MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE - THE HOLIDAY ISSUE - Tammy Franklin

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CE LE BRATI N G O UR ONE YE A R A NNI V ER SA RY

Tammy

Brély Evans

Her Name, Her Gifts, Her Confidence

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DEVOTIONAL BY PASTOR TRAVIS & DR. JACKIE GREENE

Franklin SURRENDERING TO THE SEASON

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Ways to Reimagine Home for the Holidays with Diann Valentine

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heal. restore. renew.

AVAILABLE NOW:

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SCAN HERE


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Mind Blowing Magazine is next level! We celebrate fly women and men with immaculate style, sanctifying grace and unwavering faith!

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DASH FOR HIM

LIVE LIFE WITH PURPOSE. LEAVE AN IMPACT. LIVE AN UNCOMMON LIFE.

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TA BLE OF

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Contents HEALTH & HEALING 102 MANNA FOR THE MIND

Our Mental Health contributor, Tari M. Cox, gives us biblical and practical gems for our crowns

ON THE COVER

104 WELLNESS ELEV8ED

Our medical contributor, Dr. LaKesha Legree, teaches us how stress, especially if increased by the holiday hustle and bustle, can affect us internally

52 TAMMY FRANKLIN: Surrendering to the Seasons 24 LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE: Brely Evans Feature 126 THE TIME IS NOW: Devotion By Pastor Travis and Dr. Jackie Greene

106 QUI 2 HEALTH

Introducing our newest dynamic contributor, Ms. Quianna Camper. In 2022, she’s bringing us a mix of fitness, wellness, nutrition, and wholeness

FOOD & TRAVEL 76 SAY WHAT! IT'S VEGAN?

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Meet Chef Joya! One of the country's rising stars in the vegan kitchen. We’re getting a tasty spin on familiar dishes

84 FINALLY NOT HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS Come with us on a journey of beautiful destinations to consider a non-traditional holiday season 99 ADVERTORIAL Our Cover Feature shoot with Mrs. Tammy Franklin was amazing and so was the stay at one of Dallas’ premiere hotels, The Statler

VOICES

122 JOURNEY TO SPELMAN Recent

Spelman University alumna shares her testimony of triumph and how God met her at every turn 124 VIRTUOUS WOMAN Amarilis Harper’s call from the Lord is undeniable. She shares with us how God remedied her from the spirit of abandonment and fear of friendship

108 MONEY TIPS

The best advice usually comes from another woman in your circle. One of our readers, Mrs. Carla Queenan, gathered advice from her inner circle on the best ways to consider your budget for the holidays

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STYLE & GRACE

110 EBONY'S FAVORITE THINGS

Our resident fly auntie and girlfrien’, Ebony Wilson shares a list of the goods to consider for our Christmas lists

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HOLIDAY DESIGN & ENTERTAINING WITH MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE DIANN VALENTINE

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IN EVERY ISSUE 09 LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 08 THE LORD'S PRAYER 17 CONTRIBUTORS 17 MASTHEAD 128 PRAYER OF SALVATION

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OCTOBER 2021 H O L I D AY I S S U E VOL. 2 NO.1

FEATURES 18 GOD’S FAVOR Our quarterly picks of

our favorites within Arts & Entertainment

22 FEARFULLY & WONDERFULLY MADE Two women unapologetically are

moving their industries forward and giving Him all the glory while doing so. 48 THE GIRLFRIEND'S CORNER MB's favorite girlfriend tackles the opinions and the chatter that we all face from time to time when the atmosphere of life changes. 34 MIRACLES STILL HAPPEN Miracles absolutely still exist, and Brandon Stephenson is a living testimony to God’s saving grace.

40 LOVE & RELATIONSHIPS: THE YEAR OF FIRSTS We sat down with two

newlywed couples to discuss their relationships and their plans for the holiday season. 10 MIND BLOWING TRIBUTE Editor in Chief – Stacy Sorrell Moore (An Act of Obedience)

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THE LORD'S PRAYER

Our father in heaven, Hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Editor's Letter

Dear Readers, This issue touches my heart so deeply because we are celebrating the holidays in our one-year anniversary issue ... how amazing is this? We have made it one year! Glory be to God, and it’s going to be a celebration!! I’m still in utter shock ... blown away, if you can imagine. Our last issue of the year is absolutely spectacular. For starters, we have the glamorous and resilient woman of God, Tammy Franklin, as our cover feature. Her dynamic interview alongside her stunning photo spread will leave you speechless. And if that’s not enough, we sat down to enjoy a heart-warming conversation with actress and singer Brely Evans for our “Let Your Light Shine” feature. On every page you will notice her eye-popping glow that jumps off her images, and you will truly understand why her light shines from within. In this holiday issue you will get to meet so many amazing and virtuous women whose powerful testimonies will leave you inspired and refreshed to celebrate Jesus and make Him a focus of your holiday conversations. When you’re spending time with family, when you’re enjoying hugs and laughter, why wouldn’t you give God extra thanks this year? See these are all God’s gifts, the gifts we sometimes take for granted. Do you understand that everything we have belongs to our Heavenly Father? He loves you so much that he has gifted you with beautiful vessels in the form of human beings to offer you His unconditional love, joy, and comfort. Isn’t that just amazing? There’s no greater gift than love, and God is love. This is what the holiday season means to me and how we should always desire to be. Please try your best to forgive all of those who have hurt you. Spend as much time as you can with your family and friends. Make each moment count. We are all gifts, all extremely special to our Father. And as His children, we have all been created in His image and must live to do what’s pleasing to Him. So, the next time someone is hurting, don’t hesitate to offer your loving words of encouragement or just give a simple hug. Your smile and laughter can brighten someone’s day. See, it’s the little things that have the biggest impact. Now this is what I call “gift giving.” Happy Holidays to you and yours from The MB Mag Family! Everything comes from the Lord. All things were made because of him and will return to him. Praise the Lord forever! Amen. —Romans 11:36

Stacy Sorell-Moore , Editor-in-Chief

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Our

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bloTestimony wing I can’t believe we are celebrating Mind Blowing Magazine’s one-year anniversary — a dozen months of God completely blowing our minds. As I sit here writing, I must reflect on God’s undeserving grace and mercy as well as the miracles He has allowed me to witness. as told by our Editor-In-Chief, STACY SORRELL-MOORE

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FEATURES

An Act of Obedience S

ince this is our anniversary issue, it makes me want to revisit some very tender and triumphant periods in my personal life that led me right into my current walk with God. Can I take you on a trip with me down memory lane? First, at the age of 23, I became a young widow with two children under the age of two . . . and the ensuing depression, like a lying thief, actually tried to take my life. I had no desire to live, meaning I was done with it all. Sorrow engulfed me, and as I lay in my bed praying to die, I couldn’t take another second of the heartache. The only answer was to go to sleep and never wake up. But then God became my miracle worker; in a moment I’ll always remember, I clearly knew that God had been with me all along. He was my supernatural Comfort and Strength, and eventually that pain was removed. I was delivered. I wanted to live! Glory be to God! I am still very emotional and overwhelmed with joy when I think about that moment. I knew I had a reason to still be here but was very unsure of what it was. Years passed, and at the age of 30, I felt lost, alone, and purposeless; I was alive but wasn’t living. I was only existing. What should I do to feel complete? A new profession? A companion? Will my children and family fix it? How many of us have asked ourselves these questions? I had no clue what it would take to get me onto the road of peace or true happiness. While on this journey, I looked to people, relationships, and the world for validation, and when I did, you can only imagine the

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amount of pain, disappointment, and sorrow I felt. The rejection and neglect allowed me to lean on God more and more for His clarity, and when I did, something miraculous happened yet again. I began to see my life through a different lens. A veil was lifted from my eyes, and my purpose for living was becoming clearer. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). Over time, my confidence was renewed, and I was being strengthened in my areas of weakness. When I turned the age of 35, I started recognizing some of my gifts from God, which allowed me to understand my life’s purpose. Can you believe at this age I realized I had a gift of writing? The moment I picked up a pen, the words and ideas quickly fell onto the paper with no real effort from myself. I knew this was something unexplainable . . . a gift through the Holy Spirit. I had no clue of this gift my entire life, yet He revealed it to me in His timing. As I began to read the Book of Life daily, gave God more and more of my time, and learned to lean on Him through all things, I experienced the moment I found my calling. Oh, so many breathtaking encounters and a host of beautiful visions — that’s what you see when you realize Whose you are . . . a child of the living God. It brings on a brand-new confidence. When you turn to God and trust that His Word is true, it becomes easier to recognize the lies and tricks of the enemy, you no longer desire to have worldly validation, and you live only to please and obey our heavenly Father.

Wow, this had to be an example of heaven on earth, which brings me to the birth of Mind Blowing Magazine. Right before my birthday when I was turning the age of 41, I was spending some time in my prayer room, and as I was praying, I heard: “Do The Magazine.” My immediate response was, I know I didn’t hear that right because I don’t know how to do a magazine nor have I ever thought about doing a magazine. Then I heard it again: “Do The Magazine.” In that moment, it was very clear it was God . . . so immediately, I tearfully said, “Okay, Father, I will do the magazine.” And you can imagine the amount of joy that filled my heart — another miraculous encounter — all I could do was shout, “Thank you, Jesus!” giving God all the glory. So, without any questions or doubts, I began the process of starting the magazine, but I couldn’t think of a name, nothing I thought about felt right, so I went to God and asked Him for guidance.


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a very special God’s response was immediate, a sudden answer. He said, “Mind Blowing Magazine” . . . and I sat still in awe of God, thinking to myself, now we have a magazine. I spent time on Google and did all the research that man could offer, but nothing . . . still no clarity on my next steps. I had some ideas but no real direction, so I cried out to God, feeling discouraged and somewhat defeated. I said, “God, I’m lost, and maybe I’m not the right one for this assignment because I don’t have any support and no direction. I don’t have a clue on what to do.” God said, “You don’t have to know what to do because I do . . . do you trust Me? Have faith.” Then I heard Him say, “Create the vision and make it plain, and when you do, I will send the help” . . . So, I picked up my computer and began to type. The ideas poured out. A mock Table of Contents and cover were created. Look at God! I couldn’t believe that God’s publication was coming together. God gave me this vision in early August 2020, and I was determined to have this magazine available by the end of October 2020. That release date had to happen, and I didn’t know why, but I had about two months to make it happen. Now, it was time to find the inaugural cover feature. God was showing me a modern woman of God, someone everyone could relate to . . . someone with a powerful testimony! That’s what Mind Blowing Magazine is all about: “Our mission is to restore joy, share inspirational stories, and be a light to all readers through powerful testimonies.” The woman that continuously came to my mind was April Daniels; she represents exactly who Mind Blowing Magazine is, but how was I going to connect with this influential woman of God? When I tell you the help came suddenly, please believe me. God said, “Send her an invitation and wait.” A part of me was thinking and mentally giggling I may need a plan B, C, and D because this release date is quickly approaching, and there’s no way she’ll respond to little ol’ me. Can you believe it . . . not only did she respond, but she said “yes”? God did it: all the help, support, and blessings kept on coming, and soon we had our first issue on the way, released October 31, 2020. Mind Blowing, right? What a testimony! All these pivotal moments are God’s promises revealed, His unwavering and unconditional love poured out. God uses everything to work for our good — every test, every hurdle. Even in our deepest sorrow and grief, God will allow us to find the joy in it all. He will use our struggles to push us closer to Him. And He will become our salvation and reveal our earthly assignment and purpose for living: we are here to spread and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are here to share our testimonies in order to encourage and pour love into one another. We are the body of Christ; we are here to serve and be a light. I’m so thankful to God that He allowed my faith to be increased and allowed me to be obedient in order to get me right here to this very moment. I’m so excited to be celebrating our one-year anniversary. God gets all the glory for Mind Blowing Magazine. I thank God for all who will be touched, moved, and delivered while reading His publication. That’s what it’s all about!! That’s who we are! Thank you, God, for every person You have sent to bless Your magazine. To all of our cover & story features, columnists, writers, and every contributor . . . Thank you all so much! M

THANK YOU April Daniels (Editorial Director) Thank you so much for being a blessing to MB Mag. Not only did God blow my mind when you graced our inaugural cover, but God has also allowed you to bless our readers with your amazing gift of writing & creativity. Words cannot express how grateful I am for you. I’m beyond thankful for all your support, your inventive input, and all that you contribute, down to the smallest details. You are truly Heaven sent! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Denise Griffin (Managing Editor) Thank you for your undying love and commitment to MB Magazine. When we first met, I asked you for help and you said “yes!” without any hesitation. God truly answered my prayers when He sent you. You wear many hats, but somehow you carved out time to bless MB Mag. Thank you so much for the countless hours and all your talents you have contributed to this publication. I’m so grateful for your obedience, encouragement, and dedication. God is truly merciful!

Robin V (Creative Cover Director) Thank you so much for blessing our publication with your incredible talents and gifts. Our cover feature photos have been absolutely breathtaking! I didn’t know the creative direction for MB Mag until I saw your photos. Thank you for being our creative cover director; I thank God for you. There aren’t enough words to express my gratitude . . . I’m just extremely grateful God has sent you.

Karen Steinmann (Senior Editor) Thank you, Karen, for always making yourself available to MB Mag. You have no idea how grateful I am to have you a part of this team. Your talents, commitment, and dedication are very much appreciated. You are truly an angel; I can’t say thank you enough!

Brittany Clubine (Editor) Thank you so much, Brittany, for all you do. You hit the ground running and you haven’t stopped. I’m so proud of you, and I thank God for you; your commitment is undeniable. Thank you for gifting your time and talents to Mind Blowing Magazine!

Bridgette West, JoVanni Smoot; 79 West Creative (Art Direction & Design) Thank you both so much for all you do! God sent you right on time. I didn’t realize how much your services were needed, but when you became a part of the team, everything just fell right into place. Thank you so much for blessing MB Magazine. Thank you for your professionalism, hard work, and remarkable talents. I am beyond grateful! MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE

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(803) 701 - 9799 | www.79WestCreative.com

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Contributors EDITORIAL Editor-In- Chief Stacy Sorrell-Moore Editorial Director April Daniels

Manging Editor Denise L Griffin

Creative Cover Director & Cover Feature Photographer Robin V (@mrsrobinv)

Deidre Dickey

@deidre.dickey "Let Your Light Shine” page 24

April Daniels

@iamaprildaniels "The Girlfriend's Corner” page 48

Tari Cox

@xarcito “Manna For The Mind” page 102

Art Design & Direction Jo Smoot Raiven Stinson Bridgette West of 79West Creative Senior Editor Karen Steinman Editor Britanny Clubine

Ebony Wilson

@billiesimonesong “Ebony's Favorite Things” page 110

Bridgette West @itsbriew “Finally Not Home For The Holidays” page 84

Denise Griffin @iamdenisegriffin “The Midnight Hour” page 34

Toni E. Emehel @toni.emehel “Surrendering To The Season” page 54

Carla Queenan

@carlanicole19 “Holiday Spending Tips” page 108

Dr. LaKesha Legree

@drlegree “Wellness Elev8ted” page 104

Columnists April Daniels, Tari Cox, Dr. LaKesha Legree, Quianna Camper (@qui2health) MEDIA Video/Multimedia Tony Pettiford (@tonypettiford) of Clear Scope Media www.clearscopemedia.com MARKETING/ADVERTISING Social Media Jo Smoot, Jasmine Mines, Bridgette West of 79 West Creative PUBLIC RELATIONS Sandra Tarver of Williams² Public Relations, LLC Keep up with us! @thembmag

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Roshawn Nicole Wounded Scars Roshawn Nicole had a near-death experience in 2012 that had her in the intensive care unit for 30 days. Her inability to cope with the pain of her trauma left her struggling with flashbacks, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and addiction. At the end of 2020, Nicole realized she was living in a vicious cycle and she desperately needed to seek professional help. She decided to go to treatment for two months, where she was inspired to write the song, “Wounded Scars”. It was the lyrics in this song that helped her find inner strength and encouraged her to become an advocate helping to break the stigma of mental illness. “Wounded Scars” perfectly captured the realness of her struggles, telling the story of healing and hope found in Jesus. “Wounded Scars” was released on May 1st in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month and is available on all digital platforms.

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FEATURES

Marji Laine A Giant Murder When Celebrate Lit Publishing invited me to take part in their Christian fiction Ever After Mystery series, I thought it would be a lark, retelling a fairy tale as a historical mystery. I had no idea it would make such an impact on my life. A Giant Murder is based on “Jack and the Beanstalk.” I chose that story because adding romance to it seemed absurd. I was up for that challenge, but as I began to prepare, things changed. My story takes place in my hometown, Dallas, Texas. As I researched 1926 Dallas, finding buildings and neighborhoods that are still in use today, I could envision my characters on the grounds. They became so real to me, along with their contemporaries—my own grandparents, as teenagers, walking the downtown streets. I could see my family members in this book’s pages. A journey I never expected when I first considered this “lark.”

Cheriesse Style and Stewardship The Style and Stewardship podcast exists to encourage women who want to grow in their faith. James 1:17 says every good gift we have is from God. We know the redemption we have because of Jesus’ sacrifice for our salvation is the best gift. I encourage my listeners each week to remember, “Your life matters, what you do with it matters.” Stewardship is an act of faithfully, and responsibly managing all aspects of our lives for God. Our gifts, talents, time, abilities, finances, health, and lifestyles as a whole are taken into account. These are only some of the various ways that we can honor and glorify God. It’s lifestyle stewardship through a faith-filled lens. My prayer and purpose for this podcast is to inspire other women to be faithful and responsible stewards in all areas of life. So that we will all one day hear, “well done good and faithful servant.”

Damara Melissa Brave I’ve always struggled with insecurities and the fear of man. The racial upheaval in 2020 caused a lot of differing opinions to come to light in my community. To say that I was wrecked by opposing opinions is an understatement. It was in this wreckage, however, I realized that people were an idol. I derived my value and sense of security from their acceptance. Once I laid the idol down, it was like scales fell from my eyes. God had been speaking the parable of the talents from Matthew 25 to my heart for some time. Suddenly, everyone else’s thoughts and ideas about my life were irrelevant. I knew I had a command to follow, and a purpose to fulfill. I was no longer afraid. I wrote BRAVE in response to this supernatural work that God did in my life in 2020. I hope it inspires others to live fearlessly for Jesus.

