Thursday, December 22, 2022

Devotion: Set the Captive Free

Set the Captive Free
A devotion by Alexis A. Goring

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy, instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” 
–Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)

Harriet Tubman, born into slavery, was an American abolitionist and social activist. She is famous for not only escaping slavery but going on many missions to set slaves—including her family and friends—free through what American history books call the “Underground Railroad.” This was a network of anti-slavery activists and safe houses that assisted slaves on their journey to freedom.

Tubman is also known for this quote: “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”

I reflected on the meaning of this during a crucial time for members of the African Diaspora on American soil. A spiritual parallel formed in my mind: Jesus Christ wants to set sinners free from the shackles of sin, just like Tubman set the slaves free from that unjust and evil system. But do we know we’re sinners in need of a Savior? We are all sinners saved by God’s grace, but so many of us feel like we don’t need Him. We feel that we can live without Him. Many of us are so adverse to religion that we say things like “Christianity is just not my thing,” all the while we don’t realize that we are in a battle between good and evil.

The Bible is clear:
in the end, God wins! He is forgiving and compassionate. He will forgive all your sins if you confess and repent. God wants to reconcile you so that you will spend eternity with Him. This eternity is completely free from sin, suffering and sorrow. It’s a perfect place where all is well and filled with goodness. But to do that, we have to first realize we are sinners in need of a Savior.

We must accept Christ’s gift of salvation and follow Him all the way to Heaven. We must know that Earth is not our home. The Bible says we are pilgrims passing through this Earth (1 Chronicles 29:15) and that Heaven is our final destination. Just like Tubman set many slaves free, the Bible says that God wants to set the captives free (Luke 4:18). That’s us. We need to be delivered from sin.

Our eyes must be opened so that we don’t fall prey to the devil’s wiles. We need to reject the ways of this world and allow Christ to renew our minds. Then we can know God’s will (Romans 12:1-2). We need our Savior more than we know. Time is short. God will not allow this sin parade to continue forever. A time will come when He tells Jesus to go get His children (all who chose God and lived for Him). When that happens, it will be too late to choose good over evil. The Bible says that God will say “Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.” (Revelation 22:11).

This is the real deal. God doesn’t play. He wants us all to be saved, but one day He will say, “enough is enough.” He will rescue His children and destroy the devil and all of his evil angels, along with humans who choose evil. He beautifully promised in Revelation 21:4 (NIV): “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Place your hope in God, not humankind (Psalm 146:3-9). Remember that He loves you with all of His Heart! He’s done everything to reconcile your heart with His (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). All you have to do is accept Jesus Christ’s gift of salvation (John 3:16), believe in God, then follow Jesus all the way to Heaven.

Song of Reflection:
“Just for Me” (song) by Donnie McClurkin. Listen to it here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Why Being "Normal" is a Myth!

The Myth of Normal

A guest post by Malinda Fugate

“I am not enough.” 
How often that phrase runs through our minds and pierces our hearts! 

It fits a variety of circumstances—not thin enough, not rich enough, not achieving enough, not happy enough, not stylish enough, not active enough, not smart enough—you know exactly how this goes. Disguised as a driving force propelling us to self-improvement, the tendency to compare ourselves to others in order to assess ourselves somehow only leaves us feeling discouraged.

“Normal” is a standard of measurement that strangely entices us. We look at what everyone else is wearing, watching, saying, eating, and doing. Then, we follow the pattern to fit in, not miss out, or make sure we’re doing what we should. Yet, when we start to really examine normal, we find that it doesn’t exist. It’s an imaginary set of ideals we’ve assembled in our minds as a tool to judge ourselves, often harshly and unfairly. It rarely encourages us and actually causes us to miss something extremely important: God’s goodness.

It happens easily. We see the people around us and look for trends. Our vision is distorted by what’s amplified in advertisements, on television or in movies, what we read, and the highlights we see on social media and around the internet. But a deep dive into each of these sources reveals that they aren’t reliable at all, because they aren’t accurately portraying reality.

