeling comfortable treating him at home and as much as we didn’t want to go to the hospital I didn’t think we had a choice.”


Telemedicine Support

However the couple came up with a compromise. Kiva would keep monitoring Bradley closely and then they would do a telemedicine appointment the next day. If the doctor insisted that they go to the ER,
then they would go.

Armed with days of meticulous records of Bradley’s heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure and breathing metrics, Kiva was able to provide the doctor with useful data. The doctor was essentially trusting Kiva’s ears and eyes in order to determine the way forward – hospital or home. Via telemedicine, the doctor prescribed a nebulizer and prednisone for Kiva to treat her husband and if that worked they wouldn’t need to go to the ER. Of course, with the support of her medical colleagues, Kiva had to figure out how to set up and use a nebulizer, which she did successfully.


Bradley Starts to Recover

After the first day of nebulizing, Bradley started to feel a little better. “By day 2 on the nebulizer he started playing cards with the kids. By day 3 he was looking better. Each day was appreciable improvement,” Kiva testified.

Of course in life threatening situations like these family and friends have an abundance of advice. One of them was to put an onion under Bradley’s shirt on his chest. Although not seeing the science behind it, Kiva acquiesced and placed an onion on his chest and elsewhere in the house, while administering the nebulizer and prednisone. And over time the father of her three children steadily improved.

“It took a while for his strength to come back. He was still very weak even though his respiratory symptoms were better and now (August) he is fully recovered. He hasn’t put on back the weight but that is intentional and his hair looks a little fuzzy which I think is long term impact but his lung capacity is back. He is back to running his 7 miles,” Kiva told Family and Faith Magazine.

The good book asks the question – a wife of noble character who can find? Another version asks it this way – an excellent woman [one who is spiritual, capable, intelligent, and virtuous, who is he who can find her? Well, Bradley found Kiva.


Life Lessons from COVID


With the ordeal behind them now, Kiva now reflects on the meaning of life with appreciation and new purpose. “During that time, of course it crossed my mind that I could lose my husband. This is real. And you start to think about all the things that are not important – if he gets through this then you’d be a better wife,” she committed.

“There are just so many things that don’t matter that we think are important that aren’t because at the end of the day all you want is that person to be there,” Kiva confessed, noting that all they now want to
do is spend quality time together. Since the ordeal, Kiva has also had a spiritual awakening.

“I have gone on a journey – I am doing The Purpose Driven Life (book) now. I have gone on this journey of seeking my purpose because you realize that your time on this earth is temporary. And God has trusted things to us to take care of it. Nothing is ours. Not our life; not our possessions and they are all temporary. I am trying to redefine my life and purpose,” she declared.

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Contemplating Abortion, Husband and Wife Needs & Believing Better this Easter!

Welcome to our stories of light and hope for the Easter Season! Learning to believe better, the primary needs of a husband and wife, gender roles and abortion are the main issues we explore this Easter.

Holy Scripture tells us that marriage is a mysterious reflection of Christ and his bride, the church. That is certainly why men are asked to love their wives like Christ loves the church, and women to submit to their husbands. So, this Easter we hope to strengthen marriages by going back to basics with understanding the primary needs of a husband and wife with renowned family counselor, Dr. Barry Davidson. There is a lot to glean and share with your spouse!

Women are Good, Men are Great? is my blog feature that you may find interesting (or unsettling) as we join the layered conversation around gender roles.

Now every time there was an account of the mass abortion of babies in Scripture, the mission was an attempt to kill God’s plan for the birth of a deliverer. The subject doesn’t have a good rap in Scripture. This Easter we connect with Specialist Biomedical Scientist originally from Nigeria, now living and working in the UK, Ms. Obianuju Ekeocha to get her perspective on the controversial human rights issue, which has consumed Jamaica’s attention in recent months.