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T.C. McKoy God of the Wind

Kevin Wilson A Christian Podcast Kevin Wilson is a Christian content creator in Charlotte, North Carolina. Growing up in a Christian household, he was introduced to God at a young age. In college, the spark to have a personal relationship with Jesus grew. From there, the goal was to glorify God in all content he made from YouTube videos, to short films, to podcasts. A Christian Podcast (ACP) with Kevin Wilson is a product of the daily Christ-centered conversations that Kevin has with those around him. Not a Bible study podcast, ACP is where ordinary people talk about an extraordinary God. From mind-boggling questions to foundational principles, APC shares the character of Jesus through normal conversations. Kevin desires for people to know God in a way they didn't think possible, through the tool of Spirit-led dialogue. 20 MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE

The winds of life can leave you wondering, “Does God really love me?” In God of the Wind: Reading Purpose Prayers, T.C. McKoy takes you on a 31day journey. If you have ever felt lost, heartbroken, been physically battered, or spiritually wounded, this is your opportunity to indulge in soul care and clear your path. Begin to entertain an ongoing, honest conversation with the Father. Ultimately, you will graduate from being a victim of the winds and become a victorious rider of them. When she answered a call to ministry at 18 years old, T.C. McKoy's views on life were immature and unbalanced. Not having the tools to navigate the inner and external, she turned to the only person she had ever known to be there for her; God. Transparent conversations with the Father led McKoy on a path of breakdowns and breakthroughs until she stepped back into ministry as a new woman. Now as an ordained prophet, mom, and entrepreneur, McKoy's desire is for all to walk in their purpose, embrace the process of their purpose, and align with the God of their purpose. McKoy resides in Durham, NC where she is proudly raising her beautiful daughter, Noa J. When she is not writing, she enjoys fellowshipping with family and friends, traveling, and outdoor relaxation. To connect with McKoy visit www. tcmckoythevoice.com or email connect @tcmckoythevoice.com. F


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Fearfully & Wonderfully Made ON AND OFF THE RUNAWAY

Joyce Sheffield Joyce Sheffield is no stranger to building a business, brand, and legacy. Known for consistently delivering fashion and trendsetting looks, her brand name says it all: On and Off the Runway. The business she built from the ground up is now a multifaceted fashion conglomerate, which has been sponsored by God alone. With rockable pieces that don’t just blend in, but allow the personality and person to stand out, the On and Off the Runway brand helps women build confidence and establish personal style. Her unmatched gift and dedicated eye to creating great looks includes clear vision, creativity, and perpetual execution. Don’t get it confused; she plays with fun styles and curates unique looks, yet Joyce plays no games with giving God all the glory and credit for her success. Make no mistake, you will see more of Joyce Sheffield as she continues to build an empire of faith and fashion through creation, innovation, and inspiration.

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FEATURES HURDLES IN HEELS

Lanaire Malone Lanaire Malone is a Human Resource guru gifted in caring for people and creating scalable systems. "Half full, or half empty" — Lanaire is the reminder that the glass is still at the halfway point and is loaded with a plan of action to fill it. Lanaire has 10+ years of experience as a talent acquisition specialist and logistics powerhouse with a range of expertise from television networks to international ministries. Hurdles In Heels is an organization that teaches young ladies in middle and high school how to run life's hurdles in heels built on confidence. Hurdles In Heels exists as a global empowerment program that trains young women to overcome life's many hurdles. Ones like body image, self-esteem, heartbreak, sex, mental health struggles, and drugs. Through creating experiences, giving exposure, and education, we desire to equip young women to run their best race — life. In order to do this, we’ve created our signature programs to serve our young Hurdlers. The Vision Board Party: VISION BOARD (N): A Visualization tool of what you want your future to look like, composed of various words and images. Our motto is: "Little girls with dreams become women with vision." So we like to engage both our young Hurdlers and their Mothers and/or Mentors, who we affectionately call M&M's. With our Vision Board Party, we invite our M&M's, over the age of 21, to bring a young lady, in middle or high school, and come set their goals for the upcoming year. The HIH Experience: The Hurdles In Heels Experience is a course that engages, equips, and empowers young ladies to overcome their hurdles. Life doesn't offer practice, so we're focused on creating a space to teach girls how to practically handle the inevitable hurdles of relationships, goals, and confidence. The Savvy Hurdler: This course is the newcomer to the group. With The Savvy Hurdler, our goal is to equip your high school and college-aged Hurdlers with the tips and tools for entering the "real world." We'll set them up with tools for interviewing, resumé writing, building a business plan, and much more.

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B is for Brély

Take a moment and pull up the image of the person who selflessly champions your squad. Who shows genuine concern for your life? The one who surrounds you like a shield with the Word of God. The person who speaks that thing into existence, and can see a “no” as a “not yet, something immeasurably more.” Ok, do you see that person in your mind’s eye now? If you do, cool. If you don't, that's cool too because without further ado, allow your new bestie, MISS BRÉLY EVANS, to introduce herself to you! This dynamic jill of all trades sat with MB Mag and gifted us with the following conversation that will make the ambition inside of you spring forth with a renewed fervor. by DEIDRE DICKEY photography by JEREMIAH'S PHOTOGRAPHY

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LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE

Q: What's in a name? A name gives you an identity, a sense of who you are, your purpose. It gives a glimpse of those you belong to, a peek to your place in this world. Names are the introduction to the totality of who you are, distinguishing you from another and, therefore, should be respected and treated with the utmost respectable care. Our very first question for this ordinary woman doing EXTRAordinary things through Christ had to first touch on the correct spelling and story behind her name.

The Conversation: Brély Evans: Hello? It's Brély! MB Magazine: Hi, Miss Brély! How are you? BE: Very good. BE: My original name does have an accent, but I don't use it. ‘Cause most people don't know how to put it properly. It's “an aigu” [an accent mark over the e] and not an apostrophe. I just usually don't use it ‘cause most people get it wrong. Thank you for asking . . . I’m going to go out on a limb and say let’s use it. MB Mag: What does your name mean? BE: Actually? Um, it was a typo. I was supposed to be Kimberly at birth. When my mother received my birth certificate, it said Kim“bray-lee” and she said, “They spelled her name wrong!” Then she settled in her spirit and said, “Well, perhaps it's serendipity and this is what God wanted her name to be.” So my name became Kimbrély at birth. And everyone called me Kim as a little girl. Then in college, my roommates and my boyfriend, who I had in college, were calling me Miss Brély. And that was like the thing. “Hey, Miss Brély!” And so Brély has been my college to adulthood years name. MB Mag: Okay, we first want to know who is Brély Evans? Who are you? BE: Wow. I am a spirit having a human experience, and it's been so fun to lean into my gifts. To learn that I can live by them and I don't have to work a job that I don't like. And so who am I? I am a spirit here on earth, urging people to get to know who they are spirit-wise. So that they can really take this journey in and make it be a fun, fulfilling thing. You literally came to this earth with all the tools you need, and you are fully equipped to do what you desire. That's who I am. MB Mag: Will you say that you've always been confident in who you are? BE: Um, no. Cause I didn't know who I was at first. I just thought I was a girl from Oakland who could sing and dance real good. And you know, who was cute. That's who I thought I was. But when I realized there was a deeper purpose for my existence here, I was like, oh! You know, I thought I had to lose weight to be in the industry that I am in. I sang before I became an actor. I was always told to lose weight, you know, things like that. So I always thought I wasn't good enough, but something clicked. And when I realized that, oh, I am perfect, just the way I am, I haven't stopped working since. And the word “working” is beginning to

irritate me because I don't really work. I get to play for a living. Most often I'm like, you guys are going to pay me for this?! It's ludicrous! I get to go laugh and have fun. And even when I have to cry, you know, it's still fun that I get to make this magic and get money in return. So yeah, no, I didn't know who I was. And when I did come into that, I said, oh, I've got to let the curvy girls, especially, you know, people who are listening to me know that accepting yourself, where you are, is your power. That is your superpower! Saying like, ooo, I love me. And ooo, I'm the bomb! I got one set of fingerprints that nobody has, I'm unique, I'm special, you know? And then, you know, using that specialness of yourself to create a paycheck, you know? MB Mag: You have so many gifts and talents. What's the origin story of how you developed and cultivated your different gifts? When did you recognize your passions? BE: I was about three years old, sitting in the congregation of Berkeley Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Berkeley, California. I kept nudging my grandmother, telling her I wanted to go and sing in the choir, but I wasn't old enough. I think you had to be five to be in the choir, but I kept going, saying I wanted to go up there, and I was pointing, kicking, and acting a fool. People were like, dude, let her go. You know? So I ended up going up and just standing up there, and I was looking at the people in the audience, you know, uh, clapping, and they were just enjoying the choir. Something struck me like, whoa! I was a little girl, like three, and I just loved the energy of the people singing behind me and looking at the people and how it was affecting the people. Mind you, I didn't know what was going on. I just knew I liked it. So they let me join the choir early. I got my first solo the next year when I was about four, and it was, yes, “Jesus Loves Me,” and when people got up to clap for me, it felt like it was like for me, not for everybody else. I got bit by the performance bug very early. My aunt, who plays the organ there at church, took me under her wing to develop my singing abilities. Then I started to join little girl groups as a teenager, and I was in every talent show and just always performing when I could, and that turned into getting a record deal by the time I was 18. Then I toured with the Backstreet Boys. I was in a group called Emage. If you go to YouTube and put in Emage (“The Choice Is Yours”), you'll see our music video. You can even pull up our whole album. We opened up for the Backstreet Boys at one time. I did that as a teenager. Most people don't know that I have a musical beginning, it's like, I'm totally reinvented to another girl as an actor. MB Mag: How did you get into acting? BE: One of the girls decided to leave the group. And so the other two of us were like, uh, what do we do now? So I went back to college. I went to college in LA. Cal State LA is where I graduated from. Once I graduated, I was still kind of doing the music stuff. There was this neighbor in the apartment building I was living in, and I was so excited when I saw him bite into the Big Mac on a McDonald's commercial. And he said it's just a commercial ... I tell everybody that I live next door to that famous actress. And I was like, well, I'm not an actress. Then he said, but I see you with

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the makeup and everything. I said, yeah, I'm going places to sing. And he's like, what? Oh, you should act, you’re an actress. So he took me to meet his agent, and I literally started working and I haven't looked back. I'm so grateful that the God in someone spoke to the God in me and I tried it and it worked. That’s how I started acting — someone told me “you’re an actor.” He was my neighbor and there's like a whole family of mom and dad, cousins, uncle, you know, they had like a large family there. So I felt comfortable. And I always caveat that conversation with, Hey, don't get in the car with strangers. I did know this guy, I had been living there for over a year. We had been saying hello. I had no idea he was an actor. So seeing him in that McDonald's commercial was a big deal. You know what I mean? Let me tell you something, what God has for all of us, we will be led down a path that way. It was me seeing the commercial, to me walking outside to my car one day, catching him at the same exact time he's going in his house. Do you understand? It was already set up, you know? Like what were the chances? Oh my God! I just saw you on the McDonalds commercial so that he could respond I live next door to a famous actor, I've been telling people. I said, you're getting me mixed up with someone. He was like, oh my God, I am on my way to my agent's office, you should come. And I just went. And so with that, on my 10th audition, I was able to get the Twix commercial, which is also on YouTube. It was the first thing I have ever done in television in my life. When I got the check for that, I said, oh honey, I'm an actor! One day of work? 40K? That’s what people make in a year of working. I was like, why did I go to college? Now I do have my degree, so don't try to get out of school because I said that, lol! MB Mag: What’s one piece of advice for those considering being in the entertainment industry that you wish you would've known, that you could give a word of advice to. BE: I would say you are good enough. It doesn't take the best singer. It doesn't take the skinniest or most fit person. It doesn't take the most handsome or pretty face. It takes a desire that is unwilling and relentless to hear “no”! Look, I don't mean to call her out in any kind of negative way, but there are people who have graced us with their talents that may not have been the prettiest or may not have been the best sounding, but they found themselves in a special way. And then we begin to like them. I don't know why she's coming up in my spirit, but Macy Gray is coming up — she had a really different type of sound and I liked it! So I want people to know that I wished somebody had told me, Brély, you are perfect, honey. You don't even need a girls group, go solo. And actually, you want me to be honest with you? Mona Scott. Mona Scott who is the head of Monami Productions. She happened to be our choreographer for the group that I was in at the time back in the day. She used to tell me to go solo. She used to say, you're the one, you're the one. And I'd be like, no, I'm not. Because I was not the skinniest, I was not the most talented singer. I felt like I was the one that was kinda the glue. Like I was an inbetween, you know? One could sing really, really well and could do all

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the runs, have the high notes. And the other one was very fit and lean and skinny. And I was right in the middle. I felt like I wasn’t this one and I wasn’t that one. So I'm just the okay one. But Mona would tell me, Brély, you're the one. Go and do your own thing. I just never believed in myself. People along my journey would tell me, your voice isn’t great. You can't even sing high notes. There were people along my journey that would make me feel less than, and they told me your song writing ability is not that great. It's so interesting how we'll have those negative naysayers. But I also had the people that told me you're the bomb! You're the one! I'll never forget. Jamie Foxx pulled me aside and said, “When you realize who you are, you are going to blow!” I'm like, what do you mean? And he was like, “If you just knew what we see.” It was just a self-confidence thing. And I think now that I'm a little older, I'm like, forget what anybody thinks, you know? And so now I see myself doing all these wonderful things. Like just coming back from Africa, shooting a movie! I said that I wanted to be a part of Nollywood, and merging Hollywood and God brought it right to my doorstep. I just got back from Ghana. I was there a month shooting a movie called Single Not Searching. And I'm a producer on the film as well. I'm so looking forward to being a gatekeeper in this industry. I want to ignite other people's dreams. It's time for me to produce. That is the big secret ... Brély is producing!! However, I can help those who are coming behind me. I'm about to open the gate. MB Mag: Talk to us about producing. What does that mean specifically? How does one develop this gift of producing? BE: What it means for me is that I realized that on certain sets that I'm on, I know how things go. I know that I can team lead, and I know how to put other leaders in position to get things done. And that's what producing is. You have an idea and you can produce it into the manifestation of it. But you realize you can't do it alone. You realize it takes a village. You realize that I need to pull these people in to make this thing happen. The first thing I directed recently was my first music video. Go on YouTube, put in Ambitious by Brély. My first single came out in the first quarter of the year. And I produced and directed my first video. When I got finished with that, I was like, if you can do a video, Brély, you can do a movie. So I started telling people, Hey, I want to produce. I want to produce in anything. I'm all in. I need to be a producer on it. How can I help the production? Producing is an act of service. How can I use my gift, my resources, and my Rolodex to bring what you guys need to complete this project? That’s what it is. MB Mag: Tell us about “Ambitious”. BE: The reason why I named that song “Ambitious” is because I was on a show called Ambitions on OWN. Everyone loved it, but when it didn't get picked back up, I felt like the world needed to hear that when your ambitions (the name of a show) don't work out, you have to stay ambitious. Listen to the lyrics in the song, I was just listening to it. It says that this girl should be all on her grind. I've got success on my mind. I'm


making moves. Don't waste time. I'm already thinking about what I got next for me. It's time to get another bag. I'm talking about all these things in the song. And then I said, I stayed in first-class. I want you to know I flew to Ghana in first-class! Ghana was nowhere in my sight when I wrote the lyrics.When I sang it in the studio. Ghana was nowhere. First of all, we were doing COVID. I did it in 2020. We were at home, locked up. I was singing about what I wanted for myself next. I wanted to be able to walk into a Bentley car dealership and pick one. I want it to be in first-class. I wanted to be international. I wanted money coming out the kazoo so that I could then help other people facilitate their dreams. I was talking about the things I wanted. Now I realize, you have what you say. And only say what you want to see. MB Mag: Talk to us about your book The ABCs of I AMs. BE: I kept hearing. write a book and I was like Lord, I wasn’t the girl in English class, I’m not her. And he just kept on me and it was on me so tough one day that I sat down at my girlfriend's desk and said, Lord, if you want a book, then what is it going to be? And I heard ABC. ABCs? That doesn't make sense. ABCs of I AMs. I was like, what is that? That doesn't make sense. I just kept writing what I was hearing. I used to do my I Am’s on Instagram, and I really thank my Instagram followers for the book. I would get up in the morning and say, I am healthy. I am wealthy. I am happy. I am whole. I am a wife. I am a mother. I am abundant. I am a multimillionaire. I am a producer. I am a sought after actress. I am, you know, I would say these. Then something said, go live (on Instagram). And I was like, Lord, I do this with you. He was like no, go live. I went live. Then people start saying, could you do this tomorrow? Can we do this again? Where can I read these? And I said, no you guys, I'm just saying these off the top of my head. I'm just zoning out. And they're like, no, we want to read it. And I was like, but there's nowhere to read it. They were frustrated with me. But would you know that one of my followers typed out everything I said on one of my lives? Then sent it to me in an email and said, here's the beginning of your book. I was like, okay, Lord, I still don't know how to put these I Am’s in a book form. And literally, I kept hearing that small voice. He said, do the ABCs. And I said there's only 26 letters of the alphabet. That's not a book. And He said, do five words per letter. I said, okay, now that's a few more pages. And then after I said, Lord, you give me the five words. And He said, well, don't judge them after I give them to you. You're going to think, oh, that's a dumb word. Like, I am nice. Somebody needs to hear that one day and they're going to have your book in their hand. Just write down what I say. So He gave me five A words, five B words, five C words, all the way through, but I still felt like it was too thin. And He was like, well, put the Scripture to go with each one, so that they are standing on the word for what they say. So there's a Scripture for every I am that is in my book so that you know you're not just saying something to say something, but that you have Scripture to stand on when you're saying it! There’s a section in the book where you can write in it, you could

add more I Am’s to that letter. Or you can confirm in your spirit the manifestations for saying that I Am. MB Mag: Have you ever struggled to share your faith? BE: Never! It's because of God that I have this talent. It’s because of God that He has opened doors. I call it sweatless effort. This industry has not been hard for me. What was hard was me being in my own way, thinking I wasn't enough. The moment I said I'm enough, I got what it takes, then doors just started opening. Phone calls started. There are so many times that I didn't even audition. Do you know that I didn't even audition for Just Wright with Queen Latifah? My phone rang. It was a phone call. Like, this is what I'm saying. People think, oh, I need an agent. I need a manager. I need. But I haven't had an agent or a manager in the beginning of my career. I'm now looking for new team members. But my point is, you don't even need all that. What you need is confidence in what God has given you and walk towards it. That’s it! I love Issa Rae’s story. She was like, I wasn't getting casted, people weren't being receptive to me. So she started Awkward Black Girl. I love her for that. I'm looking at her and I'm like, wow, she has created her own lane because she realized her fingerprints. She realized who she was. It was like, I Am Enough! I don’t need the okay of a manager, an agent or a producer. I can just create my own and God will provide. Who are we trusting? Are we trusting the producers of this industry? Or are we trusting God? As I speak these words, they're hitting me right back in my spirit. MB Mag: When did your walk with the Lord become personal for you? BE: Well, I have been going to church since I was three, I grew up in it. But it became personal when I was baptized at twelve. That has been my family’s staple, knowing who God is.That's how we were raised. Everyone in this house shall praise the Lord, you know? I'm grateful for that. This is my thing! I am sexy and saved! I say that in my song “Ambitious” that I wrote. People can't even understand that, but do you understand? I can be sexy. I can have fun and still be SAVED! Being fly and having swag and all that stuff, you can still be saved and have all of that! You can still love the Lord. It's not an “either or,” it's an “and.” God made all of this. Let's love on each other and have a heart for people over money. MB Mag: It’s evident that you are very intentional about edifying, empowering, and encouraging others. Who would you say has inspired you to live out your purpose? BE: I have had the support of my family with everything I've ever done. Having their support has always made me feel like I had a launch pad and a safety net. No matter what I did. Whether it failed or it didn't fail. I was going to be successful because I knew I had a launch pad and a safety net, you know? I'm so grateful for my mom and dad who have supported me every time I thought of something new. My friends as well. I've been blessed to have good people around me at all times. CONTINUED ON PAGE 32

F The ABCs of I Ams can be purchased via Amazon. You can also join Brély in the room she created on Fanbase where she’ll ask you if you said your I Am’s.

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on advice to those who want to pursue a career in entertainment

It doesn't take the skinniest or most fit person. It doesn't take the most handsome or pretty face. It takes a desire that is unwilling and relentless to hear “no”! — BRÉLY EVANS

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MB Mag: What’s a challenge that you have had to overcome to make it to where you are today? BE: Judging myself. And that I had to eradicate the words “comparison” and “competition.” I took those words out of my vocabulary. I took the words “aspire” and the phrase “I want to be one day” out of my vocabulary. Then life started happening. I learned the power of language. We're the only species that God gave the power of speaking things. We have to take that so seriously. Even though there are times where I slip up, but what's cool is that I have surrounded myself with a group of girlfriends who are just as dynamic. So we can then shape each other. We can say, hey hey, that’s not how we talk. We don't even say, oh, you killed it. The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Why are we telling people that we are killing it? I say, ooo girl, you gave that thing life! I take the words off of a page of a script and I put them in my spirit. And then spew it out of my mouth, which has air. That's giving life to the words on the page. That's not killing anything. I dare you not to say that phrase anymore and when you hear someone say it, lovingly say, ooo we don’t kill stuff, we have God, we speak life. MB Mag: Actress, Singer, Director, Producer, Business Owner, and Sexy & Saved … What else, what else is going on in your world? BE: I'm single. If anybody needs to know. I am single, ready to mingle. I definitely have a heart open for love. I still want children. I am working on myself daily so that I can be prepared for all that's coming. I'm excited about having a partner in life. I'm really excited about that. MB Mag: You’re really big on self-care. What’s your favorite selfcare activity? BE: I get a massage almost every day. We use our bodies as actors. We have to know that our bodies are our instruments. Getting that massage, getting things well oiled, is important, and drinking your water. I probably get a massage five times out of every week. That is my little secret. When my friends call me and they can't reach me, they're like, oh, give it an hour, she’ll answer. MB Mag: Do you have any tips or resources that you can share with those embarking on a career in the entertainment industry? BE: The Power of the Actor by Ivana Chubbuck. Make sure that you get into good acting classes. It is necessary. Don't rely on your God-given talents. Please go hone your gift. I went to TSAW, which is Tasha Smith's workshop, early on. It still goes on in Los Angeles, California. If you need virtual training, my girlfriend Kinniksky.com is an amazing virtual talent/acting coach. Just go do it, stop aspiring, and get busy. Quit the job, make the job your first investor, you know, and if you're going to stay at the job, just make sure that you realize that God is your investment. That's the only reason why you're there. The job is going to help you pay for the headshots, the acting classes, and such like that, but really go for it. There's enough room for all of us. God didn't run out of any resources for any of us.

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“I don't need the okay of a manager, an agent or a producer. I can just create my own and God will provide. Who are we trusting? Are we trusting the producers of this industry? Or are we trusting God ?” MB Mag: What is your favorite verse? BE: It's Mark 9:23. Jesus said to him, “If you can? Everything is possible for the one who believes.” MB Mag: Last question, you talked about being in your bag earlier. What's your favorite go-to bag to carry? BE: Right now I have this Louis Vuitton on my arm. But the new bag that I really want to buy that I haven't purchased yet is a Balmain. I love it because it has a big old B on it. It says Brély to me. MB Mag: Ok, follow up question, does that mean that you have an interest in being a designer? A fashion industry on the horizon? BE: Okayyy, so you’re speaking that into existence and I’m receiving it. And those people who will help me get that together are seeking me out right now! You will be one of the first to know about it, cause that’s coming. I feel it. Brély Evans is a multi-talented, faith-speaking powerhouse of a woman who is truly a leading light. This conversation allows us a glimpse into her purposed faith walk and the faithfulness of God at work in and through her life. May you find the encouragement to not only speak life over your dreams, but to step out in faith, shedding the fear and doubts to live out your dreams. M


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Within every issue, we are honored to bring you stories that display God’s miracle-working power. Sometimes, His miracles are immediate, in the blink of an eye. Other times, His miracles are in the making … over the years. Miracles taking place over the years? What does that mean? How is that possible?

The Midnight Hour

a candid conversation with BRANDON STEPHENSON as told by DENISE GRIFFIN 34 MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE


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his summer while curating the content for the issue you’re reading, “Miracles Still Happen” was one of our last pieces we hadn’t secured. Stacy and I had identified a few of God’s miracles we wanted to highlight, but our inquiries received no responses. Our deadline was quickly approaching. I said to Stacy, “Maybe we won’t include a miracle this time.” Adamantly, she disagreed. One request after another, still no response. One Sunday in August, I had the pleasure of serving on the Elevation Church production team. On this particular Sunday, our campus pastor acknowledged a young man with a troubled past who, while incarcerated, had an encounter with God through a message from Pastor Steven Furtick. I immediately felt a nudge on my heart, which I now know was the Holy Spirit, who said, “That’s your miracle.” This young man was different from our other miracles, or so I thought, but that feeling was all too familiar. After a few more rejections later from other efforts already in the works, I took the plunge and started trying to find out who he was. On my next Sunday to serve, two weeks later, I asked one person in leadership about him. That one person sent one text. Thirty minutes later I had his name, phone number, and a confirmation that he would love to talk to share his story and to please call him the next day after 5 p.m. Ummmm … can we say God’s timing is unmatched!? As I mentioned earlier, how is it that a miracle can take place over years? The miracle God will reveal has an even greater impact when you realize how God has followed you, how He’s kept you, and how He’s preserved you through personal choices. Especially when you absorb the fact that those same choices have killed others. Brandon Stephenson is that miracle. But, he didn’t know it for years … BUT GOD!

The Beginning Born and raised, until age 13, in Richmond, Virginia, Brandon was a typical boy. All his friends were there. He loved sports. Though his first sport was baseball, it was football that grabbed his heart. He got pretty good, too. Football was his happy place. A place where he felt he belonged. Yet, at home, that same feeling didn’t resonate. Though he loved his older brother, Allen, Brandon began to feel early on as if their parents, Rodney and Mary, did not treat his brother and him the same. Growing up, Rodney was very strict, more strict with him than with his Allen. “My dad is a retired Navy vet. So me and my brother grew up knowing you're going to walk the line. It's going to be a thin line, a tight line, that was our upbringing.” Though Brandon’s dad was strict, he says, “We didn’t want for anything.” But even so, Brandon began to feel levels of rejection. Allen toed the line while Brandon wanted to fit in with the crowd. That crowd movement didn’t fare well for Brandon. “I was the menace between me and my brother. I was the class clown. He was praised, I was not. I was told I wasn’t going to be anything and my brother was never told that. I felt like I was the black sheep of the family. I felt like I was the ‘less-than child.’ There were a lot of times, with my dad, whether he felt it or not, I had a lot of feelings like I was a mistake. There were times where I would go to bed when I was

young and wish that I was not here. I wished that I wouldn't wake up. Sometimes I would think, maybe my parents, especially my dad, wished I wasn't their kid, and if they could have another kid they would love that kid more than me.” Brandon is the baby, two years younger than Allen. Rodney was strict, but Mary had Brandon wrapped around her finger. “She took up for me,” he says. Brandon recalls that, as a little boy, his mom would always read the Bible to him. She told him she would leave the Bible open to Psalm 23 and put it under his pillow. This verse would come to be the turning point later in his life.

The Transition Just like most kids with siblings, you expect friends to come over, stay the night, and hang out. Your families get to know each other, and everyone is treated as such, like family. There was never any reason to believe any differently at the Stephenson household. Yet, on too many occasions, too many children share a dark truth. Brandon, unfortunately, was unable to escape that same truth. He recalls a time when he was nearly 10 years old, when one of his brother’s friends was over. At his age, “I had not had the birds and the bees talk with my family yet, so I had no idea what it was.” This friend, who was over for the night, touched Brandon in an inappropriate sexual manner. “He told me that it was okay, that that's what friends did to seal their pact with each other, but I couldn't tell nobody because it was our secret.” This abuse continued until the family moved to North Carolina. By this time, Brandon was 13, had been sexually abused by his brother’s friend for years, and felt consistently rejected and unwanted by his parents; he perceived that they continued to treat his brother and him differently. These beliefs were the catalyst that led to Brandon getting into a lot of trouble. MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE

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“Um, I became the bully. I became that aggressor because I thought that that's what would make me a part of something. I thought that was the problem this whole time. I thought the problem was me.”

Moving to a new state proved difficult; he and his family knew absolutely no one, and Brandon and Allen were teased a lot. They got into fights and had to defend themselves often. People tried to steal their shoes, they were bullied ... It was truly a rough transition. With everything Brandon had been through, he says, “Um, I became the bully. I became that aggressor because I thought that that's what would make me a part of something. I thought that was the problem this whole time. I thought the problem was me. I was too soft. I was a pushover. So I became that aggressor. I became the guy that would beat you up if you looked at me wrong. I was in middle school, my eighth grade year.” Can you imagine dealing with all of this in middle school? During this conversation, all I could do was think about my own son who just entered high school. I can’t even imagine. More often than not, people are quietly struggling with atrocities they’ve survived or possibly still experiencing. While in eighth grade, Brandon encountered the event that changed his life, but yet again, not for the better. Brandon shares, “A guy walks up to me and he's like, man, you're so like, mean and intense. I got something that'll help you relax, bro. And I said, oh yeah, what's that? He handed me this thing that honestly looked like paper rolled up. And that's when I tried my first joint, and it took off from there.” We always hear about these gateway drugs. To be totally transparent, I never believed marijuana was a gateway drug. I smoked it for years and it never progressed any further. I rationalized it. It had no physically addictive properties, so I thought, it calms you down … what was the actual problem? How can it lead to other things? This was my narrow, not-as-traumatized life experience talking, I guess. Don’t get me wrong, I had been through some things, but not to this 36 MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE

extent. It was at this moment, even with some of our similarities, that I realized how polarizing something I considered so harmless could become; to Brandon, marijuana became the literal novacane he needed to dull the pain he was quietly facing every day. Through the summer and into high school, Brandon continued to smoke. Smoking weed gave him the confidence he needed. He felt really good, he started making new friends, and he thought this was the life God intended him to have. All the feelings he’d had, all the stuff that happened to him, began to go away with the help of all the weed he was smoking. “It's like, none of that mattered anymore. I thought I was cured. I thought I found the cure for everything I went through as a child. I thought I found the magic potion for it.” At that moment, I felt like a thin sheet of fabric had been removed from the eyes of my understanding. My heart sunk deep into my chest as I continued to listen to his story. The more we talked, the more he remembered different times of his childhood. As we talked about different scenarios, one question would jog a new thought, like darts to his memory. I stopped Brandon as he began to talk about how he hadn’t been a stranger to God. “I was introduced to God at a very young age,” he shares. “I'm that Southern Pentecostal kid. That's how I grew up.” His dad was involved in ministry, as was his grandfather within the Pentacostal church. I wanted to know how his early introduction to God’s character, coupled with the conflicting nature of how his parents were treating him, had shaped his thoughts of God. He recalls, “So my introduction to God was, you know, God is above all, He's the creator of the earth. He is a loving God. He's compassionate. He shows mercy. I grew up as a kid idolizing God … I couldn't see God physically, I couldn't physically reach out and touch God, but I heard so much about Him as a kid, that this God person is somebody. It sounded like everything He did was just good and awesome. Now, let's go to the feelings that I had in a realistic sense. Those thoughts fought each other.” In other words, Brandon indicated that his thoughts toward God at this point began


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to be in question. It’s not that he didn’t believe that the characteristics of God were true, but his traumatized and youthful mind became confused. “God does all of this? He gives us parents to love and nurture and take care of us, but God, what did you do when you gave me mine? I thought, God, what were you doing when you put me here? I got mad at God. I remember one day I went and sat in the woods and I said, ‘God, you are a liar! Because, because you said that I'm supposed to love my parents because they love me. But my parents, I don’t feel like my parents love me. So you're a liar.’ I said those words because that's the feelings I was subjected to.” As adults, we have conflicting circumstances we face daily. Even as adults, we struggle with what we see, what we feel, and how we should respond. Do we respond with logic, with feelings, or with responsibility? All the things Brandon had seen in church — miracles, praise and worship, people being set free — was in such conflict with his life experience. When Brandon recalls how his mom used to place the Bible opened to Psalm 23 under his pillow, he also remembers his really bad nightmares. And like a nightmare, his life in middle school wasn’t lining up with this Psalm. “There was one night I got mad and I slammed my Bible shut and I threw it. I said, ‘This whole book is nothing but a bunch of scripted fairy tales just to make a bunch of money. These people (referring to the people in his childhood church) get up here and preach about it, but they're preaching lies. God doesn't lay me down in green pastures. This God isn't what this verse says He is, this is a lie!’” Brandon says his heart grew cold to Scripture, and he didn’t want anything to do with God. In his mind, God was a liar. When he attended a Christian camp one summer, a youth leader recalls Brandon not participating in any of the faith-building exercises, but he was fully active in the fun events like swimming, arts and crafts, etc. When asked why, Brandon said, “I cannot fake a front. And I cannot go in there and act like I'm in love with somebody who I despise.” As Brandon moved through middle school and then into high school, he consumed any drug that was available. He progressively became more and more out of control. He distributed drugs to support his own habit. Listening to Brandon, you can tell he has an infectious personality. He loves to talk. He seems like he was the life of any party. But, as he admits earlier, he was a bully and earned respect for all the wrong reasons. He attempted to bring that disrespectful nature to his home. He abused curfews and disrespected the boundaries set at home. But, Rodney was still a military man and still carried out disciplinary actions at home. Brandon had no idea of the worry and concern Rodney and Mary were actually feeling night after night when he didn’t come home. Nights would turn into days, days into weeks. Mary never stopped praying for her son. Brandon’s disrespectful nature eventually morphed into entitlement. He wrecked the car his dad had given him and then insisted he replace it. The disrespect and entitlement eventually led to Brandon no longer being welcomed at home. Brandon’s entitled mindset even extended to God. Despite his progressively worsening behavior, he graduated from high school ... barely. Out of 500 students, he was 497. He recalls how, on the night of graduation, a friend of his who was high on the same substances he was consuming fell over a balcony and died. “That didn't stop me. If

anything, as twisted as this sounds, Denise, it added more fuel to the fire because I remember I looked up and I said, ‘God, I don't know if you're there or not, but what happened to them will never happen to me.’”

The Awakening Over the next several years, more and more people died around Brandon. If you’ve lived long enough, you may have known someone who’s overdosed, purposely or accidentally. Some lived and some did not. Regardless, I cannot recall a time that I didn’t feel sadness for that person, for what they had endured, or for empathy for their loved one. However, after nearly two hours talking to Brandon, I wasn’t prepared for my next set of feelings as he shared his overdose story with me. “I had a total of 10 overdoses. Um, and on the tenth overdose, I was dead. They said my body started changing color. My lips were turning white. My body was starting to stiffen up. I was turning, not cold, but a little chilled. And they said, all of a sudden color came back in my face and I just went (gasps for air), and I was fine. But in that moment, it's what I believe still to this day, that God exposed me to what He was. He was unveiling it to me as a second experience, because it's where I went.” I had to stop him and ask for further explanation in regard to “because it’s where I went.” Brandon continues, “I had no recollection on how long I was out. I do remember where I went.

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It was very dark. It was very hot. I heard screaming. I heard demonic laughter, and I saw claws coming for me. Smoke came out of nowhere. And I saw the most horrific demonic faces that I can't describe to you if I tried. And the only thing that I can [descriptively] remember is this thing spoke and said, ‘We have you now, welcome home.’ And I heard women screaming. I heard kids crying. I heard whips or what sounded like whips. I heard chains. I was hot. I could not stop getting hot. I got hotter and hotter. It was dark. It was, uh, it was, it bothers me to talk about it, but I have to talk about it because I've stuffed it for so long. So I was there. And all of a sudden, I remember gasping for air, but when I gasped for air, I had this warmth come over my body. And I immediately got up.” During this time, Brandon has been missing from his home for over a month. He was staying with people nearly two hours away. At this point, he had enough. The tenth overdose did it for him. He had nothing. Two cars had been repossessed, his girlfriend cheated on him and left him, the home they were staying in was gone. He had nothing. Even in all his running, running from his problems, running to drugs to camouflage the pain, running to people who didn’t have his best in mind, at the end of all this he realized, “You can't outrun God, you cannot,” Brandon says. “I tried for years, Denise, to say, forget God. I tried to burn Bibles. I would laugh at preachers. I would mock people who spoke in tongues. I would make fun of them. I ran. But then as I got into this new life that I live now, I realized I was running a million miles an hour. But God was running a million and ten and catching me as fast as I could take a stride. So I called my mom and I said, ‘Mom, it's me.’ And she choked up. And she said, ‘Brandon, is this really you?’ And I said, ‘Mom, I want to come home.’ I said, ‘I'm done.’ I said, ‘Seven years of this crap, I'm done.’ I said, ‘Please, you and Dad come get me. I can't tell you where I'm at, but I'll find a safe location. And, y'all meet me there.’ It normally takes two and a half hours to get down from Goldsboro, from my house. This is how I know my parents didn't hate me. They were there in an hour and a half. Dad looked at me, and for the first time my dad hugged me and he said, ‘Our baby's okay.’” Brandon got choked up telling this part of his story. “Um, for the first time, at this point I was 25 years old, I looked at my dad and with a sincere heart I said, ‘I love you Dad.’ And he looked at me back and said, ‘Son, I love you more than you'll ever know.’ And for the first time I felt a sense of a dad and a son.” When Brandon’s parents met him, to his account, he was about 120 pounds soaking wet on his 6-footfour frame. He was severely dehydrated, and hadn’t urinated or slept in days. Upon being checked out by a doctor immediately, the amount of drugs in his system was off the charts! At this point, I had chills, tears, and all kinds of emotions as I listened to Brandon talk. How relatable is his story to our own. Exchange his challenges for yours. Exchange his motivations to run with yours. Yes, the circumstances may be very different. You may not have overdosed on drugs, but what have you overdosed on that almost killed you or may be killing you now? Where were you when you realized you CANNOT outrun God? 38 MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE

More importantly, you cannot outrun God’s purpose for your life. Brandon asked for help. Rodney and Mary got him into a treatment center in Monroe, North Carolina. It was there that Brandon’s road to recovery began. For eight grueling days, his body detoxed, and his mind became more clear. He was on the road to physically healing. But, the consequences of his many actions were still left to be revealed. While in rehab, Brandon learned that he had accumulated 31 warrants for his arrest [28 charges of identity theft, one charge for conspiracy after breaking and entering, and two 1st degree burglary charges]. Upon his release from rehab, he was going to be arrested. Two weeks after his release he went to jail.

The Revelation Here’s where Brandon says God really showed up in his story. I laugh at him and say, “Given all you’ve been through, I believe He’s been here all along.” We both laugh as he continues. He paints a picture of the county jail, jammed packed, and the pod they put him in is filled with gang members. But, these gang members were actively facilitating a Bible study. He shares, “I am not okay with this and start screaming for the guard to change my cell.” To no avail, he had to stay. He had no choice but to listen. Eventually, he joined in the conversations. It seems the guys started talking as if they knew one another. He recalls being asked, “Was your life really that bad? Or did you just shelf the One that could have made your life so great this whole time? Did you just shelf God when the going got bad and never go back and tap into the real answers?” The more the guy spoke, the more angry Brandon became. But, he had to admit, “He was hitting on the truth. And so he started reading scriptures to me. And it's no coincidence, the first one he came to was Psalm 23. The one that my mom read to me as a baby in her arms and prayed over me. At this point, Superman lost his Cape, because for the first time I can't remember how long I cried. And I said, ‘I want to know more about this, this, this real God.’” From this point, Brandon was all in. The jailhouse ministry brought in DVDs with sermons from pastors like Ron Carpenter and Jensen Franklin. Brandon remembers, one day they brought a DVD from a guy whose last name was Furtick. He started laughing and joking, “What kind of name is Furtick?” But, once that sermon started, it proved to be a name he would never forget. In excitement, Brandon recalls, “He [Furtick] talked about being lost and finding your way back. And I was like, this guy knows me from somewhere, this guy knows me!” We both bust out in laughter and I share that we all feel that way, as if he has our phones tapped! He continues, “But this guy's also crazy. Like he claps his hands in the middle of preaching and he gets really wound up. And I'm like, this dude needs Ritalin. He is hyperactive. But little did I know that, that message, while in an orange jumpsuit, at the end of it, I would end up going into the jail house ministry, praying to start a relationship with God.” While in county jail, Brandon had multiple hearings to address his 31 charges. He was facing 23 to 30 times two in prison. The judge told him in court that she was going to make an example out of him.


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F Brandon pictured with his parents and Elevation Church Campus Pastor Jonathan Joseph on the day of his baptism.

Brandon was deflated and thought, “I’m sitting here like, yeah, that's it. God, I had one good encounter with You and You're throwing me away. That's it? My life is over.” But, man’s period is often God’s comma. At this point, Brandon had been sober for 90 days. An amazing accomplishment for someone who had been addicted and using drugs consistently for seven years. Brandon’s parents used their resources to hire the best attorney their money could afford. Brandon’s attorney brought Brandon’s sobriety key tags with him to court. The judge asked to speak to Rodney and Mary. Brandon, unsure of what was happening, sees and hears his mom break down into tears. This display of her emotion broke him. He then begins to cry as well. His mother’s emotion was in response to the judge lowering his bond from $75,000 to $10,000. At the time, Brandon didn’t know the full extent of how God had answered his parents’ prayers. “God knew exactly how much, to the penny, they had to spend to get me out. They had only $1,000 left to bail me out. They found a bail bondsman that paid $9,000 of my bail.” After two years in county jail, after countless hearings, Brandon was going home. Though charges were still pending, God still wasn’t finished. Brandon’s attorney continued to fight on his behalf, all while Brandon stayed clean and continued to work his 12-step program while staying rooted in God’s Word. The judge ruled that she wanted to dismiss Brandon’s case. All he needed to do was pay $1,700 in restitution. Brandon can’t believe it and says, “God, me and You, we’re starting to kind of be cool a little bit. Like, You're starting to kinda show me these miraculous works a little bit, you know, like I can deal with this, but we just got to keep taking it slow. Well, then God really busts the door down ... the charges get dropped!” Nearly four months go by after the charges are dropped and Brandon and his family hear from

the attorney for the first time since. At this time, the attorney reminds Rodney and Mary that they had paid him $500 too much at the beginning of Brandon’s situation. They both recall being told that, and they wondered what happened to the money. But because of all God had done, they hadn’t given it much thought. For the first time during our conversation, Brandon refers to the attorney by name, John. He said that John informed him and his parents that he used that $500 to have Brandon’s record expunged! As of today, Brandon Stephenson’s 31 felony charges no longer exist! With audible emotion in his voice, Brandon reflects, “I found [Pastor] Steven in jail, but who I really found in jail was God. Right? And this is what I want to tell anybody. There's a story in the Bible of Paul and Silas, and it seemed so, so hopeless that they weren’t going to get out. They were bound. They were shackled by their feet. Their feet were [shackled] in a wall. I mean, let's just be real. There was no way for them to get out. But the midnight hour, there is something about that hour. And honestly thinking back now, Denise, I was in my midnight hour for seven years. I was in my midnight hour the whole time I was in jail. I was in my midnight hour for the two years that I didn't know if I was going to show up to court, and they tell the bailiff to take me back into custody. But, I'm telling you, praises and praise work because the whole time I was missing, the whole time I didn't know that I had anybody back home praying for me. I didn't know I had people praising God for the outcome that was going to happen. I had an army behind me that I didn't even realize, Denise. I had an army that I could see, but I had another army who was 10 times stronger than the visible eye could ever imagine. So I'm sitting here and I'm thinking about the midnight hour, the midnight hour, and it made sense. One started praising and the other was praying. They would take turns. And before you know it, they're both singing and praising and the jail falls apart and the guards run away.” Brandon went on to share more of Paul and Silas’ story. He wants to encourage everyone, “The midnight hour is not one of doom, it’s an hour when joy comes. It’s an hour where breakthrough happens. It’s an hour where freedom comes.” He went on and on admonishing God’s miracle-working power in his life. As I wrapped up my time with Brandon, he asked that I include this one last thing. “There is a lie that has been circulating for decades, and it's about people in addiction. People like me, they say, once an addict, always an addict. That is a lie from the pit of hell! We do recover. We do recover because Jesus died for every addiction.” He continues to encourage, “Don’t disqualify yourself. God qualified you as soon as He placed you inside the womb of your mom.” He and I talked longer, like friends who hadn’t spoken in years. I’m so thankful God whispered, “That’s your miracle.” Brandon’s story is a miracle. Your story is a miracle. Miracles Still Happen, immediately and in the blink of an eye, or over the years. “My friend,” as Brandon says quite often, The Midnight Hour is where joy, breakthrough, and freedom reside. Don’t give up, lean in, because God will meet you there. M MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE

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The

Yearof Firsts MB Mag readers, we would like to introduce you to the newlyweds, LAVELL AND KRISTLE PERSON and ANN AND WILLIE MOONEY. We sat down with both of these couples to talk about relationships. What better way to celebrate our anniversary issue than by hearing from these lovely couples in their first year of marriage. Not only that, but they also shared with us how they plan to spend their first holiday season as husband and wife. We hope you enjoy hearing from them as much as we did!

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Lavell & Kristle Kristle and Lavell met when Kristle and her twin attended an event On the day Lavell proposed, Kristle shared how overwhelmed she was Lavell was filming. She recalled admiring the professional group with all the feelings. “I definitely gave my ugly cry, lol.” While Lavell of young, Black men filming the event. She didn’t notice her future surprises her all the time, Kristle stated this surprise made her the husband right away, but when his company, “1 Eye 1 Vision Productions,” happiest woman alive. She admits she was confused leading up to the was given a shoutout, she spotted Lavell in the corner on his laptop. proposal. “It was Xmas day and both our families were at my sister’s “I asked my manager, ‘Girl who is that?’” Kristle house. As people were preparing to leave, Lavell explained. She shared how she then emailed him and Kerese (my twin) kept saying we have to that night, professionally, as she truly wanted his take a selfie video before everyone leaves.” She company to film her and her sister. However, she recalled Lavell holding his phone and their Prepping for Marriage: confessed she also reached out to “of course, feel families sitting in chairs. Because they are in the him out to make sure he wasn’t taken, lol.” That film world, it wasn’t out of the norm for him to one message led them down the aisle on April be talking to the camera. He called her up to 17, 2021! the camera and she shared that she was being Lavell confessed he knew “KP” was his silly. “Then Lavell begins to compliment me, future wife when he was going through a rough and I’m bowing and still being silly, and the next 1 Keep God first point in his life and she stored his film production thing I know he bends down on his knee, and I equipment in her garage. “Mind you, we had just remember gasping for air and exhaling seconds 2 Nothing is perfect started dating and that equipment was worth later.” She shares her first thought was, “God, close to 10K.” She stored it for him for several you didn’t forget about me.” months. “I thought to myself, hmmm … yep! It’s They both believe the most important 3 Communicate everything time to start working on the ring design! Lol.” factor of their successful marriage is what they Kristle, on the other hand, knew Lavell call the marriage triangle: communication, was the one when she reflected on how she understanding, and honesty. “Love is an 4 Don’t take anything personally knew where her place was in his life. Even offspring from this.” When they walk through more so, certainty came when she knew their difficult times in their relationship, they have 5 Listen to understand relationship glorified God. “Being with Lavell learned several rules of engagement. “We don’t didn’t compromise my relationship with God, argue or hit below the belt. That’s a no-no!” but strengthened it, which was the number one They learned to listen and understand instead 6 Keep dating thing that I prayed to have with my husband.” of just responding. Also, they work to give one She shared that, through her life experiences, another space to allow feelings on both sides she understood that God wouldn’t send her to be heard and considered. “Never tear your 7 Have healthy arguments someone that would corrupt her character or partner down to the point that they cannot lead her astray. Lavell didn’t drain her energy receive you again or cannot pour into you when Accept your partner’s or disturb her peace but instead edified her. She you need them. Trust me, you will need them 8 feelings; it’s not always finished by saying, “I knew Lavell was the right again! That’s God’s path as He is our head of about you one because he makes me feel good about myself house!” and loves me just the way I am.” For their first holiday season together, Lavell 9 Keep loving yourself Leading up to the proposal, Lavell admits and Kristle are planning to start their own he was “low key a train wreck!” He carefully tradition. Each year, they will travel with their Learn your partner's love 10 language took the time to design a ring that was both a close family members and enjoy each other’s reflection of himself and “my baby Kristle’s company in Napa Valley. “We love family and lifestyle.” When COVID happened, his plans our family loves us! We wouldn’t have it any 11 Grow together (include were almost taken out. He had his mom, sisterother way … Period!! Lol!” your partner; do not live in-law, cousins, brother, sister, and Aunty, all Likewise, each of their first holidays together a single married life) ready to go, just wanting everything to be right. they spend with family. “We are super big on He shared how “God placed the correct energy being family-oriented. Our village is strong, Their favorite verse: in my heart and told me to just go for it! So, I and we will make sure that extends beyond our “For I know the plans I have for you,” jumped in like a teenage girl playing double name!” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you Dutch! Lol.” and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” —Jeremiah 29:11

Lavell & Kristle's Advice

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Ann & Willie

Q: Tell us how you two met. Ann: Maybe strange and unconventional at the time, our meeting actually happened on Facebook. Willie: I take complete ownership that I sent her a message to her inbox. Honestly, I didn't have any real high expectations. I mean, I wasn't really shooting my shot. I was just being nice and acknowledging another nice person from my discernment. But I admit, I'm very nosey. LOL! When Ann acknowledged my involvement with the men's ministry group, that made me curious to dig deeper. Willie, how did you know Ann was the one? Ann, how did you know Willie was the one? Willie: I knew she was the one over our time of courtship when my thoughts and responses to many things started to take a different type of consideration. Again, strange. We weren't each other's type; however, I witnessed her accept me in all my revealed transparencies and vulnerable areas of my personal life. Areas where, honestly, I had been judged and even rejected. Now that I started paying very close attention, Ann displayed that she was also a helpmate and a true partner. In all our imperfections, [she] was willing to follow me. Ann aligned with my godly purpose.

"He is a man that had a hookup with God, knows his purpose (which blends with mine). He didn't have a problem with being vulnerable and such a great listener.” Ann: Willie was nothing [like anyone] I had ever dated or was used to. I mean, honestly, he wasn't what I would call my type. But over time as I matured as a woman, I let God choose my type. I started paying attention to him. Willie treats me like a queen. I had a list, and he superseded it all. He is a man that had a hookup with God, knows his purpose (which blends with mine). He didn't have a problem with being vulnerable and such a great listener. Willie, tell us how you were feeling leading up to your proposal to Ann? OMG, I was super nervous as hell. LOL! But honestly I felt very honored and proud of what I had planned. I wanted Ann to ultimately feel like a princess. I was so excited about the ring I purchased for her. I knew in my heart that proposing to her was God saying to me, "Great job son!" And at the same time, I felt like the most blessed and favored man in the whole entire world. I was finally claiming the Unicorn as mine. I said to myself, `Now y’all can kick rocks with your Beyonce song, "I put a ring on it!" LMBO Ann, tell us how you felt the day Willie proposed? OVERWHELMED WITH JOY! Let's just say, it's so hard to surprise 44 MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE

me. I was so surprised. I felt like I was dreaming. I couldn't stop crying. I mean, my husband perfected the engagement to every detail — from the camera man, to the family and friends on Zoom, location, he even picked out the outfit for me to wear. Oh my, that ring WAS NOT what I expected. This man has great taste where it has me still smiling. What do you think is the most important factor to having a successful marriage? Willie: God, unconditional love, communication, finances, and sex. Ann: I can agree with all that my husband has stated. Continued counseling and serving your spouse are necessities. How have you two walked together through hard times, and how has your relationship with God helped you get through those difficult times? Ann: An example of our hardest time together is when we both fought COVID. We didn't realize that our relationship was being attacked. By the both of us having a relationship with God, we were able to hear from Him and gain understanding as well as clarity regarding our feelings. We had to fight the spirits of mistrust, rejection, abandonment, and lack of communication. Our relationship, because of God and His intervention, became stronger. We decided to get married and have a small nuptial. Although we wanted the full participation of our friends and family in a large wedding, God showed us that Covenant was more important during this season than having a large ceremony. Being newlyweds, can you tell us how you will be spending your very FIRST holidays together? Willie: Hmmmm, this is a good one. We desire to be present in the moment with each other and our entire family. Maybe we will have a mansion with 10 bedrooms or maybe go back to a place similar to the one we were engaged in. We just would love to see our family all together. What advice can you give our readers who are preparing for marriage? Willie: This may sound cliche, but we believe in seeking God first for all things, especially marriage. Ask God to reveal to you HIS desires and purpose for your life. Is the person you are considering aligned with this purpose? Go through the process of courtship. Allow that man to pursue you. Pay attention to her resistance or pliability if you are the LEAD DOG, LMBO. Pray, pray, and pray. But don't ever forget to listen. Can you share with us one of your favorite scriptures? Willie: Luke 12:48, “To whom much has been given, much will be required; and from whom much is required, even more is given.” Let’s celebrate a man's favor with God! Ann: Hebrew 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” M


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THE GIRLFRIEND'S CORNER

Oh!

She's Changed. by APRIL DANIELS photography by ROBIN V PHOTOGRAPHY

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We live in a world where we get to witness the fallouts of so

many people on social media, whether they’re a celebrity or not. The idea of publicly airing out disagreements has never been my thing although the trend seems to be growing. Unfortunately, when people choose to make it everyone else’s business, instead of just between the two parties involved, it creates an open window of opinions. These opinions become the heartbeat to chatter like, “Oh, she’s changed!” Meaning, a person is acting or responding in ways not to the liking of someone else. This narrative creates conversations that cloud the atmosphere with entitlement instead of truth. For me, the past two years have placed me in a position where I experienced this firsthand . . . I was the one accused of “changing.” Unapologetically, the nature of my life’s events required me to change drastically. After all, when anyone has to experience change on any level, it also automatically requires them to change in some capacity. Maybe it’s how you choose to continue on, adjust, or respond to that circumstance, but my hope would be, whatever the change, that it challenges you to grow in some way. Growth can make a lot of people uncomfortable, especially when that growth causes them to disconnect from a person they benefited from greatly. Even if there was a mutual benefiting factor, I’d love to think that both people devoted time to pray about and consider the relationship from an unbiased perspective. The heart of the person who has changed, taking into account what they have experienced, has to remain in the forefront; giving this person grace has to be key. And any negative thoughts and assumptions one may come up with to accuse this person have to be put aside. Otherwise, why would they have been friends to begin with? Just from a practical standpoint, it might also be easier to support what you may not understand instead of wasting time and energy sharing a tainted version of a story that attaches a false narrative to what really happened. Wishful thinking, huh? Also, some real grownup behavior! Looking back at the few connections that fizzled out, my concern was never, “How will I manage to fit into their next chapter?” When it ended, I may have questioned some things, but definitely didn’t go on a hate campaign against them. Lord knows I could have with quite a few people, but that was never an option for me. My prayer was that their next chapter

FEATURES

would benefit them, giving them what they need to become a better version of themselves. Because healthy people and situations breed healthy people and situations. We shouldn’t feel so privileged that we permanently write ourselves into the lives of those we are blessed to connect with. Some things are seasonal, and unfortunately, we do not get to control that. After all, it would be amazing if we could pause time on some relationships or friendships that felt the most fulfilling. But when an expiration date arrives, taking everything into consideration shouldn’t leave you in a bitter place. Life will bring you curveballs that some will not understand, but when it involves other people, when did entitlement replace grace? Everything isn’t always about your feelings when someone is literally trying to pick up the pieces to carry on. Once you’ve lived a little, you understand the benefits of growing and keeping your mouth off of someone else’s growth. Learn to become less opinionated and more comfortable with change that isn’t physically hurting anyone or, more importantly, what may line up with God’s will. What happened to trusting God with the outcome regardless how bruised your ego becomes? The Bible speaks about holding grudges or negative feelings against someone. Yet, we will sometimes skip those instructions and go straight to other people and gossip, share on social media, and possibly spearhead a campaign of negativity against someone while wearing the victim hat. This action doesn’t make you more right; instead it reflects your lack of maturity to see things through a lens of love. We can’t control people or situations, but we can control how we respond and the willingness to grow from what has changed us. When you look in the mirror, love who you are becoming and be able to close your eyes at night with the same peace. My relationship with God keeps my spirit accountable, not perfect. When I’m operating outside of that, God has a way of allowing me to see where I need to do better. That is the gauge I use to check my heart, not a bunch of misguided opinions. Don’t let others' opinions speak louder than the way God has chosen to guide your steps. The next time you hear, “Oh, she’s changed!” let that be a reminder that God is doing a new thing in you. Be proud of the woman you are becoming. And remember, walking in your purpose doesn’t need the approval of others. As long as God is pleased, He truly is the only One who matters. M

We can’t control people or situations, but we can control how we respond and the willingness to grow from what has changed us.

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tammy A SPECIAL CONVERSATION WITH

franklin as told by TONI E. EMEHEL photography by ROBIN V PHOTOGRAPHY styling by J. BOLIN

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to the season MB Magazine is honored to share Tammy Franklin with our readers in this anniversary edition. From holiday celebrations, to navigating complex and intricate rhythms of life, this special edition page-turner will no doubt have you riveted with anticipation of what lies on the next page! I encourage you to earmark this edition as a keepsake. One from which to draw guidance as you navigate the different seasons of life. So, grab your favorite holiday drink, kick back, and let’s dive into these life-changing enlightenments that Tammy Franklin shares to help you, our readers, discover the benefits of surrendering to your own life’s season. To celebrate our inaugural year and holiday publication, MB Magazine has tapped the roots of one of the most grounded, intelligent women of faith this world has known, the incomparable Tammy Franklin. Tammy is a philanthropist, encourager, supporter, and the renowned wife of multi-talented, Grammy award winning, contemporary Gospel artist Kirk Franklin. Tammy is a woman who fully understands the mantel she carries as the rib that protects her husband’s heart. She does this not only by understanding who her husband is, but also by understanding the intricate processes that come with the anointing that defines why he is.

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When such an iconic maven as this walks into the room, you have no other choice but to sit up and listen. That’s exactly what MB Magazine did so as not to miss a single word coming from such a prolific woman of wisdom. It will become obvious in the pages to follow that Tammy Franklin is a life-giving vessel with passions of her own, yet through her gentle strength not only is the crown of her husband’s glory but dispenses what is needed to hold his arms up through all seasons of life. Tammy Franklin is the perfect image-bearer God designed to be His hands and feet in the life of her husband, their children, and everyone who experiences the end result of works made possible by the Franklin family. So, the next time you find yourself tapping your feet or going into worship with the latest sounds of Kirk Franklin, know that it was made possible by a loving and supporting wife who lifts him up through understanding and providing just what he needs to hold his chin up and walk in confidence. “If the season is not matching what you are trying to do, you are going to be frustrated. What is the season calling for?”


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Season of Preparation Beyond her outer beauty, Tammy Franklin is a surrendered woman of distinction who has gained greater clarity about her role in others’ lives through her own life experiences. Notably, she is a first-born child in a family of seven children. While Tammy innately possesses the passion of a leader, her commanding presence is infused with a palpable peace that calms the spirit and warmly invites you into her space. When MB Magazine sat down with Tammy, she shared that “God prepares you for life and what you are ultimately going to be doing.” Not realizing the significance at the time, Tammy grew up being the wind beneath her mother’s wings. As the oldest child, she helped her mother nurture and provide care for her siblings. In Tammy’s mind, it all came naturally. However, God knew that He was using Tammy’s homelife to prepare her for her future state of life. s an adult, Tammy fondly recalls asking her mother, “How did you do it with seven of us?” Her mother replied, “Girl, you. You were my nanny. You were my help.” This is relevant because soon after high school, Tammy became pregnant at the age of 19. Giving birth to her firstborn child, Tammy was challenged with caring and providing for her daughter as an unwed, single mother. While the world worked overtime to deliver a blow of guilt and shame, Tammy would later find that giving birth to her daughter was God ordering Tammy’s steps. Tammy describes this season of her life as one of her darkest moments. However, now looking back she can see how it was one of her finest hours of spiritual growth and maturation. God was increasing her in wisdom and knowledge. In retrospect, God was maturing Tammy for the days and years ahead. Becoming a teenage mother gave Tammy the time that God ordained to cultivate His way in her. In effect, it provided the time and experience necessary for Tammy to develop the godly standards to fully build the sense of protection she needed for success in her eventual marriage to Kirk. Thus, while the world sought to produce shame in Tammy, God sought to produce a foundation of belief. “Being born and raised in the black Baptist church, I became pregnant shortly after graduating from high school. My father was a Deacon, and my mother was a Deaconess, so you know it was like a headlining story for the National Enquirer. It was a very, very difficult and dark time for me. I had to sit under the judgment of the very people that should have just put their arms around me and surrounded me with God’s love. The worst part of all is that there were ladies in the church who would come up to me and say, ‘How could you have done this to your parents? Shame on you.’” In God’s plan, the husband whom He was preparing for Tammy was born of a teenage mother. Like Tammy, Kirk was born in the state of Texas, but the two did not meet until they were adults. Also, the two were born just a few weeks apart.

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But unlike Tammy, who refused to allow anyone to take her child from her, Kirk’s teenage mother abandoned him during his infancy to a trusted family member. So, when you put all of God’s work and plan into perspective, you can see that at the convergence of this beautiful love story, God covers Tammy’s guilt with Kirk’s understanding, born from his own pain. From birth, God was preparing Tammy and Kirk to love, honor, and understand one another beneath the surface. This is why during their season(s) of friendship and dating other people, the power of divine connection would not allow Tammy and Kirk to remain apart. Can you say, made for one another?! It could not be any clearer! Not only did God equip Kirk to understand Tammy’s plight, but He gave Kirk a plight of his own. The core memories embodied by the two were divinely orchestrated so both would understand how and why they complete the marriage mold that God intended for them as husband and wife. When God whispers your love story, it may not sound like a love story at the time, but trust … even in a whisper. “Before I even had her [my daughter],” Tammy remembers, “God just started whispering little things to me about the importance of me bringing her into the world and how it was going to be me alongside Him in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.” It goes without saying that the commitment Tammy demonstrated for accepting God’s gift of motherhood as a teenager resonated with Kirk. Through the example of her life, Kirk could easily see that, as his wife, Tammy would be the lifegiving strong tower that he needed to thrive. Season of Singlesness MB Magazine asked Tammy what insight and advice she would offer to singles as they are waiting for the one. Her response: “Society makes the end goal for women marriage. That’s the big prize. Marriage is amazing and to desire it is an amazing thing. But I think to be completely focused on that can lead to frustration. Instead focus and work on yourself. Make sure that you are surrounding yourself with community so that when it is time, you are prepared. You don't have to be desperate. You don’t have to be clamoring. Rather, walk in your self-worth and just be. Make sure that you are worthy of being that good thing that God says you are.” There were times in Tammy’s singleness that she had to pause and work on herself. However, during the process, she did not abandon her friendship with Kirk. Oftentimes she operated as his sounding board. Helping him grow spiritually and naturally in the eventual marital relationship that the two were destined to share. It was during this season that Tammy became Kirk’s confidant. She recalls one conversation with Kirk when he was contemplating dating another young lady exclusively. As much as it hurt Tammy to hear it, she surrendered it to God. Later, as Kirk continued to confide in Tammy about his relationship with this other person, he shared that he sensed he was making the wrong decision and heading down the wrong path. Tammy recalled Kirk’s words, “I cannot stop thinking about what we're supposed to be.”

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hen Tammy shared with Kirk that she felt the same way, he asked her why she didn’t say something when he first shared his thoughts with her. She responded, “I just want you to be happy.” From there it was a wrap! God moved in that moment, and the two committed to defy the odds against their relationship to really see what was there. As His plans would play out, here we are 25 years later, still celebrating the gift of God’s love between these two amazing individuals. Season of Marriage and Family “I remember my dad’s words to me when I got married. He said, ‘Love is a fact, not a feeling.’ It did not make any sense to me until after I got married.” Tammy took some time with MB Magazine to unpack the marriage advice that she received from her father that she lives by today. “There are feelings that come with love, but love is a fact. In times of conflict, you might not be feeling your mate, but you must remember to choose to love them.” Tammy further expounded that if you are not growing in marriage, then things will go downhill quickly. Meaning, if you have been married for 25 years and you are the same person you were 25 years ago, something is amiss! Change reflects maturity, increased understanding, and growth. The commitment to love covers one another through the changes that should be expected in every marriage. When MB Magazine asked Tammy if she ever felt herself losing her identity as she was raising her children, here’s what Tammy had to say: “When we were empty nesting, after dropping Kennedy at school with one child remaining home, I realized that my role was shifting. I was overcome with fear. I began asking myself, who am I beyond my husband and my kids? The reality is, my dreams and my desires were really attached to theirs. As wives and mothers, we become our family’s biggest cheerleaders. I believe as women, we must learn to be our own biggest cheerleaders. We must learn to strike that delicate balance of not forgetting about ourselves. You also have to learn how to surrender to the season that you are in. Fulfill your dreams, but surrender to the season that you are in. If the season doesn’t accompany what you are trying to accomplish … it is not that you can’t do it, but it may be a struggle. So, the key to striking

balance is knowing what season you are in, prioritizing the moment, while at the same time planning for the next season.” Holiday Seasons with the Franklin Family While every season gives rise for holiday celebrations in the Franklin household, Christmas is an all-time family favorite. Picture this … with tunes of “This Christmas” by Donnie Hathaway playing lightly in the background, Tammy is in the kitchen putting the final touches on a festive feast for the family that includes every dish imaginable (#nochittlings). Kirk and the kids are dressed for the occasion and ready to usher in the true spirit of Christmas. From wearing collared shirts, ties, and heels to matching jammies, the Franklin family welcomes the Christmas season as a time to create tender moments of love for one another and Christ. “Our first Christmas together as a family, my husband did a scavenger hunt for the kids. Rather than put the toys under the tree, he hid them all around the house. The kids were literally running all around the house to find the gifts. After a while, we began doing three gifts for our kids. We did this because we realized that they had so much. We started finding Christmas gifts still wrapped after Christmas. So, we began doing three gifts symbolic of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the fourth gift was a gift that the kids would give for Jesus. So, whether it is time, money, or something that the children give to an organization, we prioritize the gift of giving to Jesus. We made that switch early on to ensure that our family honored what Christmas is truly about.” For those who do not know God for themselves or are struggling in their faith, Tammy shares the following words of encouragement: “God is real. He desires to know and have a deeper relationship with you. It’s as simple as that.” Tammy encourages believers that God is love, and as believers, we should not complicate the Gospel to make it an unsavory plethora of rules and regulations. Keep it simple. “Even the Word says that they will know us by our love, and we are not always loving. So, realizing that we are the living ,walking Word ourselves, we must also understand that it is impossible for a believer to introduce others to a faithful, loving, unconditional God when you yourself are not. It starts with relationship. That is the entire reason why Jesus came.”

I had to recognize that I have several callings, and my main calling in that season was to singleness and to be a support. There are single women out there that need to recognize that maybe this is your season of singleness. Whether from divorce or you just haven't gotten married yet. The key is surrenduring to the season and trusting God in the process.

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TA M M Y ' S T I P S

1: God will

transform the situation that man used to cultivate guilt and shame into a therapeutic healing balm that grows your faith in Him. 2: Trust your experiences because this is how God prepares you for life and what you are ultimately going to be doing. 3: God’s timing is everything! Get in sync with His rhythm to grab hold of everything He has planned for your life. 4: There is no amount of time, space, or distance that can defy the plans of God. ALL things happen in the fullness of His timing. 5: Syncopation between a husband, a wife, children, and God is not always easy. However, when surrendered to God, it becomes a melodic rhythm that feeds the spirit and is by far worthy of process.

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TA M M Y ' S T I P S

1: Marriage magnifies baggage. So, take the time you need in your singleness to work on you and unhealed trauma within you. 2: You need to be with somebody that understands the calling on your life and what it takes to dispense the calling. 3: It is okay to pause and just be friends. Realize that even though it was meant to be, the timing may not be right now. So, trust the process and allow things to happen in God’s timing. 4: Invest in premarital counseling. 5: Commit to learning each other’s rhythms through observation and understanding. MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE

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TA M M Y ' S T I P S F O R

1: Love

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is a fact, not a feeling. 2: Choose to love. 3: Take an annual inventory of your marriage: Where have you been? Where are you going? How am I doing? What could you do differently? What do you need more of? What have we accomplished that we are proud of? 4: Commit to continue to grow and change together. 5: Prepare you children to be selfsufficient throughout their childhood by equipping them with the necessary life skills they need to thrive.


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Entering New Seasons As a recent empty nester, Tammy felt the pressure of entering a new season of life. She shared with MB Magazine moments when she was presented with many new opportunities to follow her passions and pursuits in faith, fashion, and fitness, including an opportunity to write a book. While all these sound like great opportunities, the pressure of the shift produced a mental fog that ultimately had a positive benefit; it allowed Tammy moments of stillness so God could be God in her life. Tammy shares her thoughts during her time of being still: “The pressure of what’s next can be daunting. I remember a friend of mine complimented me on how cool it was that I took the time to just figure it out. She commended me for not succumbing to the pressure. The reality is, before she drew my attention to it, I hadn't thought of it that way. It was really a God-ordained moment. So now that God has had His time with me, things are truly happening organically. When we stop striving, God has a way of making things happen organically, just the way He intended.” #surrendertotheseason

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The membership club for multihyphenate Black women who own. Welcome home. W W W.OWN H E R S .CO M

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FOOD & TRAVEL

Say What! It's Vegan?

Adjoa Courtney, known professionally as “Chef Joya,” has a passion for turning basic recipes into exquisite delicacies — a talent that has changed her life. photography by JONATHAN COOPER

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Behind The Mix Growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the heart of the Midwest and raised vegan since she was seven years old, Joya spent a lot of time in her grandmother’s kitchen absorbing the aroma of the food she cooked, along with the wisdom that her grandmother preached. It was during these early years that Joya became fascinated by other elders in her community and oftentimes befriended them in food havens, like international supermarkets, to obtain their authentic recipes. After years of honing her culinary skills, she began to host dinner parties for her family and friends. She created mind-blowing and aweinspiring dining experiences that left them amazed and wanting more. From there, she began to make vlogs and offer cooking lessons via her Instagram account, which subsequently became very popular with her social media fans and followers. With the love and support of those closest to her, Joya (who was then working primarily as a makeup artist and beauty professional) decided to pursue her childhood dream and became a personal chef. Following the plant-based foundation of the food she grew up on, Joya began to “veganize” traditional recipes that typically contained animal products, which has since turned into her specialty. She wants her food to remind others transitioning to veganism of the meals they enjoyed before they became vegan. As Chef Joya experimented with different cultural flavors such as Soul Food, African, Afro-Caribbean, and French, her recipes expanded to include cuisines from across the globe. Recognizing the need for vegan cuisine in many culinary genres, Chef Joya began teaching other chefs how to prepare plant-based meals for their clients. She is revered by both vegans and non-vegans alike and is arguably one of the best vegan culinary artists in all the United States. Although Joya currently resides in Charlotte, she travels across the country winning the hearts and stomachs of communities near and far. She draws in vegans and meat-eaters alike and sells out venues wherever she goes. Joya, who loves all things bright, colorful, and unique, enjoys providing amazingly delicious — and magical — meals for everyone she encounters. With several awards, successful restaurant collaborations, and cooking competition titles under her belt, Chef Joya can be found experimenting with dishes, preparing for her next dinner party where she provides great food, wonderful stories, and intimate five-star experience. Or one can find her sharing recipes on Instagram and YouTube via her channel, “Say What! It’s Vegan?” Recent accolades include being named critics’ choice “Best Vegan Chef” as well as readers’ choice “Best Chef” in The Best of the Nest 2019 issue of Queen City Nerve, Charlotte’s Alternative Weekly Newspaper, and being a featured chef (the only vegan chef) on BuzzFeed’s Tasty social media channels and in “Juggling Acts” of SouthPark Magazine. M

Tomato Cucumber Salad Ingredients: 1 long English cucumber, sliced 2-3 large tomato moons, sliced ½ red onion, sliced 1 tbsp fresh parsley and dill, herbs 2 tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp red wine vinegar Sugar, a pinch Sea salt, to taste Pepper, to taste Directions: 1. Place all vegetables into a serving bowl. In a separate bowl, create the dressing, using a whisk, to mix the remaining ingredients. 2. Pour dressing over vegetables. 3. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Serve chilled.

Client Testimonial "As a transitioning meat eater to vegan who has come very close to staying on the vegan wagon, only to fall off at the smells from a BBQ, I can say with confidence after sampling the many different items showcased, I know I can stay on track. Everything that was presented was appealing to the eye and the flavors were off the charts!” A Super Fan, Renee Wright

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Mini Krab Cakes INGREDIENTS: 1 can jackfruit, drained and rinsed ¾ cup mashed chickpeas ½ cup nori (sushi wrappers), crushed ½ tsp Old Bay seasoning ¼ tsp salt ½ tsp ground black pepper 1 ½ tsp garlic powder 1 tsp lemon juice ½ cup plain bread crumbs ½ cup of vegan mayo 1 tbsp chickpea flour ½ cup vegetable oil DIRECTIONS: 1. Shred the jackfruit, using two forks to peel. 2. Combine onions, Old Bay seasoning, salt, black pepper, lemon juice, sushi paper, bread crumbs, mayo, and chickpea flour into a large mixing bowl. 3. Mix well. 4. Hand-form the mixture into patties, then let sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 5. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet, over medium heat. 6. Add a few patties to the oil, frying each side until golden brown. 7. Drain patties on a paper towel.

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FOOD & TRAVEL

Rice Pilaf

Pictured with Not Your Mama's Meatloaf INGREDIENTS: ¼ cup olive oil or ½ stick vegan butter 1 cup onion, chopped ½ cup red bell pepper, chopped ¼ cup celery, chopped 1 tsp garlic, minced 1½ cups parboiled rice, uncooked ½ tsp Creole seasoning ¼ tsp garlic salt ½ tsp black pepper, freshly cracked 3 cups vegetable broth, or water 2 bay leaves DIRECTIONS: 1. Add the olive oil or vegan butter to a medium saucepan. 2. Once oil is slightly brown, add the vegetables, and sauté for about 5 minutes. 3. Continue to stir, over medium heat, and add the rice. 4. As your rice begins to brown, add in the seasonings and the vegetable stock. 5. Bring the rice to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to simmer. 6. Cook the rice for about 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through and most of the water has been absorbed.

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Home for th FINALLY NOT

Holidays

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If you’re ready to venture out and hit the road (or the airport) this holiday season, weekend wanderluster and travel fanatic BRIDGETTE WEST shares some of her favorite places to go when you don’t want to be home for the holidays. photography by BRIDGETTE WEST

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FOOD & TRAVEL

Los Cabos, Mexico

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ocated at the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula, Los Cabos gives you the all-inclusive luxurious Pueblo Bonito resort spread out over five distinctive properties. My favorite of the five is Pueblo Bonito Pacifica, an adults-only place where you can indulge in comfort. A minimalist haven, Pueblo Bonito Pacifica is a 201 guest room property featuring soft neutral hues, native wood furnishings, and gorgeous views of the private beach. The property has enhanced amenities on one side of the property, which includes 24-hour butler service and exclusive access to an oceanfront VIP lounge. If you love extra perks like these, be sure to book a room at “The Towers” at Pueblo Bonito Pacifica. The Pacifica resort offers eight places to wine and dine. If you arrive before your room is available, you’ll most likely be directed to Siempre, an indoor and outdoor delicious Mediterranean-style restaurant that offers a lunch and dinner menu as well as a breakfast buffet. If you love seafood try Pescados, a casually elegant sushi restaurant. Be sure to make a reservation for the property’s white linen fine dining Peninsula Restaurant, which offers hand-selected recipes and fresh flavors from across the region. There are truly so many great places to eat, it will be nearly impossible to visit all the bars and restaurants, but if you venture off of Pacifica, I’d recommend trying LaFrida Restaurant. Named after the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, LaFrida restaurant means enjoying a unique approach to Mexican cuisine while taking in the Fridainspired decor, art, and panoramic ocean views. If you are traveling with a large group, you are guaranteed to have a variety of dietary preferences, so I’d recommend visiting the Market at Quivira inspired by the European elegance of the food hall experience. You’ll find everything from Asian to Italian favorites and even an American ‘50s- inspired diner.

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As much as I love a relaxing trip and food galore, I also enjoy an excursion or two to explore the various activities the area has to offer. Cabo Adventures offers everything from camel safari rides to ATV experiences, zip lining, snorkeling, and a dolphin swim experience. On my first trip to Cabo, I opted for the Luxury Sailing Cabo Tour and cruised past the famous Land’s End Arch at Lover’s Beach. The tour includes a light snack, lunch, premium open bar, and even a bit of dancing aboard your luxurious Frenchmade catamaran.

If you’re not up for activities and prefer a low-key relaxation experience, be sure to stop at the Armonia Spa at Pueblo Bonito Pacifica. Indulge in body treatments, massage therapies, salon services, and other spa packages. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite take-home gift, the Armonia Spa Air Fresheners available at the spa boutique. My favorite fragrances are lavender and lavender vanilla. RIGHT, FROM TOP: Lobby at Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Golf & Spa Resort, Marina Cabo San Lucas


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A view of The Arch of Cabo San Lucas from the yacht tour

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Saint Lucia

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aint Lucia is the quintessential Eastern Caribbean island paradise home to volcanic beaches, reefdiving sites, luxury resorts, and fishing villages. The unique confluence of Caribbean, African, English, and French cultures creates an exquisite blend of food, music, and traditions that will inspire and enchant the most well-traveled of travelers. I’m staying at the Royalton Saint Lucia, which is about a 90-minute ride from the airport. It’s nestled in lush landscapes set upon one of the most picturesque islands in the Caribbean. For travelers of all ages, this modern resort features three distinct sections, including a family-friendly vacation experience in the general resort, Diamond Club,™ for a higher level of service with exclusive pool, beach and dining areas, and Hideaway, an adultsonly oasis. Immediately upon arrival, I can feel the sense of welcoming island hospitality as I’m greeted by cool hand towels scented with the refreshing scent of lemongrass. I’m a Diamond Club™ guest, the resort’s premium level of service, which features highly-trained butlers and concierge to fulfill my every request. Diamond Club™ members are also privy to exclusive areas around the resort including a pool, beach, and a lounge, which is where I’m checking in. My room key is a waterproof bracelet that is designed to withstand all the dips in the pool, beach waves, and mud bathing I’m about to enjoy during my island adventures.

Private outdoor massage area on the beach at Royalton St. Lucia

I’m introduced to my butler, Danielle, who takes me to my room and gives me the grand tour. I must admit that at this point, I’m trying to act civilized like I have had butler service tons of times, but inside I want to break out into a happy dance from the ’80s (think the Carlton). Once inside my room, Danielle shows me how to order room service from my television and gives me a bright orange phone to carry with me during my stay. “If you need me, just press this button and I’ll come on the line to take care of your request,” Danielle explains. 90 MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE

Calypso's private dining room


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FOOD & TRAVEL The room is such that I could spend just about the entire vacation tucked away in my suite. I have a great view of the ocean, which I access through grand sliding glass doors. My posh bathroom has a walk-in shower with their signature rain showerhead, a vintage-style soaking tub, and a private toilet room. There is also Royalton’s signature DreamBed™ complete with high thread count sheets. After unpacking and sitting on my balcony, lost in the sights of the beach and the sounds of the waves, I head out to dinner to begin the first activity of my 72 hours in St. Lucia. The resort offers nine resorts on the all-inclusive property, allowing you to taste flavors from around the world including Zen Japanese Steakhouse, SCORE sports bar, Armadillo TexMex cuisine, and my favorite Calypso, serving tasty West Indies dishes. For starters at Calypso, you can try their Jerk Surf and Turf Spring Roll, West Indies Assorted Patties, or Big Island Crab Cake, which is my choice. The Jamaican Coconut Crusted Snapper was a delicious option for an entree, or order the popular Saint Lucian Chicken Roti. The international delights come in buffet-style choices, a la carte dining, and swanky bars. Venturing out to see the sights of Saint Lucia will not disappoint. On the first full day of my stay, I’m headed out with a group on the Tout Bagay excursion with Nexus Tours. This is a must-do activity when you visit Saint Lucia. My group and I are chartered by a wi-fi-enabled bus from the resort lobby to the Rodney Bay Marina, where we board our yacht for the day. We sail for about an hour or so, but honestly, I can’t remember as the waters and mountains make it easy to lose track of time. This is the moment where you stop and just take in the absolute beauty of the picturesque panoramic views of the island and the ocean.

On the tour, we pass by the Monplaisir family’s grand estate house (the owners of the property) to another live demonstration near the coconut truck. Have you ever witnessed the de-husking of a coconut? It’s a “don’t try this at home” skill but beautiful to see it done for you. The coconut is then sliced in half revealing coconut water. Sip while you look out at the mountains and blue water below. Finally, before leaving the property, stop at the onsite, rustic restaurant for a Lucian buffet lunch, served with probably the most delicious limeade you’ll ever taste and dessert made from fruit harvested at the estate. Ever wanted to walk in the footsteps of Richard Branson or Oprah, if only but a moment? They both visited the warm Sulphur Springs, a dormant volcano famous for its detoxifying capabilities that are noted to help heal sunburns, eczema, arthritis, sore joints, and more. The mud bath is also noted to help you look 12 years younger. You’ll know the exact moment you are getting close as your nostrils will fill with the stench of rotten egg. No worries, you’ll soon adapt to the smell to be able to enjoy the experience. The temperature of the mud bath is about 100 degrees, “not very hot,” says one local. As you walk down the four-step entry into the bath, your body temperature will soon begin to adjust to the change. Suddenly, what was once the heat of the air becomes a cool breeze as your body soaks in the benefits of the warm sulfur springs. Buckets of fresh mud are gathered by attendants, and fellow visitors huddle over the buckets to experience the rejuvenating benefits of the mud. Regardless of your adventure level, health needs, or desired age reversal, the Sulphur Springs is worth a quick dip. Tip: wear a dark-colored swimsuit as the sulfur springs will change the color of white or light-colored attire. After mud bathing, it’s back to the boat for the final sail back to the hotel. Rum punch is passed around and the party is turned up to 10. During our sail, we encounter that same pirate ship we passed in Soufriere. This time, they aren’t so nice and catch us off guard with the dramatic and thunderous sound effects of their replica cannon. At least they thought it was funny. I am trying to catch my breath and stop my heart from racing. We all laugh afterward.

As we begin to dock in the town of Soufriere, we spot a replica of a pirate ship beginning to set sail (fun fact: Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed partially in Saint Lucia). We are headed to the Toraille Waterfall, one of the largest falls in Saint Lucia. It’s the perfect spot for a refreshing splash as the falls cascade off of the tip of your head, back, and shoulders. The experience is invigorating. The Morne Coubaril Estate is a living museum and adventure park. Start with a walking historical estate tour (also available by horseback) through a small village of replica stick huts similar to those used two centuries ago by local villagers. We stop at the cocoa house to taste a ripe cocoa bean and experience the process of fermentation, bean drying, and the cocoa dance used to polish the dried beans.

"

FROM TOP RIGHT: Splashing in the

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Park City. Utah

f course, for Floridians and those who live in warm climates, a wintery destination counts as a change of scenery during the winter months. Park City Utah is not your typical mountain experience. In fact, it’s anything but. Admittedly, the only thing I knew about Utah was that it was out West somewhere and that a former PR colleague of mine attended Brigham Young University in the state. I know, sad. Consequently, I was pleasantly surprised during a recent visit to the breathtaking mountainous destination. Park City is synonymous with modern luxury, especially when referring to the accommodations at the world-renowned Waldorf Astoria. During your stay, you can opt for fine dining farm-to-table meals and one of the most beautiful fall balloon experiences you can imagine. Park City Utah is an elevated mountain experience. Pun intended.

FROM RIGHT: A view of the entrance to the Waldorf Astoria in Park City, UT., Brisket Polenta Hash at Riverhorse Provisions.

Whether you are a party of one or 16, the Waldorf Astoria Park City is the perfect home away from home. You can choose from a guest room, suite, or bi-level suite. Though the guest rooms are the smallest the resort offers, they are anything but tiny and have most of the amenities of the suites such as the blackout curtains, gas fireplace, and comforting bath amenities. I stayed in a suite during my visit. Once I walked into the room, the first element of surprise was the beautiful gas fireplace, a standard feature in each room. My room opened to a gorgeous parlor room where another warm fireplace lit the room. Those who love to cook are going to be in culinary heaven. The suites include gourmet kitchens with marble countertops and Viking appliances. Even if you didn’t plan to cook, you will be tempted to whip up something before your stay is complete. The gorgeous bathroom was just as stunning as the kitchen and included an oversized tub and a European shower. The team at the Waldorf has mastered the art of anticipating guests’ needs. I made myself right at home in luxurious accommodations, high-end amenities, and acres of explorable terrain just steps from the lobby.

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FOOD & TRAVEL

A short walk from the Waldorf is The Farm, a rustic yet refined dining experience. It’s not exactly dinner on a ranch but it’s close. The food is expertly prepared and served fresh to the table. The service is complementary to the fine dining experience in this casual environment. The Farm offers a menu that emphasizes regionally sourced ingredients, an extensive selection of wines, and indoor and outdoor seating. The menu featured small plates — such as Farm Cheese (peach chutney, brown butter, granola, and grilled sourdough), White Bean Soup (preserved lemon, house whole wheat sourdough, mozzarella, and kale), “Popcorn” Shrimp (shrimp, pork cheeks, sweet Utah corn jalapeno, and roasted bell pepper) — and large plates such as the Cowboy Steak, Pistachio Crusted Lamb Lion, and #TheFarmBurger (desert mountain wagyu, duck confit, port wine shallots, house mustard, truffle aioli, Promontory cheddar, and brined house fries). If you love checking out unassuming local hotspots, you can’t leave Park City without stopping by this gem. Located in the downtown area, The Eating Establishment has been a local institution serving breakfast all day since the 1970s. In 2017 the new owners added a bar to create craft cocktails to complement the dishes and a few new comfort food elements to round out the rest of the day. I sampled the Thai-style popcorn chicken as a starter and finished with breakfast — a Belgian Waffle with a side of ham and eggs. That’s the great thing about eating here: you can order lunch, breakfast, and a spirited beverage at the same time without judgment. The desserts are just as tasty. Try the Bread Pudding — deep fried and served with bourbon caramel and whipped cream. Don't forget the ice cream! Twisted Fern is another local spot that is a must-do item on your Park City itinerary. The atmosphere is incredibly warm yet sophisticated. This Park City eatery is committed to honoring the roots of its ingredients with a twist of creativity. Chef/Owner Adam Ross combines his passion for food with his commitment to sustainability and conscious living at Twisted Fern. Here, you’ll find dishes like crispy Garlic and Sesame Chickpeas (that you won’t be able to put down) and Duck Confit and Berry Salad to start, Bone-In Short Rib, and Chicken Fried Portobello as entrees and Coconut Pudding or Brownie Sundae to finish.

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For the coffee connoisseur, this next destination is going to be your Park City hot spot. Five5eeds has a goal of bringing great coffee, great food, and exceptional service to the folks of Utah. One look at the creative dishes that pass your table and you’ll want to order the entire menu. This healthy cafe focuses on nourishing, flavorful dishes, crafted from the best local, seasonal produce. Five5eeds offers a comfortable atmosphere to grab a quick breakfast or lunch or relax over your favorite drink with a group of friends. Many of the dishes are happily decorated with nourishing greens or fresh fruit. I ordered the Hotcakes, which came topped with mixed berries, nuts and seeds, and lemon-infused mascarpone. The Rojo Mexican Tacos, which my travel companion ordered, looked to be delicious and flavorful as it was served with shrimp, red cabbage slaw, fresh cilantro, and chipotle spiced cream. Also, try the popular Iced Coffee made Aussie-style with Five5eeds cold brew made with ice-cream and five5eeds nitro cold brew. Utah is such a popular destination for fly fishing that the waters have to be restocked annually by dropping fish from planes into the water. Once you apply for your fishing license and make your way to the waters, you’ll see why the visitor and locals alike love fishing in the mountains. The Provo River is extremely high quality and holds a “blue-ribbon” title, meaning any experience fly-fishing on this river is sure to be memorable. The team at All Seasons Adventures will pick you up from the Waldorf, bringing your handy fishing overalls and boots. Once dressed, you’ll hop into the vehicle as they escort you to the closest driving point to the river. Then it’s a nice scenic walk through the mountains, across the railroad tracks to the Provo River. This excursion is great for novice and seasoned fishers alike — the guides will give you as much or as little assistance as needed. And they’re pretty good, too! It was my first time fishing and I caught two fish. CLOCKWISE FROM TOP RIGHT: Rojo Mexican Tacos at Five5eeds; Small bites at Powder The Waldorf Astoria's onsite restaurant; Hotcake with mixed berries, lemon infused marscapone , nuts and seeds at Five5eeds; and a Belgian Waffle breakfast at The Eating Establishment. M


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ADVERTORIAL

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cannot believe one year has passed! In one year of amazing testimonies, God sent cover features and layouts and Mind Blowing adventures ... I could go on and on! Throughout this spectacular year, we’ve gotten to stay on breathtaking properties — from the oceanside views in Ft. Lauderdale to the incredible skyrise of The Statler Hotel – Dallas, which is a part of the Curio Collection by Hilton. This beautiful property is the perfect mix of retro chic and modern elegance. As soon as you drive onto the property, you’re greeted by one of several hospitable attendants. Each time we entered or exited the building, the door was always opened with a smile … Well, at least I think they were smiling through their masks. Each of our team members had beautiful king rooms with understated but elegant decor. I have to say … if I had an award to give out, the mattress at The Statler wins “Most Comfy.” Shortly after, a knock at the door with a scrumptious charcuterie board and bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon was served with a handwritten note to welcome us. Our server was friendly and informative. The Statler was off to an amazing start, and we hadn’t been here an hour yet. As if the night couldn’t get any better, we got to enjoy dinner at Waterproof, the 19th floor rooftop lounge venue with great views of the Dallas skyline. You can sit at the bar or poolside, grab an interior table, or sit in cabana-style seating surrounded by breathtaking panoramic views. Definitely a mature atmosphere, great for a group or even a romantic night out.

100 MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE


ADVERTORIAL The Statler has so much to offer, including six dine and drink venues: • • •

• •

Overeasy – Serving a menu of inspired breakfast, brunch, and lunch items and cocktails, all with a laidback attitude. Bourbon and Banter – A swanky underground lounge serving innovative cocktails and arguably the finest Bourbon collection in Dallas. Waterproof – This indoor/outdoor space offers a sunny urban oasis to take a dip in the pool, indulge in refreshing beverages, enjoy bites, and watch the sunset. Scout – A 4,000 square-foot dining and gaming hall, it’s the perfect spot to make memories over a game of pool or round of bowling. Live music and weekly events are enjoyed. Sfereco – The American-Italian inspired menu is available for lunch and dinner alongside a curated Italian cocktail program. Primo’s MX Kitchen and Lounge – Brings a fresh take on an old favorite with inspirations ranging from the border of Texas to Southern Mexico.

For more information and to book your stay, please visit: www.thestatlerdallas.com F

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MANNA FOR THE MIND

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HEALTH & HEALING

It was while I swiftly navigated through the chaotic “Holiday Sales” lines that I realized my bank account was likely in the negative. It was while I waited in the line — and mentally scanned through the list of charges t h a t would appear from my shopping and nonnegotiable living expenses — that I felt unsettled about my most recent financial decisions. It was during my favorite time of the year. It was while doing what I actually enjoy doing — being able to bless those I love dearly. It was during the holidays. But it was also during a season of unemployment, and during that holiday season, I was trying to make ends meet. Though the holidays are meant to be filled with the joy of giftgiving, they can often include the pressure of unmet expectations of what one can bring to the table, literally and figuratively. Moreover, this will be our second holiday season in conditions that are far less than optimal: a pandemic. And while these conditions have impacted some more than others, we are in the prime of truly understanding the vital importance of human interaction, all while simultaneously juggling financial burdens or their potential reality during this holiday season. But whether you’re fully employed, unemployed, or simply making an effort to steward your finances accordingly, know the following: your gift-giving is not a reflection of what you have to offer. We can look at a passage in the Bible where Jesus saw worth beyond numbers, in the little that one widow had to give. Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on.” —Mark 12:41-45 (NIV) As profound as the surface-level understanding of this passage is, one can gather several points here regarding giving: Jesus watched from a distance, yet never missed a detail. We can rest assured, knowing that God has accounted for the nuances and complexities of our holiday preparation and burdens.

What God accounts for, He makes room for. We can imagine that the crowd consisted of many people placing their money into the treasury, yet He could capably see how much one person specifically gave. Through details like this, we can trust that God will turn our little into enough. Jesus never negated the earthly value of what the widow gave. Jesus doesn’t stand on His attributes by watering down our reality. Rather, He infuses truth into our situation. Jesus has never sought to display naivety towards what we bring to the table. Scripture lists the exact amount the widow had to offer, whereas the amount given by the wealthy was left unspecified. I believe God to be intentional — He wanted to address the totality of both what she gave and her heart posture in giving it. Jesus was less interested in the amount that others gave and more interested in what they gave of what they had. Jesus doesn’t perceive the world as we do. And as we walk out our lives of faith, we should strive to view life through His lens. In this instance, value wasn’t determined by the money — it was identified by the circumstance and what was sacrificed. Surely, we are to adopt this same mindset for the sake of our peace this year. As we approach this holiday season, may we remember that gift-giving pressure does not have to result in unnecessary debt or financial stress. God has given us each access to His wisdom for stewarding what we’ve been given. “Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this:Wisdom preserves those who have it.” —Ecclesiastes 7:12 (NIV) This year, release yourself from the competition you’ve set within your mind. Give yourself room to expect that others’ desires this year may be centered around quality time as opposed to quality things. And more importantly, know that Jesus has a long history of turning very little into more than enough for those in need. May we greet the holidays this year with more gratitude than the last and be more receptive to the things of Christ than any holiday season thus far. M

"Jesus doesn't percieev the world as we do. And as we walk out our lives infaith, we should strive to view life through His lens.”

F For more inspirational content, follow Tari Cox on Instagram

@xarcito and visit her website at www.taricox.com

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WELLNESS ELEV8TED

Health & the Holidays How stress leads to elevated cortisol levels and what that means for your health. by DR. LAKESHA LEGREE 104 MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE


HEALTH & HEALING

Q: Looming holidays got you at your wits’ end? Are family members ruffling your feathers? Is your “To Do” list longer than Santa’s? Do your kids have you climbing up the wall? Before you know it, your stress becomes chronic, those holiday treats and cookies become breakfast and lunch, and then . . . Bam! . . . your cortisol levels are through the roof. What is happening to your mind and your body? They are both losing it! Then your body decides to surge itself in cortisol and, whew! What is cortisol anyway? Sis’, keep reading, and I’ll spill the tea for you below. Why do we allow ourselves to become so stressed during the holiday season? Perhaps we are too busy setting unrealistic expectations to accomplish insignificant tasks in order to please people who are not contributors to our inner peace or overall happiness? Oooooohhhhh, this tea is piping hot! Grab your mug and “leggo.” What does the holiday season really mean to you? Is it give and receive, or is it gathering in a spirit of faith and gratitude? Please do not let it be both because, quite possibly, we are starting the holiday season with unrealistic expectations, which may as well be a list written in pencil that you then poured water on. Self-sabotage is exactly what is happening. Did you know that while we are so busy trying to check off the boxes, we are indirectly doing damage to ourselves internally? Stress wreaks havoc on our lives, both inside and out. A recent national survey revealed that stress decreases our productivity and negatively impacts our families, as evidenced by an almost 50 percent divorce rate in our country. It also leads to burnout. Approximately 25 percent of employees across the country are experiencing burnout related to the additional stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This was before the holiday season. Can you imagine adding holiday stressors on top of an already unprecedented time? We have yet to even touch upon the internal damage directly caused by stress alone.

Let’s discuss. When stress becomes chronic, a hormone, cortisol, becomes elevated and circulates throughout our bodies. When this hormone circulates for long periods of time, it can directly lead to impairments in your memory, depression of your immune system, a sensitization of your body to insulin, and an increase in your perception of fear. So basically, you don’t know what is going on, you are vulnerable, you are gaining weight, and you are scared and anxious all at the same time. Normally, cortisol rises and falls in our bodies in response to temporary stressors. It is normally responsible for

"A recent national survey revealed that stress decreases our productivity and negatively impacts our families, as evidenced by an almost 50% divorce rate in our country.” our circadian rhythm, our sleep regulation, blood sugar control, growth and repair on a cellular level, and finally, amino acid production, which are key protein building blocks throughout our bodies. When cortisol is elevated for prolonged periods of time, it increases your risk for breast and prostate cancer, Type 2 diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer’s disease, gut issues such as chronic constipation, migraine headaches, infections, pain disorders, inflammatory disorders, and finally, heart disease. Let’s take an in-depth look at the impact of cortisol on one of our most critical organs, the heart. Cortisol can narrow your arteries and increase the plaque build-

up within them. Cortisol can elevate the precursors of plaque, which are cholesterol and triglycerides. Collectively, this leads to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. All three of these can possibly result in death! Do I have your attention now? Are you curious now about your own stress levels and if your cortisol is chronically elevated? You can start your stress reduction journey by asking your doctor to get a urine sample from you to assess the amount of cortisol in your urine over a 24-hour period. That will be an indication of how much cortisol is circulating throughout your body and hopefully an indirect indication of how you need to slow down, sit down, and quiet the stressors in your life. Afterall, when we know better, we tend to do better. Now, how do you reduce the stress in your life? To be honest, I am still figuring that one out for myself. It is a conscious effort that one must make every single day. You must prioritize yourself and your mental health first. Your mental health is in direct alignment with your physical health. I cannot emphasize this direct correlation enough! Let us all remember that the purpose of stress is to alert us through our bodies to changes in our environment. These changes require us to make adjustments in our actions, responses, and behaviors. So, from nutrition to exercise to mindfulness to financial adjustments, there are things you can do to manage any stressors in your life. So as the holiday season approaches, let us remember the real Reason for the season and act accordingly so we come out of the holiday season refreshed and renewed, with hearts of faith, gratitude, and low circulating cortisol levels! M

For more wellness inspiration and medical advice, subscribe to Dr. Legree's newsletter at www.drlegree.com and follow her on all social media platforms @ DrLegree. F

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NEW YEAR RESOLUTION?

Fitness & Nutrition In our final issue of 2021, we would be remiss if we didn’t round out our columnist lineup by addressing your fitness goals. Thanks to our brilliant creative team, a dynamic fitness professional was brought to our attention. After one conversation with her, there was NO DOUBT: she was called for such a time as this. She IS the piece we didn’t know was missing from our puzzle. We are so excited to introduce our newest columnist, Ms. Quianna Camper! We look forward to all she has to share. Not only is her fitness advice sound, but her love for God and her unapologetic approach to how she chooses to honor Him in all things is beyond inspirational. — Welcome to the MB Mag Family, Qui! photography by ROBIN V PHOTOGRAPHY


HEALTH & HEALING

e M

! i u Q t e

uianna Camper is a certified personal trainer and fitness enthusiast. Born and raised in Northern New Jersey, Quianna began her journey with fitness long before she became a social media influencer. Formally trained in dance, Quianna began dancing at a young age and continued this passion well into adulthood. While she’s always maintained a relationship with fitness and the gym, in 2012 she faced adversity in her personal life, and fitness became her escape. Quianna used a difficult time as a catalyst to dedicate herself unabashedly to finding herself. The gym became her therapy — a place she could strengthen her body while also strengthening her mind. Though working relentlessly to perfect her craft and refine her body, something was still missing from Quianna’s life. Her pursuit of self-love motivated her to realize her ultimate purpose: helping others to also become the best version of themselves. This desire to help others drove Quianna to re-center her focus — to obtain a certification in personal training and take classes focusing on global health. This foundation developed into the birth of her brand, Qui2Health Fitness. As a trainer, Quianna develops the whole person — mind and body — by focusing on building confidence. Determined to empower her clients on their journeys to a healthier lifestyle, Quianna envisioned a safe space that would allow her clients to work on their bodies and their mental health, simultaneously. That vision became a reality when, in 2020, Quianna opened a members- only training facility, Rehab by Qui, where members are considered family and are connected by health, strength, and most importantly, love! As her brand, Qui2Health, grows, Quianna continues to focus on what originally motivated her to start working out: self-love. That focus motivated her to launch Therapy by Qui, a clothing line that allows people to feel good about themselves, wherever they are in their journey. Highlighting the connection between fitness and loving yourself unconditionally, Quianna works to ensure that every aspect of the Qui2Health brand embodies her slogan, “If mentally you want it, physically it’ll show!” F To learn more: www.therapybyqui.com or

Instagram: @qui2health

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MONEY TIPS

Holiday Spending Tips With the holidays approaching, we want to offer you sound financial advice. What better way to do that, than doing what we do best as women…consult each other! That is exactly what we did thanks to one of our readers, MRS. CARLA QUEENAN. She reached out to a few girlfriends to get some “best practice” tips on how to not break the bank during the holiday season.

CATEGORY

5 Ways to Save During the Holiday

1

In lieu of buying for your family members who don’t need more sweaters, adopt a family in need. Set a budget for the family and buy nothing else.

2

Plan gift-giving with a list and spending limits using an app like Santa's Bag. Purchase things on sale during the year and keep track of them. Or, shop only during the holidays and stick to it so you don't over-purchase for anyone.

3

Don’t buy gifts for the children — take a family vacation during the holidays instead. Though this may not be a money saver, it will be a memory maker. Gifts will be replaced, lost, or potentially underappreciated, but memories will last a lifetime. Set a budget, plan early, and stick to the goal.

4

Do a Secret Santa gift exchange with spending limits for extended family members or friends. Take part in service projects and/or donating as a family. This is great for older kids and adults who have everything.

5

Once a budget is set, tally it up before you start shopping and that's the limit. Also, make sure all family members are on the same page. For example: we spend $__ amount on siblings, parents, nieces/nephews, aunts/uncles, etc. Make sure everyone sticks to the same budget for each designated group. This way, you may reduce the chances of anyone feeling slighted.

Here's an MB Tip: Now, for all you families out there that have creative loved ones, don’t be mad when their “within budget” gift looks like it cost three times the amount. They’re just more creative and resourceful. Here’s an MB tip: Get them to do your shopping and everyone wins – haha! From our MB Mag family to yours, we pray everyone has a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season!

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EBONY'S FAVORITE THINGS

Ebony Wilson, our resident fly auntie and good girlfrien', is an accomplished makeup artist, licensed esthetician, beauty professional, and self-proclaimed product junkie! Let's get into Ebony's favorite Holiday gifts. Trust us, you're going to love it!

by EBONY WILSON

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STYLE & GRACE

1 “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” (1 Timothy 5:23) I’m just following the good Lord’s instructions. In all seriousness, Black Girl Magic wines are great gifts and they taste amazing. Drink responsibly!

3 Ubuntu have the perfect stylish, multi-purpose bags! If it doesn't fit in your Ubuntu weekender, do you really need it?

2 Skin Buttr is like being wrapped in a warm embrace in sweet November. It’s made with 100% whipped Shea butter and it layers well with most fragrances.

4 Honey child! This cleanser is made with raw honey, jojoba oil, and geranium oil. The Honey cleanser will “restoreth thy skin” and go the extra mile as a deep treatment mask that nourishes and pampers.

5 Oh to be bamboozled by Jesus! Yvonne Orji is my BFFin my head! This book is hilariously written for those who color outside the lines, and “got popped” in the mouth for talking in church! I am she!

(6) Black Girl Magic, McBride Sisters, photo sourced from mcbridesisters.com (7) Skin Buttr, photo sourced from skinbuttr.com (8) Ubuntu Bag, photo sourced from ubuntu.life (9) Honey Cleanser, photo sourced from blkgrn.com (10) Bamboozled By Jesus, photo sourced from amazon.com MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE

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6 Because I heard Rihanna smells like heaven, and this is as close as I’ll ever get to her…I just want my piece of heaven in a bottle. Magnolia and musk unite with tangerine, blueberry, hints of Bulgarian rose absolute, geranium, and patchouli creating the essence of a divine garden.

8

7

Word on the street is, some of our cousins are not bathing. Discreetly, drop a Sapo body sponge in their work bag or just give them to everybody you know! “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean.” Isaiah 1:16a

Are you a gift paper hoarder? I am. The paperie is its own gift! Cardinal Paperie designs are sourced by traditionally underrepresented artists. They are passionate about creating a space for artistry and culture to collide in a way that makes art practical and affordable.

9 Our boys' faces are just as important as our sis’!! You can’t be “beat to the heavens” with him looking like a hot mess! BoyFace is a clean, plant-based line of anti-aging skin care products for men, developed with the latest innovative skin care science in mind. Did you know BoyFace was created by singer, Miss La dah dee herself, Crystal Waters.

10

You’ll be the most stylish attendee at Bible study when you whip out your electronic device sporting Chic Geeks accessories. Responsibly crafted from vegan leather, designer luxury accessories by Chic Geeks will leave you looking and feeling chic.

(1) Fenty Eau De Parfum, photo sourced from fentybeauty.com (2) Sapo Body Sponge, photo sourced from sapobodysponge.com (3) Cardinal Paperie, photo sourced from cardinalpaperie.com (4) BoyFace, photo sourced from boyfaceme.com (5) Chic Geeks, photo sourced from chicgeeks.com MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE

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Holiday Design & Entertaining with Diann Valentine

10 Design Tips to Help You Reimagine Home for the Holidays! MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE

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The DV Factor

Keep it simple. Keep it classy. Keep it all about love.