They are telling a story, trying to sell something, or projecting a preferred ideal while covering up things that seem less desirable to share. If our standard of measurement is so inaccurate, how can we even confidently define normalcy at all? In fact, once we begin to thoroughly examine the real lives of the real people around us, truth begins to look very different.

The comparison game was not how we were designed. Psalm 139:14 famously tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” We were given a colorful variety of gifts and circumstances for a reason.

In 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, Paul illustrates this point with a look at the human body. If the whole body were an eye, for example, how would it hear? Each individual part was created uniquely and with purpose. It isn’t sameness that causes each organ and limb to belong. It’s the special qualities that no other part can provide that make them crucial and included. So it is with us. Like a puzzle, we are all different pieces that fit together to make a whole, belonging together in community. We were never intended for sameness, so why do we keep striving for it?

Worse yet, this quest for normalcy invites discouragement when we inevitably don’t meet the mythical standards we perceive through comparison. Discouragement is also not part of God’s design for us. He wants us to live in the His joy! Scripture is full of encouragement, ensuring that God is always with us, is close to the broken hearted, provides gladness in place of mourning, and fills us with His hope. When we tolerate the discouragement that comes with falling short of “normalcy,” it’s unnecessary and disheartening. We can kick that to the curb as we cling to the light of God’s love!

Instead, we shift our gaze away from the myth of perceived normal and place our eyes on Jesus Christ’s reality. First, let’s embrace who we are, where we are, and how we are. May we celebrate our circumstances instead of constantly criticizing them.

Let’s trust that God is growing and maturing us, changing what is necessary while we follow Him step by step. We’re not talking about accepting sinfulness here, but contentment in God’s design. We can recognize that we were never meant to be the same as others, and, truthfully, others are also unique and different. Sameness was an illusion all along. When we embrace the way God made us and where He placed us, we can also embrace the people in our lives for who they truly are. This is heartfelt inclusivity and belonging.

Next, we must delight in our differences and seek their purposes. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God’s handiwork, created specifically to do the good works that God prepared for us. Often the messes we find ourselves in our what the Lord uses to help us grow and love other people. Everything, from our talents to our struggles, has value with Him. The very thing that is so difficult for us now is often what others find relatable and helpful as they struggle, too.

Finally, we talk to God. Communicating how we feel when we are discouraged and asking for a glimpse of the Lord’s perspective is how we grow closer to Him as we begin to understand and accept ourselves. If we can see ourselves through His eyes, we understand true beauty.

When we see God’s hand in our life’s journey, we realize how attentive He is to detail and how He’s working things out for our good. And when we start to see people with God’s vision instead of through our previous filters of insecurity, we begin to love more like Christ and demonstrate true belonging.

Our hearts will be so full of love that there will be no more room for discouragement. We will toss away the myth of normal and rejoice in the unique journey we are taking with Him.

Author Bio:

Malinda Fugate serves as the Children's Education Director at a Southern California church and writes for God’s children of all ages.

Her recent book, The Other Three Sixteens, explores the reality of God’s love in our lives today.

She also created a children’s devotional, Bible Time for Active Kids, full of biblically-based activities to bring kids closer to the Lord.

Her passion is connecting people with God in tangible ways.

Connect with Malinda:

Note from Alexis: Malinda’s message reminds me of the song “Pieces” by Meredith Andrews! Listen to it here.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: Series Cancellation

Dear Blog Readers,

I decided to cancel my blog's "Sharing Our Stories: Being the Change We Seek" series, effective today (Sept. 27, 2021).

I am sorry for any disappointment this decision may cause.

All of the previously published posts for this series will remain on this blog, always available for you to read and share at your convenience. 

I hope that you will continue to work on being the change you seek in this world.

Take care and God bless you!