Ms. Ekeocha is also the founder and president of Culture of Life Africa, an organisation dedicated to the promotion of a Culture of Life in Africa through research, education and the dissemination of information. She is an internationally acclaimed pro-life speaker, strategist, author and documentary filmmaker who has studied, worked and travelled extensively in Africa.

Ms. Ekeocha says: “My convictions about abortion are rooted in science and biological facts rather than faith.”

Check it out!

And finally, we are delighted by the encouragement from Family and Faith Magazine longtime contributor, Pastor Christopher Brodber in Believe Better Things – Believe God! 

Enjoy, share with your family and friends and leave a reply! And be sure to follow us in order to receive an alert each time we publish.

May God’s light and hope radiate afresh in your life this season.

Special thanks and blessings to our loyal sponsors at The Jamaica Broilers Group for keeping us afloat!

We also appreciate and value that you may want to help us continue doing what we’re doing by making a donation.

May God bless you abundantly for your thoughtfulness!

Thanks for stopping by!

Sincerely,

Shelly-Ann

@harrisshellyann

President and Founder

Family and Faith Magazine

2014.11.27-Strobist-ShellyAnnHarris-0127

Believe Better Things – Believe God!

I try to encourage people wherever I go to join me in a little gesture – raise your index finger in the air, with attitude, and say aloud, “I Believe God.” I do this because I am fully aware that the biggest daily battle people face is the battle to believe better; to believe better things, about ourselves and about our Creator.

In what is a hostile information-age, there is a deluge of destructive notions being sent people’s way.  There is information that often poses as ‘life-improvement’ concepts, which is really rooted in fear, in human frailty, in notions of scarce resources, in greed, etc. Therefore, I’ll stir individuals to believe better, based on an understanding that the best things in life are freely given to all, by the Creator of all. The supplier of ample air, ample water, sunlight, and natural resources, amply supplies whatever we’ll need for a good-life.

And this truth is why there is Easter.

I know you, whoever is reading this, that you too are in the throes of a bitter belief-battle, either about yourself, about this world, or about the Creator, just like the rest of us. So, let’s talk about Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and its relevance to our lives.

I am aware that information might have come to you that Easter had a “pagan origin” and therefore it’s not of true Christian merit. However, I counter that with an example – Though evil things happened in the world on my birthday, yet I still choose to celebrate my birthday – meaning we should still celebrate a good thing, despite ‘evil things.’ Also, God remains sovereign over all times. Recall also that I said there’s an all-out war of notions, focused against our believing good things, in this world that stokes fear and offers lies. (Like Santa Clause, promoted instead of a Good God and Christ, at Christmas, that “knows if you’ve been good or bad”.) Know this, that the Christian celebration of Easter is from God, and it is a good “tool” to ground our hope, and our faith in eternal things, as opposed to fragile temporal things.

Jesus of Nazareth’s dying on Calvary’s Cross, celebrated on Good Friday, and His being raised to life, celebrated on Easter Sunday / Resurrection Sunday, provide all persons a signal of God’s good intentions toward all men (as it is written “…goodwill toward men.” Luke 2:14). The Heavenly Father made His message clear, that this Jesus is His Son, and He was sent to save the world – “For God So loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” – John 3:16.

This salvation, this message of rescue, that God signals, is dynamic and holistic. It is not just deliverance from the threat of eternal damnation, after death, but it is a rescue from all turmoil of the human soul. It marks a deliverance unto an amazing hope. The Easter celebration arms all who believe with a powerful hope, and a wonderful confidence, second to none.

Recall that the apparent greatest fear that people have is of death. Therefore, it is written that God “…delivered them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” – Hebrews 2:15. So, the Father answers this global fear through His Son. Jesus’ death shows God as familiar with the issue of death and our fear, and displays that an answer was sent.

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, shows that God is capable and willing to raise individuals from death, and He’s giving them His hope and confidence. The resurrection displays the Father offering men a better life now, and then (after life).