V

Creator, Innovator, Game Changer, Pioneer, and Wow Factor describes Diann Valentine. She is an intrepid traveler with connections all over the globe and the mastermind behind The Venus Affect, a matchmaking company for women looking to date internationally. Diann has been in the relationship business for a long time but is more than just a love expert. Most known for her jaw-dropping celebrity and television weddings, this industry veteran has expanded her array of clientele across four continents through servicing corporate clients and high networth individuals. As an interior designer, Diann has reimagined homes for clients in Los Angeles and across the globe with her eclectic style that often marries the juxtaposition of modern interpretations of classic elements with her fresh set of rules for how people enjoy their living spaces. In the event design world, Diann has brought genius to ignite consumer experiences with Nike, Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton Family of Brands, NBA All Star Weekend, HBO, and the Los Angeles Lakers. As if being a renowned event producer and designer sought after by top celebrities wasn’t enough, Diann hosted the wedding shows Wedding in a Week, Wedding Day, and I Do Over and most

STYLE & GRACE

The Expert TV Personality, Love & Relationship Expert, Celebrity Experience Producer, Wedding and Interior Designer, Author, Entrepreneur.

recently Bravo TV’s To Rome for Love. In 2019, Valentine entered the beauty space with the opening of Glow + Flow Beauty Experience, a luxury hair extensions studio. In late 2019, a second location opened as Glow + Flow Beauty Supply, bringing hair, beauty supplies, and cosmetics to urban communities in Los Angeles. As an entrepreneur, she is relentless in her pursuit of business ownership and financial freedom. As a designer, she is the Creative Director of Exhilarate Experiential. As an author, she released Weddings Valentine Style and Going the Distance for Love. As a matchmaker and champion for women, Diann curates bespoke, luxury dating experiences. As a speaker, Diann is electrifying, inspirational, and insightful. As a visionary, she is constantly moving forward, always open to new adventures that inspire and delight. With many titles, roles, and responsibilities, Diann is just getting started, but her favorite role is wife to Damon Haley, mother, and Lola to three adorable grandsons and one granddaughter. F Diann Valentine lives in Los Angeles with her husband Damon Haley. For more information, please visit www.diannvalentine.com.

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F I R ST TH IN GS FI RS T: Choose a Theme: Before you start dreaming about Santa’s elves and gingerbread houses, consider a theme that will allow you to mix everyday items and infuse them into your holiday décor. If you love to cook, spray painting spatulas and adorning them with gorgeous bows can add a personal touch to your tree. Perhaps you’re a “Boy Mom” with male energy ruling your house throughout the year. Consider buying various styles of toddler sneakers for boys and add them to your tree as a nod to the best of times with your boys. The key is personalization, for beauty and creativity can be discovered anywhere with a little extra time and attention. Furry Friends: I love incorporating toys and animals like teddy bears and dolls into a holiday design such as the denim teddy bears I added to a recent project. Teddy bears were a childhood favorite of my client’s granddaughter, so we sprinkled them throughout the house and on the tree. The child was met with beautiful surprises at every turn when visiting Grand Mommy and given the task to give each one their own name. A day of crafts with Grand Mommy also allowed her to create name plates and further personalize the home using her own artistic talents. Geography Matters: For a California-based client, I dreamed of pink flamingos frolicking through the snow and used them as the main focal point in this California Cool design. These were no ordinary flamingos as they were dressed in their winter furs draped with estate jewels, crowns, and afro puffs … fashionable hues that even Carrie Bradshaw would approve of. The lifestyle in Southern California is driven by the beaches and beautiful weather, so don’t be afraid to take some cues from the city you reside in and infuse them into your home for the holidays. Innovate: So much focus is placed on Christmas trees while the rest of the house gets a little neglected. A fun way to extend your holiday décor is to create ornamental arrangements and place them throughout your house. Floral wire will help you tie all the ornaments together and then add your favorite accents of dried leaves, eucalyptus, and a little mistletoe to complete this style statement. Honor Your Family: Creating a family tree can be a great way to reconnect with your family, past and present. Paint is one of the most inexpensive ways to change the entire look of a room. Choose a focal wall in your home and call your local art school to source a great artist that may be looking for some extra work during the holidays. Have him or her paint a large and full Christmas tree on this wall. Take construction or specialty paper to cut out ornaments and add special design accents. Print photos of your family members and place them in the center of the ornaments on the tree to display the family lineage. The younger generation will respect the history lesson while the elders will enjoy reminiscing through the photo memories and will appreciate you dearly for this gesture and opportunity to honor your “nears and dears.” R IGH T, FROM TOP: I envisioned this reindeer I affectionately named Sasha draped in a Bob Mackie gown and jewels and some “around the way girl” ponytails proving that she can be posh and relatable at the same time. The denim teddy bear was a surprise for the grand-daughter of the family as many were tucked in the tree and hidden in alcoves all over the house providing her with new found playmates for the holiday season. Mixing multiple eclectic elements imagine for a winter wonderland creates a much more interesting holiday story that just Christmas decor. The afro puffs and jeweled earrings on the polar bear was a nod to all of the “Black Girl Magic” that embodies diva of the house! 118 MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE

DesignTip:

Use only plastic ornaments as the glass ones will easily shatter with too much handling.


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STYLE & GRACE

HOLIDAY FAVORITE : "RA INY DAY RE MINDE RS"

DesignTip: Dried leaves spray painted gold with a few ornaments are a quick and easy way to add some holiday cheer to any room in your room.

A Sacred Place: Your family lineage can also be honored at a holiday altar. Use a credenza or long table that can be positioned against a wall or in front of a window for emphasis. Add lots of candles, tall vases of fresh pine cones, luminaries, family photos, and cultural elements such as an Irish holly wreath for those with lineage in Ireland. Whimsical: For a holiday dinner party, consider rental tables from your local rental company. Two banquet tables and a serpentine table lined together can create a great candy cane shape to your dinner table. Alternating draped fabrics in red and white across the top of your table will create the candy cane stripe and a great dinner conversation piece. Personalize: Add garland to the backs of chairs and hang a personalized Christmas stocking from each to serve as the place card for the place setting. And the garland can be made using just about anything, i.e., strands of crystal, popcorn strings, fresh greenery, Dendrobium orchid leis, etc. The Christmas stockings should complement the color palette of your holiday décor. Another great place card idea is to use mini gingerbread houses as place cards. Local grocery stores carry great kits that make building a gingerbread house a piece of cake. Name plates can easily be added to identify each person’s seat. Acknowledge: The holidays are so focused on gift-giving, but it is really the smallest and most thoughtful gifts that mean the most. For your next holiday gathering, consider exchanging rainy day cards. Carve out an interactive segment during your party and ask your guests to write a personal note to each person at the party and acknowledge them for something. Some guests may have only met this evening, but they may have been greeted by a warm smile or a kind gesture. Each acknowledgement can be a simple one-sentence note. Encourage everyone to take the time to acknowledge everyone and then use the notes as your gift exchange. We know that the holidays are the saddest time of the year for many so encourage your guests to hold onto their “Rainy Day Reminders” and whenever they are feeling a little down, pull out one of these cards. They will feel uplifted because someone cared enough to sow into their lives and God knew when they would need it most. Recycle: After the holidays, most people hang onto the Christmas cards they received from their “nears and dears” or to those cards that have sentimental value. So, as you haul out your holiday décor, use all those stored Christmas cards as a design element. Punch holes in the corner of each card and string a ribbon through them. Using a tack or tape, hang them from inside each of the doorways in the main rooms of your home. As people enter and visit for the holidays, they will be walking under the love and well wishes that have been bestowed on you and your family from past holiday seasons. As you receive more this year, add them to the collection. For a little added pizzazz, hang some random ribbons with ornaments attached to the end to add dimension to your archway. TOP LEFT: A California cool design of swans, furs and afro puffs are a modern twist on the holidays in a city that never really cools off for winter.

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VOICES

Journey to Spelman as told by TRENIYA BRONAUGH It has been four months since I've graduated from Spelman College, and I am still riding on Cloud Nine. This accomplishment was nothing less than an answered prayer. When I look back on the past four years, my heart smiles and my soul bursts with gratitude, knowing that God is the head of my life. Spelman has been my dream school for as long as I can remember. Although back in high school I had never visited the campus, I felt deeply connected to it as if I subconsciously knew that God would place me there in the future. Admittedly, the thought of going to college always made me slightly anxious. Coming from a small town and having never stayed away from home, I could not comprehend leaving my comfort zone and being on my own. However, God challenged me to overcome this fear when I earned the opportunity to study abroad in South Africa during the summer of 2016. I remember the moments of extreme anxiety and gut-wrenching fear, having to take my first flight alone and spending a summer away on another continent. Yet, God carried me the entire way. This trip single-handedly taught me that my comfort zone was wherever God was, and He knew I had to realize this before stepping into the purpose that He had for my life. After returning from South Africa, I entered my senior year of high school and began college prep. I remember creating a list of schools ranked from 1 to 10 that I would apply to. Despite Spelman being my dream school, I placed it last on my priority list. I realize now that my reasons for putting it last were based in doubt, thinking the college was unattainable. Spelman was expensive and highly competitive, and I lacked confidence that it was a possibility for me. After being denied acceptance into one of my backup schools, I was convinced that Spelman would reject me because of its competitiveness. I was highly doubtful and unhappy with the thought of having to settle for less than what my heart desired, which was to attend a top HBCU). I was crushed, and it took me a while to realize that when God says "no," it's not a rejection but rather a redirection. 122 MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE

Photo Captured by: Elyse Spencer

I came to this realization on April 6, 2017, and just as I was about to commit to a state school, I received my blue envelope in the mail. Every Spelmanite knows that the blue envelope carries the Spelman acceptance letter, and I got one! That day, God rebuked doubt and redirected me to Spelman. I had no clue how I would afford it, but I had no other option but to trust God. Because of my mother's faith and sacrifice, I was able to enter the Spelman gates. She selflessly moved us out of our childhood home, into my aunt's house, and took out her pension to ensure I could afford my first semester. The significance lay in my realization that she took those measures without even knowing how we would continue to pay for the following semesters. This is proof that God will move mountains when you have faith, even as small as a mustard seed. My four years at Spelman were not easy. I almost had to move out due to a missed payment, had classes dropped, and could not register or secure housing. Every day, I prayed that God would keep me there, and He did. I tried to do everything I could to ensure I could finish my education at Spelman. I made several visits to the financial aid office and made genuine relationships with my advisors. One of the main reasons I was able to stay at Spelman was because of my position as a resident advisor. I applied to be an RA for my sophomore year but was initially denied. However, God intervened! The summer before my sophomore year, with me knowing I had no plan to pay for the upcoming semester,


CATEGORY

journey to

Spelman

a Resident Director from Spelman called and asked if I could return as an RA for the fall. This position covered my room and board fees, making the overall cost significantly less. Any remaining balance that I had was wiped clean on several occasions by random, last-minute scholarship funds. From the first semester to the very last, God literally kept me and moved mountains on my behalf. Neither fear nor doubt won. With the strength of God, I proved myself wrong. I prospered socially and academically at Spelman. I graduated Magna Cum Laude with several academic awards, even though I doubted my ability to keep up with the rigor of Spelman. Everything aligned for me to be there. The placement was purposeful and intentional. Through Spelman, I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Michelle Obama, fulfilling a longtime dream. Through Spelman, I was able to attend the opening ceremony of the Equal Justice Initiative's Legacy Museum, which helped me tap into my passion of being a criminal justice reform advocate and wanting to pursue law school. Through Spelman, I met the professors who have recommended me to several internships, fellowships, campaigns, and other networks. Through Spelman, I have joined a sisterhood of like-minded Black women, which I cherish the most. Overall, my journey through Spelman was just as divine as my journey to Spelman. God stood in the midst. Semester to semester, God provided and presented mind-blowing opportunities to set me

"Neither fear nor doubt won. With the strength of God, I proved myself wrong. I prospered socially and academically at Spelman. I graduated Magna Cum Laude with several academic awards, even though I doubted my ability to keep up with the rigor of Spelman.” up for a successful future. My family made significant sacrifices and were uncomfortable for four years so I could further my education at the top HBCU in the nation. This was done for the sake of my future in hopes that I could end a generational cycle of struggle. I am a firstgeneration college graduate with a mission to break glass ceilings so that the generations after me can access higher education as well. This journey solidified within me that God's plans are perfect, and I cannot thank Him enough! M MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE

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VOICES

Virtuous Woman HOW GOD REMEDIED AMARILIS T. HARPER FROM THE SPIRIT OF ABANDONMENT & FEAR OF FRIENDSHIP

T

he spirit of abandonment regarding friendship began on the playground beside the rainbow slide and empty apple juice boxes. It was very seldom that other little girls would play with me. I struggled to fit in. I didn’t have the name brand clothes, shoes, or up-to-date knowledge of what was trending. All through grade school until college, I was befriended for short periods of time and left behind the next. The majority of my experiences with friendships was being taken advantage of, hearing hurtful rumors about me, and having my hair physically cut off during a fifth grade spelling test, only to have the perpetrators later call me friend and even sister. As my walk with Christ grew deeper, I found myself vulnerable and isolated. He began to remove toxic relationships and replace them with genuine godly love. I started to believe what HIS Word said about me. Still, there were relationships I settled for because I desired it; I thought I desired pain! I was told I wasn’t a good person and believed it, when all I wanted was to be respected and loved. Unbeknownst to me in 2017, God would call me to ministry Kingdom to serve his daughters. He turned my ashes into beauty and began refining my heart. I felt humbled, thrilled, and honored to give God my “yes”; meanwhile, great fear followed. Over time, I learned that you can’t outrun your wounds before clashing with your purpose. I had to face my wounds and understand that I needed intense healing, which I am still actively doing today. Apostle Dr. Matthew Stevenson III stated, “Figure out where your altar is broken. If you don’t, people won’t see God correctly through you.” Conviction struck my heart because I wanted people to see the love of God through me more than anything.

This part of my testimony is what I like to call my “Refining Process.”There must be a refining process to obtain a God-given community. The yearning for friendship, community, and lifelong connection with others is a gift from God. Nevertheless, my heart wasn’t ready for these types of friendships and godly connections. Something I wanted my whole life I wasn’t ready for. The Holy Spirit had me sit with some hard questions. I encourage you to do the same in your free time. Ask yourself, “Why do I want community, what type of community do I want around me, how would I care for this community, and lastly, are my own desires blocking the relationships God wants to put in my life?” My prayer is for every reader who’s experiencing this type of pain to hear my heart when I say I understand it’s very difficult to open up your heart again to others, even those sent by God. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” M

Over time, I learned that you can't outrun your wounds before clashing with your purpose.

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F Follow more of Amaralis' jounrney on Instagram @rilharper.


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DEVOTIONAL

The Future Is Now

A DEVOTION BY PASTOR TRAVIS AND DR. JACKIE GREENE Have you ever had a word from God that’s greater than what you currently see? Sometimes, God shows us a glimpse of our future, but after that, we’re left to face the current reality of what life looks like today. The way to overcome the hurdle of constant disappointment in your current season is stewardship. Now is not waiting on next, next is waiting on now. The proof of our faith is not in our ability to rule, it is in our ability to serve while waiting on God’s promises to come to pass. How many of us try to wait on the promise of God to manifest before we begin to walk towards it? The faith for your future is proved in the consistency of your today! How do you show God that you’re ready for the next season? It’s by properly stewarding the current one. Let’s say, God is calling you to a new career. Have you researched it? Have you talked to people currently in that field? God won’t give you something you aren’t ready for. He doesn’t waste the harvest and He doesn’t waste time. If you’re waiting on God, consider the possibility that God may be waiting on you. Many times, we hate the season of waiting and/or the topic of stewardship because we aren’t fond of the testing that comes with it. What we don’t realize is, God’s testing comes only to perfect and push us to become the person He designed us to be. Every test is a new opportunity to take God at His word concerning who He says you are. Don’t become so focused on what’s happening TO you, that you miss what it’s doing FOR you. The difference between a blessing and a burden is preparation. Use the current season you’re in to prepare for what God has shown you. Every test of this present season will be used to reveal ways to steward what you have more effectively. The future is NOW. Trust God with your today and when you’re ready, watch Him blow your mind with your tomorrow. F Prayer: Father, my future belongs to you. Give me the strength to trust you with my tomorrow as I properly manage what you’ve already placed in my hands. Let my stewardship prove my faith for what you’ve promised me. In Jesus’ name, Amen. F Visit Pastor Travis & Dr. Jackie Greene at Forward City Church, Columbia, SC and visit forwardcity.tv for updates.

Now is not waiting on the next, next is waiting on the now. The proof of our faith is not in our ability to rule, it is in our ability to serve while waiting on God's promises to come to pass. Reflect & Respond

Q:

What are the things God has promised for your future? Prayerfully write them down.

Q:

For each promise, what can you do now to prepare yourself for what He said? Make a list.

R:

Take the next 30 days and commit to preparation. Read that book, start that savings account, change those habits. Do what’s necessary to show God that He can trust you with more. MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE

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s.

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PRAYER OF SALVATION

"Father, I admit that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness, I believe that Jesus Christ is Your Son. I believe He died for my sins and that You raised Him to life. I turn from my former life and believe that inviting Jesus Christ into my heart and my life that I am now born again. I want to trust Him as Lord, from this day forward. Guide my life and help me to do Your will. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen” If you prayed this prayer for the first time, scan the code below for a special message from our Editor-In-Chief.



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Articles inside

MIND BLOWING MAGAZINE - THE HOLIDAY ISSUE - Tammy Franklin

16min
pages 52-65, 67-70, 72-73

MIRACLES STILL HAPPEN -THE MIDNIGHT HOUR

25min
pages 34-39

Oh! She's Changed - Holiday Issue

5min
pages 48-50

The Girlfriend's Corner

5min
pages 48-50

Ebony's Favorite Things

3min
pages 110-111, 113

Diann Valentine 

8min
pages 116-121

Pastor Travis & Dr. Jackie Greene

2min
page 127

JOURNEY TO SPELMAN Recent

5min
pages 122-123

VIRTUOUS WOMAN Amarilis

2min
pages 124-125

QUI 2 HEALTH

2min
pages 106-107

MANNA FOR THE MIND

4min
pages 102-103

ADVERTORIAL Our Cover

2min
pages 99-101

FINALLY NOT HOME FOR THE

15min
pages 84-98

WELLNESS ELEV8ED

4min
pages 104-105

LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE

24min
pages 24-33

MIRACLES STILL HAPPEN Miracles

24min
pages 34-39

SAY WHAT! IT'S VEGAN?

4min
pages 76-83

LOVE & RELATIONSHIPS: THE YEAR

9min
pages 40-47

MIND BLOWING TRIBUTE Editor

10min
pages 10-16

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

2min
page 9

THE LORD'S PRAYER

1min
page 8

GOD’S FAVOR Our quarterly picks of

5min
pages 18-21
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