Alexis A. Goring, MFA
Founder of "On My Heart" (blog)

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: Pushing Past Despair

Goodness is Coming
A guest post by Amber Hoopengarner

“I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the Land of the Living.” – Psalm 27:13 (AMP)

When reflecting on my children’s school year thus far, it causes me to become saddened.

My heart hurts for them.

While it has been trying due to the pandemic, my children have been dealing with other factors such as racial slurs from classmates or racial jokes that are delivered by so called “friends”.

I remind myself that these children are just children and that it is probably what they are learning at home that causes them to say such things. But that does not change my feelings about the fact that it is not something I want my children to experience.

As a minority family we have experienced our share of racial incidences that prove to me that racism is still alive and well. I am thankful that I have a hope who I can lean on (Jesus Christ).

Like David in the scripture above (Psalm 27:13), I must believe that I will see goodness and that my children will see change. I must hope beyond hope and minister to my own soul that God will allow us to prevail. We will not be defeated; we will be made better.

I pray that we as people—especially those of us in the BIPOC community—can gather our emotions, our outrage, our tears, our fears, and bring them to God knowing that He has control of all things. We cannot control people’s actions or what they say or think. Nor can we change their perspectives.

However, we have the ability to hold on to the truth of God’s Word (The Holy Bible) that clearly states that if we keep hoping if we keep on believing in the God who has saved us and healed us so many times before…if we can just stay focused on seeing the goodness of the Lord in the Land of the Living in our own lives and experiences, then we will be strengthened day after day.

We will not despair though the circumstances may change and the battle rages on. The world may grow more violent, hateful and unkind. But we will rise up, push forward and focus on our Creator who is our Living Hope!

Let’s Pray: Dear God, You know what is going on in the Earth right now. You know the battles we have been facing and the injustices we are up against. Help us to believe that we will see Your goodness. Inspire us to believe that You will continue defending us and fighting for us. We thank You, dear God, for everything You do for us. We commit to pressing on because we know that we are victorious through Jesus Christ. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Author Bio:

Amber Hoopengarner is a writer and self-published author who is also a Certified Life Coach working with women who suffer from PMADs and children who suffer from mental health disorders.

She is a Maternal Mental Health Advocate and works to help raise awareness within the church of mental health disorders especially among BIPOC women.

Amber graduated in 2016 from the University of Phoenix with an Associates in Human Services Management and is currently in the process of obtaining her bachelor’s in psychology. She also has certificates in Mental Health Coaching, Bibliotherapy and CBT as well as in Perinatal Mood Anxiety Disorders.

Amber loves God and people! She enjoys making a difference through bringing up issues and challenges that sometimes would not otherwise be addressed. She believes that God wants His people to be loved where right where they are while they are working on who He has called them to become.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: A Defining Moment in Time for All of Us

A Defining Moment
A guest post by Rev. Dr. Angelle M. Jones

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself.” –Luke 10:27 (NIV)

Reflecting on the happenings of 2020, we all probably have a few memorable moments that will forever define the year as one like no other. 

Call it spiritual, an instinct, or maybe even intuition, but from the very onset of the pandemic, I knew that this unknown phenomenon would be different.

As a minister open to divine movements that sometimes turn into defining moments of the Spirit, I felt a shift was taking place. It was as if the challenges of life and the unseen nature of things in the universe were in some way spiritually and physically aligning. In a new way it seemed that even though nothing was happening as I wanted it to in my life, there seemed to be something monumental happening in the spirit realm. As news of the pandemic began to unfold, instead of resisting the unknown, I immediately found myself working to embrace what has become for me and others as a defining moment.

Before the media started sharing that an unknown virus was attacking the world, a friend in high places warned me that life as we knew it was going to take on a sudden change. I knew instinctively not only was life-changing in the present, but things were forever changing. I felt that whatever was taking place would have much more of a long-term effect in a way that I couldn’t explain. I believe the Holy Spirit chose to use the time to make a demarcation in the world. This time of uncertainty, including the racial unrest in America, became a defining moment for those who may be uncertain whether there was a God.