It is a profound promise of better to all who would believe, even unto joyful celebration. The resurrection of Jesus certainly gives us all a ‘partying’ purpose.  “…And this is the will of Him that sent me, that everyone which seeth the son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” – John 6:40. This assurance, this confidence in God, is super liberating.

Note that every human being needs faith and hope. Hope is a life-giving, purpose-driving virtue, and faith is a spiritual drive to always press forward. So, the message of Easter: “You don’t need to fear anything. I the Lord have made what was once scary, become for you an awesome opportunity.”

Today all are free not to fear. We’re no longer bound to live in fear, in this world of fears. So now, what will you do, since you can be fear-free? Say with me too, “I Believe God!”

Now, the whole world is an awaiting adventure.

Happy Easter!

Pastor Christopher Brodber is the pastor of Covenant City Church and a long-time contributor to Family and Faith Magazine. Leave a reply or send an email to familyandfaithmagazine@gmail.com 

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May God bless you abundantly for your thoughtfulness!

 

‘Raising Strong Boys & Repairing Broken Men’ – God’s Men Speak

Raising Strong Boys and Repairing Broken Men is the timely theme for the June | Father’s Day Edition of Family and Faith Magazine. Shorter than the previous documentary at 22 minutes, the June edition features impactful Christian men and their testimonies of faith, fatherhood and restoration. They include: Altano Morgan, manufacturer of ICAN; Robert Dixon, Principal of Operation Restoration Christian School and Dr. Wayne Henry, Economist and Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica. The documentary also connects with three promising young boys – Israel Redwood, Seth Ridgard and Luke Ridgard.

In keeping with the theme, the documentary, which is sponsored by the Jamaica Broilers Group, provides godly advice on raising strong boys.

Principal, Robert Dixon asserts that, “Children spell love – T-I-M-E. We have to spend time with our children. For both my son and the children at school I see my life as a foundation for these students.” The young principal advances that, “For my son, yes his foundation, his identity is linked to me to who I am and to who I am in Christ but for my students who have no other foundation who probably don’t know their father, can I be that foundation for them? Can I be so secure in myself that they can build their life on who I am and what I stand for?”

For his part, Dr. Wayne Henry points to three strategies for growing strong boys. First, he says it’s important “to be present, to be alongside, to be near.” Then, “There must be instruction and advice. Solomon, he said listen to my advice son, heed my warning and you will prosper.” His third nugget of wisdom is the need to show boys lessons and principles by example. “A lot of times we are too willing to say do as I say and not as I do and there is a key of leadership that we miss where Paul says follow me as I follow Christ .We don’t invite people to follow us ..part of leadership part of mentoring is that you have to be that example …the willingness to put on display even with your mistakes and your flaws that example,” the father of 3 insists.

Manufacturer and motivational speaker, Altano Morgan adds that the key to raising a strong boy is teaching him that there is a God, a Father who loves him despite the challenges he comes across in life. “There is a father there that will take care of him. There is a father there that wants the best for him. Even as an earthy father you are not going to be there every time to guide him and to teach him and all the different things but when you tell him about the Father up above who is looking down with his tender love, showing you, guiding you, directing you, that’s the fundamental foundation for me for raising a strong boy,” Morgan declares.

The uplifting documentary also looks at how to repair broken men, the most admired men in their lives and features what young boys love most about their dads.

Shelly 2016

President and Founder of Family and Faith Magazine, Shelly-Ann Harris feels turning the spotlight on boys and men is vital at this time. “The data is showing us that in many ways we are failing our boys and so we felt it was very important to focus on how to raise boys and restore broken men for our Father’s Day Edition, which balances our recent focus on women in the Easter Edition that was released a couple months ago,” Harris explains. “We remain thankful to our loyal sponsor, the Jamaica Broilers Group, who has supported us on this journey of sharing impactful testimonies of faith that can serve to strengthen family life,” she adds.

Viewers can watch the documentary here: https://youtu.be/aoZw0-UfXKw

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May God bless you abundantly for your thoughtfulness!