This was a time, especially after the riots incited by the killing of George Floyd, that Americans knew we were being defined. The racial differences we’d all allowed to become the norm were now placed on display for the world to see as anything but genuine. The restrictions between living in the uncertainty of COVID-19 and now the truth of racial injustices and disparities became an everyday disruption.

A few months in, the attention of the world was suddenly turned toward America’s original sin of racism and the continuous cry for racial and social justice. With heightened racial tensions, even Black Americans who had lived through the racial unrest and riots of the sixties, or the elders who lived through the Jim Crow era, were hypersensitive to these new restrictions. Never before in America, the land of the free, had we ever felt restricted to come and go as we pleased. Our country and the entire world seemed frozen in time.

With every new bit of news came new changes. With every change, I found myself embracing this as a defining moment. As the world found itself fearing an unknown virus that had quarantined what seemed to be the entire universe, I found myself being asked by the Lord, “Can you trust Me?” As I wrestled with what seemed to be the obvious answer, I realized the question at hand was really, “Do you love Me enough to trust Me?”

As the eyes of the world were shifted interchangeably between the pandemic to the ongoing fight for racial equality, there was an obvious fear by Blacks and Whites. Not since the sixties and the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had life in America been disrupted in such a way that everyone knew this would become a defining moment; a moment of change. With trepidation, I took to writing and to sharing my passion for social justice. This became my opportunity to share how the intersection between the scriptures and the face of justice revealed my answer to God’s question. I propose that this was a defining moment.

I recognized that by entering the fight for the struggle for the whole of American humanity to live in the equality we have so long fought for, my love for God was revealed. As an activist, I knew I had a part to play.

I realized as difficult as the time was, in the midst of it all, the timing was my defining moment. It was my time to use my voice as a minister and my writing to help eradicate racism.

As an oracle of God, I found myself using the words of scripture intersected with those I penned to fight for justice and equality. My love for God serving as my foundation, I used everything within my heart, soul, and strength to speak truth to the powers that be.

This was the time that God had ordained from the very beginning of my existence for me to use my pen to speak. I took to social media, blogging, and writing for publications and anyone who would listen. I preached a message of justice seasoned with God’s love for my neighbor.

How will I show that I love God with my whole heart, soul, and mind in this defining moment?

I will show the world my love for my voiceless neighbors. I will write the story of those I love as my neighbor who has been born in pain. I will recite the narratives that have been painted by the trauma inflicted upon the ancestors of those still struggling to overcome. I will pen the anecdotes of my neighbors from the past with hopes to change the history of their present and their tomorrows.

I will write to break the chains of the emotional scars placed upon my ancestral brothers and sisters. I will chronicle a message of hope to shine God’s love onto this defining moment.

But I cannot do this alone. Therefore, I ask you, my friend, “How will you define the moment?”

Author Bio:

“Inspiring and Motivating With the Power of Words”  

Dr. Angelle M. Jones believes that the power of words inspires, and motivate to bring about transformative change individually and collectively.

Angelle originally hails from Cleveland, Ohio. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in African-American studies from the University of Cincinnati. Angelle has a master’s degree in Theological Studies from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia and an earned Doctorate in Ministry on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, and his philosophy of The Beloved Community from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

Her ministry career began as a staff member of the Northeastern Ohio Billy Graham Crusade in 1994. For twenty years, as founder and director of In The Spirit Ministries, Inc., she led teams on mission outreaches throughout the world. From 2007-2012, Angelle served as Missions Director of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio where she currently resides. Angelle is founder and director of GlobaLife Coaching and Consulting serving as a Life and Transformation Coach and Church Consultant.

In 2016, Angelle authored and self-published her first book, Happily Never After. Along with sharing words of hope by sharing her writings on her social media platforms, she has been published in Vantage Magazine which is a literary source for faculty, students and alumni of Columbia Theological Seminary, and Ready, which is a cutting-edge online magazine addressing current events and trending socially relevant topics for women.

Angelle is the mother of an adult daughter. She is a grandmother and great-grandmother.

Connect with Dr. Angelle:

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: Kristen's Review of the book "White Lies" by Daniel Hill

Kristen Terrette’s review of Daniel Hill's book 
White Lies: 
Nine Ways to Expose and Resist the Racial Systems That Divide Us 

When considering curriculum for a church small group, my friend and fellow small group facilitator recommended I read White Lies: Nine Ways to Expose and Resist the Racial Systems That Divide Us by Pastor Daniel Hill of River City Community Church in Chicago. 

She said she probably preferred Hill’s book over Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison. This was kind of a shock, since I love Morrison’s book and its group curriculum! It’s one we’ve used at our church before. But after reading White Lies, I know exactly why she made the claim.

She and I are both White Christian women, currently living in the suburbs. We both are on a spiritual journey, as Pastor Hill calls it, learning and growing in knowledge of the reality of White privilege, White supremacy, and race divisions. We both have a strong desire for racial reconciliation and unity, and to see the world and especially the Church, awaken to these systems. And yet, she and I attend a (lovely) church whose desire is to be multicultural, but at the moment still very White.

This book, like the other ones I’ve read, challenges White supremacy in a want for reconciliation and speaks directly to me as a White Christian. But where this book is different (for me) is that it’s written by a White man. Being a White male, Pastor Hill has the backing to be brutally honest with his audience, because he is the very audience he’s speaking to.

Though the books I’ve read by Black authors gave unique insight to their struggles and heartache—pains and hardships that I cannot fully understand—reading a book on White supremacy written by a White man is very different because there is no sugarcoating. Even still, I must mention Pastor Hill does wrap is challenging words with love. He is very good in helping the reader take next steps on their journey.

Pastor Hill has written a book that, though its more intellectual in scope, was hard to put down. And it is the perfect book for the churches like mine (and like my White friend and I) to read and discuss. Every page’s depth, scope, and theology challenged me to process the ideas, claims, and resolutions proposed and taught. This meant it was not an easy, leisurely read for me. It was one where I had to sit down with intentional focus and quiet surroundings to fully understand Pastor Hill’s message.

I cannot accurately explain the impact this book has had on me, and I can’t wait to get going on a small group in my church with this curriculum. I already have the discussion guides! 

If you want to be challenged and grow, this book is for you. I give it 5 of 5 stars!

Reviewer’s Bio:

Kristen is passionate about storytelling and helping people take their next steps in their relationship with Jesus.

She lives forty-five minutes outside of Atlanta, GA. where she served as a Children's Ministry Director for many years. With the support of her husband and two children, she now stays home writing fiction and non-fiction.

She also serves on the women’s leadership team at her local church and writes for Crosswalk and Wholly Loved Ministries. You can check out her articles and novels at

Connect with Kristen:
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Book Blurb for White Lies:

What can you do to be a force for racial justice? 

Many White Christians are eager to fight against racism and for racial justice. But what steps can they take to make good, lasting change? How can they get involved without unintentionally doing more harm than good?

In this practical and illuminating guide drawn from more than twenty years of cross-cultural work and learning from some of the greatest leaders of color, pastor and racial justice advocate Daniel Hill provides nine practices rooted in Scripture that will position you to be an active supporter of inclusion, equality, and racial justice. With stories, studies, and examples from his own journey, Hill will show you:

· How to get free of the impact of White supremacy individually and recognize that it works systemically

· How to talk about race in an intelligent and respectful way

· How to recognize which strategies are helpful and which are harmful

· What you can do to make a difference every day, after protests and major events

We cannot experience wholistic justice without confronting and dismantling White supremacy. But as we follow Jesus—the one who is supreme over all things—into overturning false power systems, we will become better advocates of the liberating and unconditional love that God extends to us all.

Author Bio:

Daniel Hill is the author of White Lies, White Awake, and 10:10: Life to the Fullest

He is the Founding and Senior Pastor of River City Community Church, located in the west Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago. The vision of River City is centered on the core values of worship, reconciliation, and neighborhood development. 

Formed in 2003, River City longs to see increased spiritual renewal as well as social and economic justice in the Humboldt Park neighborhood and entire city, demonstrating compassion and alleviating poverty as tangible expressions of the Kingdom of God.

Prior to starting River City, Daniel launched a in the 90's before serving five years on the staff of Willow Creek Community Church in the suburbs of Chicago.

Daniel has his B.S. in Business from Purdue University, his M.A. in Theology from Moody Bible Institute, his certificate in Church-based Community and Economic Development from Harvard Divinity School, and his D.Min. from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Daniel is married to Elizabeth, who is a Professor of Psychology, and they are the proud parents of Xander and Gabriella Hill.

Buy Daniel’s book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Walmart

Connect with Daniel:

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: Solidarity

God's Heart for Solidarity
A guest post by Sherrinda Ketchersid

I’ve been looking into the word "solidarity" lately.

According to Oxford Languages, the definition of solidarity is: unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.

We’ve seen on the news people protesting by bending on one knee (instead of two) during the national anthem at football games. We’ve seen people wearing certain colors to show support for a cause. Recently, American shot putter Raven Saunders put her arms in an X shape while on the Olympic medal podium to show her solidarity with those who are oppressed. These actions make you stop and look, don’t they? They point a finger to what is wrong in the world. They make you sit up and take notice.

I decided to see what the Bible has to say about solidarity. 

Here are a few of the many verses I found in my search:
  •  “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” – 1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV)
  • “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” – 1 Peter 3:8 (ESV)
  •  “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” – Romans 14:19 (ESV)
These verses speak of peace-making and building unity with others. When others hurt, we hurt with them. When others are oppressed, we stand up with them and for them. We must pursue what builds others up and brings peace. Pursue! That is an active word, right? There is something to do when we take up solidarity with others.

I watched a YouTube video of an interview with Larycia Hawkins, who became the first female African-American tenured professor at Wheaton College in 2013. She was placed on administrative leave after she posted a photo of herself wearing a Hajib on her personal Facebook page. She did this to show solidarity with women Muslims who were up against rising ethnic tensions at the time. 

Something she said at the end of the interview struck me as something I need to address. She said, “All of life is sacred. I think you all think that you think that, but I don’t think you do because you send your kids to private schools so they don’t have to go to school with the poor black and brown kids. I would challenge you to rethink all of your commitments through the lens of every child is your child.”

I am reading and learning more and more about what it means to be antiracist, but have I really looked at my life—my decision and commitments—through the lens of true solidarity?

Sometimes, changing your lifestyle to reflect solidarity is hard. Sometimes it causes us to sacrifice. But isn’t that what Jesus teaches? He came to serve, not to be served. Take up your cross and follow Him. I’m not saying we must all move into neighborhoods different from ours or pull our kids out of private school. But I do think we need to reexamine our lives through the lens of solidarity. We need to take a look at everything through the lens of peace and unity with others—especially those who are different than us.

Let’s Pray: Father God, help me to see with Your eyes. Open my heart to the needs of those around me who are struggling under oppression, discrimination, and hate. I need to see the world through the lens of Your heart. Help me to bring unity and peace to those around me. Help me to be a person of solidarity in this world. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Author Bio:

Sherrinda Ketchersid is an author of historical romance and a minister’s wife who loves to paint in her Bible. 

She loves to read, spend time in her flower garden, and try her hand at new crafts. She likes to blog and is part of a group called The Writers Alley.

Sherrinda lives in north-central Texas with her husband of 35 years. With four grown children, three guys and a gal, she has more time and energy to spin tales of faith, fun, and forever love.

Connect with Sherrinda: