Heart of Refuge

Unveiling The Hidden Beauty Of Your Heart

Category: marriage

God’s Best Kept Secret ~ Duana Cooper

Photo courtesy of Duana Cooper

Thanks for having me on your blog. As a young stay at home mother of three beautiful children, I have to make time for everything thing I do especially time for myself. After spending my day catering to my children, I get some “me time” once I put them to bed. During this time, I read my bible, spend quality time with my husband, edit videos, and catch up on shows that I do not watch while my kids are awake. I also have a loving supportive husband that helps with the children when I need a break. He is amazing when it comes to helping around the house. I also get time for myself is when my children are in school. My first two attended a preschool at the age of 2 for two days out the week. Since we are done having children, my youngest son will start once he turns 3. Then, this will give me more time to do things around the house or anything I want to do. I would recommend this for any mother out there with small children. This also helps the child with social development.  My self-esteem has been built over the years because of my family. They let me know how they appreciate what I do for them. My children love to write me notes, give me flowers, or rocks that they find. That alone lets me know that I am doing my part as their mother. My husband lets me know how blessed he is to have me. Hearing that would make any woman feel confident and secure in their marriage. I also like to work out to make sure I look the best that I can. This helps eliminate any stress. It also makes me energized for the rest of the day. Also, making sure that I look presentable helps with my self-esteem. I do not get all dressed up often depending on where I’m going. But, when I do, it makes me feel good about myself. To me, when I look my best, I feel my best and other can tell.

My Christian faith plays a big part in my life. We are members of the Church of Christ. I was raised in the church at a very young age. My mother made it her duty that we went to church every Sunday and Wednesday. Also, if there was a gospel meeting going on, we were there. That is why my love for God is so strong. My husband and I have raised our kids the same way. They never want to miss Sunday school or a chance to go to church. As a family, we are still learning and growing everyday by the grace of God.

Duana’s Bio

My name is Duana. I am 29 years old. I am a wife and mother of three beautiful children, Ia 7, Isaac 5, and Isaiah 2. My husband and I have been married for 9 years. I stay home to take care of my family. However, I just graduated this past May with a Bachelor’s degree in General Sociology. It took me eight years, but I finally finished. We have a YouTube Channel called The Curly Coopers which is about family, fun, and hair.

 

Social Media info

Instagram- @thecurlycoopers

YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwskTA3Rm_ktVDRxlhLHUgQ

 

 

God’s Best Kept Secret – Angela Smith

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Courtesy of Angela Smith

Right about now, my heart is saying “Look where God has brought you!” It’s hard to comprehend that I am living a total and completely different lifestyle to that of even just a year ago.  After being married for 31 years, working full time and raising 4 beautiful children, I can say like the old chorus “Through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to depend upon his word”.  God has been faithful even when I didn’t feel as though we could make it together as a couple, God held us together, by his chords of love.  There were times when those chords were so stretched that it felt that with the slightest tug, we would have fallen apart – but his favour on our lives said ‘Not so’.  There were times when I would sit in church beside my husband, the tears streaming down my face; people thought I was being touched by the worship.  How wrong they were – I was sitting beside my husband (a wonderful married couple people would say), but I was in pain.  Deep pain, gut wrenching pain, unbearable pain.   We had an argument at home, can’t quite remember what on earth it was about, but we left for church angry bitter and very hurt.  Did I find peace, solace and upliftment there – unfortunately not.   You see you can be in church with the spirit moving and still not feel a thing.  We would do the niceties after service and greet people with a smile, but still be in our hurt & pain.  The journey home would be in silence only to continue where we left off, raised voices, high volume discussions, and me in tears with frustration.  We were getting nowhere, I couldn’t understand him and he as far as I was concerned he didn’t even try to understand me.

We needed help, major help – not just “I’ve got you in my prayers” help, but practical help. God met that need through a devout woman of God who mentored me and in turn ‘us’.  Our lives are so much more fulfilled now, yes there are challenges, but God has made our journey together a more happier and joyous one.

 

Courtesy of Angela Smith

 

Angela’s Biography

I was born in the early 60s, one of seven children and have known God for the majority of my life. My early days of church were of accompanying my mother to services, crusades etc.  I loved being by my mothers’ side and sitting with her in church, taking in the blessings of the word of God.  My closest sister and I heard about the inception of a community gospel choir and thought it would be a great thing to be involved with.  The choir days were so rewarding, we ministered to diverse congregations and sang at various concerts.  We travelled widely and saw many sights.  It was at one choir rehearsal that a handsome young man approached my sister and I and said “don’t just stand there staring, come and say hello”.  This gorgeous man was God’s blessing to me and later become my husband and soulmate.  It wasn’t love at first sight, but we soon realised that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.  Obviously in the early days we had no clue as to what that would mean but we felt that we couldn’t face a future without each other.  He was the man of my dreams – loved God, serious about his faith, strong, determined, hard worker with great potential to be my Boaz.  We sought God earnestly to get our own answers as whether it was his will for us to be married.  God did answer and it is this sanction from God that has kept us focussed all these years.  Learning to love, when he was unloveable, learning to trust and believe even when the energy wasn’t there to draw on.  People were saying we wouldn’t last and unfortunately there were times when I started to believe them.  But the scripture says ‘who’s report do you believe?’  I chose to believe the report of the Lord; and now some 31 years down the line, we are still in love, still in God and have been blessed with four beautiful children.

© Angela Smith.  Jenny Allen & Heart of Refuge  2011 – 2016. Unauthorised use and /or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and owner is strictly prohibited.

God’s Best Kept Secret ~ Being a Military Wife by Maxine Reyes


The difference between a non-military wife and a military wife is the challenges that we face when it comes to separation from our husbands, knowing that separation is inevitable. Being a dual military wife is even more challenging because we get to experience deployments multiplied by two.  Deployments take a toll on most marriages of military couples.  Deployment separation has been a key contributor or the cause of many divorces.  Ken and I have experienced hardships that challenged our relationship, but we never consider allowing those challenges to overpower our love for each other.  We have been huge supporters of each other’s careers and personal goals and we refused to let the forces of the world stop us from having the best marriage that we know we can have with God leading us.

Placing trust in God and knowing that we must keep Him at the forefront of our marriage at all times, has allowed us to face our challenges with the utmost boldness. Ken and I are definitely each other’s soul mates.  We feel one another’s pain and happiness and always find ways to make each other feel special and uplifted during unhappy times.  Our Happily Joint movement blog has allowed us to display our determination to love and care for each other for the rest of our lives while living a joyful and sacred Christian life.  Couples who know us usually compliment us and ask us our recipe to happiness.  We have written a book to share experience with others.  There is no trick to a happy marriage, but we will definitely share what works for us.  We teach resiliency in relationships to couples in order for them to have the ability to withstand the challenges of marriage and find ways to recover from difficult times.

After 19 years, we are at a beautiful point of our marriage where we know more about what makes us happy and sad. We know our priorities and are absolutely supportive of our careers and personal goals.  Ken is the most wonderful person I know and I am so grateful for his love and his adoration.  I am most grateful for the father that he is to our adorable daughter.  He is such a gentleman and I can speak all day about him in a positive way.

Success for me is persevering through my lifelong goals. We have always kept God at the forefront of our life.  Being an empowered career woman while being a wife can be challenging.  Women get treated sometimes tougher than our male counter parts so we have to work twice as hard.  I am blessed to have a husband like mine who encourages me to be a strong woman.  He empowers me to pursue my dreams and he makes me feel confident in being his wife.  My husband makes it so much easier for me to pursue my passion.  I am grateful for our relationship with Jesus, which has allowed me to be a successful mother and wife.   Our faith has taken us a long way and we look forward to growing old together.

 

 

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courtesy of Maxine Reyes

MAXINE REYES – Bio

Maxine Reyes is a burgeoning singer/songwriter/speaker whose vocal talent have embellished countless of people around the world.

Born in Kingston and raised in Manchester, Jamaica, her family sang in the community church where she was encouraged to share her special talent. With her rich and earthly Jamaican accent seasoned with grounded grace, you can see right away when she shares her infectious smile that you have just met a new friend.

These endearing qualities also helped Maxine, when she moved to Pembroke Pines, Florida as a teenager – where she began participating in local talent vocal competitions and winning on numerous occasions. It was at that point that she gained the confidence as a vocalist that allowed both her inner and outer beauty to transcend.

Voted Most Talented” of her graduating class at Miramar High School, FL. Maxine desired to pursue singing, but also having a strong sense of reality and being very mindful that is was also more important to be a positive representation of her native Jamaica, Maxine decided at that point of her life that it was much more important to secure her advance educational goals. She also felt like she had a higher calling to serve in the United States Military.

After graduating from High School, Maxine joined the United States Air Force which afforded her advanced education. However, this vibrant and energetic artist still kept her passion to share her gift of song by volunteering to sing at numerous nationally supported Military related events.

Maxine continued to not only sing whenever she can, but she also elevated her service to the Country by proudly becoming a Commissioned Officer in the United States Army and earned her Master of Arts in Management and Leadership. She is currently the Company Commander of the United States Army Recruiting Company in Orlando, FL. It is this same presentation of excellence that makes her performances a breath of fresh air to all. Maxine founded Happily Joint, Inc along with her husband. Happily Joint is an organization that helps couples deal with challenges in their relationships while living their best life with each other. Maxine and Ken know too well the challenges of keeping a relationship together as they met when they were teenagers and have been married for 18 years, both being under the age of 40. With multiple military separations some up to 15 months, the couple kept their marriage in tack and uphold an image that is admired by many. They have vowed to help others who deal with similar challenges as they have by hosting seminars and speaking to audiences interested in Maxine and Ken’s story. They are in the process of writing their first book together “The Happily Joint Guide.”

 

Additional Activities and Musical Performances:

  • Performed at sports games and ceremonies filed with dignitaries on multiple occasions when she sang the National Anthem at Orlando City Soccer, Independence Day Celebration, NBA game San Antonio Spurs vs Charlotte Bobcats at the Time Warner Arena, Ambassador of Qatar and government officials of Qatar, Fort Lauderdale Air and Sea Show, Toyota Indy 300, Miami Grand Prix and Marlins Opening ceremony.
  • She has performed for the President of the United States of America at the Miami Arena.
  • Maxine is loved by many and her broad appeal has won ardent supporters wherever she has performed. She returned home in April of 2014 after a year of serving in Operation Enduring Freedom in Qatar and Afghanistan where she entertained Coalition forces in the area where she was based.
  • Her versatility and diverse background makes her the perfect ambassador for her nation. Maxine’s style can be described as “Reggae Soul” blending sultry inspiring Inspirational love R&B/Jazz grooves with Reggae.
  • Her Patriotic song “I’ve Got You/Military Wife” which she penned after her husband’s First Sergeant was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2012 tugs at the heart and displays her writing skills and soulful vocal style. The song is perfect for any function honouring veterans, their spouses and the memories of the lives lost in the fight against terror.
  • Besides work, she is active in her community volunteering for different causes at every moment that she can. She is currently working on creating a non-profit organization, which offers mentoring and educational opportunities for the young girls. She actively supports her primary school back in Jamaica with her very own Maxine Reyes/Doctor Bird Award Program since 2000. It is a program that encourages students to work hard in school and reach for the stars in everything that they do. It fosters education, positive attitudes and selflessness. Her passion for people and her family is commendable and is noticed by the way she cares for her Soldiers and their families.

 

Social Media and contact Information

Happily Joint
Www.HappilyJoint.com
IG,FB,Twitter,Pinterest @HappilyJ

From The Heart of a Man ~ Kenneth Reyes

 

Courtesy Kenneth Reyes

Nothing in life carries more gravity than being a good father and husband. Serving in the military adds a level of complexity that most families do not have to deal with. Most civilians are unaware of the lawful demand that the profession of arms asks of its members. This demand is simply stated as, the mission comes first. If you are unfamiliar with the term, the mission comes first, allow me to get you up-to-speed. The “mission” is any military requirement that is asked of me. This can stem from as mundane as administrative paper work to the extreme of a combat deployment. The mission comes first regardless of my family situation. Child being born < Army; Wedding Anniversary < Army; Death in the Family < Army. True, with special permission these conflicts of interest can be resolved but you need the Army’s permission first.

This requires me to be on top of my husband and fatherly duties at all times. I need to build emotional resiliency in my wife and daughter so they can mentally manage the disappointment of my absence and all the little things that are on the daily battlefield of emotional happiness. School plays, playtime, tucking my daughter into bed, being there to hold my wife after a rough day. These are just some of the constant challenges I face as a father and husband in the military.

The question for those that know me is, how did I stay married for 19 years and be under 40? The answer is simple but the execution is much harder. I loved my wife as I wanted her to love me. I tried to be as understanding to her needs as I want her to be understanding to mine. Lastly, forgiveness proved to be the most important element to our success. I strived to forgive her for all perceived wrongs against me as I hoped she would try to forgive me for all my perceived wrongs against her. It didn’t hurt that the Lord scripted onto my heart that I would take care of her till my dying breath either.

Our relationship enjoys the unfair advantage of the Lord’s favor. We have faced challenges that have crushed other couples, but our love has the spiritual backing of one that is greater than the world. Therefore our love is able to resist the world’s challenges. This doesn’t mean we don’t fall victim to the snares of being rude, impatient, or hurting-one-another. We just seem to have an unending well of forgiveness for each other. This allows us to enjoy an unbreakable bond. After reading this you may be disappointed if you came looking for answers that could easily be replicated in your own relationship, but in the end we give God all the glory.

 

 

Captain Kenneth Reyes  ~ United States Army Paratrooper

Kenneth Reyes was born in Hoboken, NJ in 1978 and grew up as a military dependent.  Ken travelled the world with his mother and older brother; Hawaii, California, Puerto Rico, Germany, and Texas.  He graduated from High School at Killeen, TX and promptly enlisted in the United States Air Force at the age of 17 in 1996.  He attended Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas.  After Basic Military Training, his first permanent duty station was McClellan Air Force Base, Sacramento, California.  He soon deployed to Bosnia to support the NATO led Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina for 3 months. His mission was to assist in halting Serbian forces from completing their campaign of ethnic cleansing the Kosovo Albanians.

In 2000 while serving as a Senior Airman, Ken completed his first Associates in Applied Science in Information Technology Systems form the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF).  The CCAF is a federally-chartered degree-granting institution that serves the United States Air Force’s enlisted force.  In 2005 while serving as a Technical Sergeant, Ken completed his second Associates in Applied Science from the CCAF in Education & Training Management. He also completed a Bachelors of Science in Management from the University of Phoenix.  In 2006 Ken competed and was awarded an opportunity to attended Officer Candidate School.  After successfully completing Officer Candidate School, Ken received a commission from the President of the United States as an Army Second Lieutenant in the Adjutant General Corps.

In 2007 while serving as a Second Lieutenant, Ken volunteered to serve his country as a United States Army Paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division.  Ken was assigned to the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment in the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment (4th Brigade Combat Team).  Ken served as their Adjutant General Officer for 46 months.  While in the 82nd Airborne Division he served 27 months in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In 2011 while serving as a Captain, Ken took command of Charlie Company, 120th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception), Fort Jackson, Columbia, SC for 22 months.  During this time Ken received, equipped, motivated, and shipped over 36,000 Soldiers to Basic Combat Training.  In 2013 Ken completed his Masters of Arts in Human Resource Management from Webster University.

Since 2013 Ken has been serving as an Assistant Professor of Military Science for Army ROTC at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Stetson University, Bethune-Cookman, and Daytona State College. Some of his awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, theArmy Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement

Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal (with two campaign stars), the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the NATO ISAF Medal, the Polish Army Service Medal, the Combat Action Badge, and the Parachutist Badge.

 

 

From The Heart of a Man – Micheal Smith

A Man of Faith by Micheal Smith

Courtesy of Micheal Smith MBE

Whatever we as men do in our lives, we have an underlying desire to be great in the eyes of our family. We strive to prove that we are the provider, defender and ruler of the home. The truth is we are overshadowed by our spouse who really runs the home, builds bridges between us and our children and generally keeps the home in order. For some men this can be uncomfortable because we feel out of control, even to a point that the home feels like a bucket with many holes and we struggle to keep everything and everyone together in that bucket. A good man soon learns to operate in the areas of the home that is his domain and allows his spouse and children to operate freely in theirs. No matter what we do, at the end of the day it always comes down to family and the value we place on it.

 

There are many things that drive men to become successful. The one thing that has driven me to do my best is my desire to please my God. I am a firm believer that if we serve God with all our heart and all our energy, he will take care of everything in our lives. I have learned to trust God totally to be my guide, my provider and a very present help in times of difficulty. If we want to really please God, we must first believe that he is God and allow him to be in total control of the steering wheel, the accelerator and the brake of our life vehicle.

That vehicle becomes ‘the desire of our heart’ and we need to get to the point where we recognise that it is God’s calling on our life and we have the choice to accept it or decline that calling. An important saying to remember is this, “A winner never quits and a quitter never wins” we must keep pressing forward. A book by John Maxwell called ‘Failing Forward’ (ISBN: 8601300489926), taught me that failing your way to success is commonplace with most, if not all of the most successful people in the world. Another important secret of success is “Never, Never, Never quit!”

 

Micheal’s Bio
Born and bred in Britain and son of Jamaican parents, Michael had a thirst for excitement in life and as such pursued a path that has led to his current position, as a committed Christian, husband and father.

As a young man Michael was destined for leadership and at age 15 he joined the Air Training Corps where he got a marksmanship in shooting before even getting his uniform and went on to becoming a Sargent. He wanted to be a fighter pilot and went on to gain a Glider Pilots Licence and also flew single-engined light aircraft. After deciding not to join the Royal Air Force as it may have involved taking the life of another, he decided to join the Police, where a major change was needed to improve the poor relationship between black people and the police.

He served as Police Officer for over 22 years, during which time he developed a desire to positively address knife and gun crime amongst young people. In 2007 he founded the charitable organisation Word 4 Weapons, the UK’s first weapons surrender and exchange programme. To date they have removed over 20,000 weapons from UK’s streets. Michael pursued this venture alongside his full-time job and in 2015 took early retirement to spend more time developing Word 4 Weapons. In March 2016 Michael was awarded a MBE by The Queen for his dedication to making the UK a safer place be. In addition, Michael and his wife Angela have now started a new venture offering respite care for Church Leaders and a service to couples experiencing difficulties in their marriage.

Your In-Laws Need Boundaries


I was ministering somewhere a few days ago and the issue of interfering inlaws came up. It is really really important that we know and understand that they cannot dictate the relationships their children have with their spouses.

Those of you that are thinking of getting married please begin to discuss it and put boundaries in place, especially if you feel your partner is a mama’s boy or daddy’s girl, because if you do not your inlaws may start to interfere (if they are not doing so already) and poison your relationship.

The control is ungodly. Sir, stand up and protect your wife to be/ girlfriend from your mothers’ onslaught. You can see what your mother is doing is not right but you will not defend the woman you call special. Young lady if he cannot defend you in front of his mother, will he defend you at all and is this the start of things to come when you both get married?

The bible clearly states in Gensis 2:24 “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” 

Why is it significant that the man clearly leaves, even though the woman must leave also? The man is the foundation of his family. He is the main cornerstone that his wife and children will come to and if the man is too caught up with his mother then his family malfunctions and the foundation is shaken. You are not only to leave physically, but also emotionally and spiritually and you must start to cleave. Pray about this and ask God for wisdom on how to create parental boundaries. It may be difficult but it can be done.

Gentleman when you ask a woman to marry you do you actually know what you are asking? Do you know and understand your God given responsibilities? Your God given responsibilities towards your wife does not involve your mother. Yes the bible says that we are to honour our mother and father, that is very important but it does not say honour them at the expense of your wife. Remember God takes the position of a wife  very seriously. He compares marriage with Christ loving his church, the bride. Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. Jesus did not allow Mary his mother, to interfere with his relationship with his bride and what he was assigned to do for his bride.

Ladies in your rush to be married please make a careful note of the relationship your husband to be has with his mother. If there are clear boundaries in place then it’s good, but if not and she feels it is ok to dictate to her son and place ungodly influence over his choices then watch out. If you are having red flags or the Holy Sprit is nudging you about something then step back, pray for direction and ask questions.

If you remain silent then you will not have a happy home and instead of having a 3 fold cord ( you, your husband and the Holy Spirit) that is not easily broken, you will have a 4 fold cord that will break any minute now.

The damage done by interfering inlaws is not spoken about much in church but I want to encourage you to be prayerful and watchful in this area. Let the Holy Spirit be your teacher and do not enter a marriage with someone because you are desperate to be married.  Marriage is not the wedding day, marriage is the beginning of the rest of your life. Cleaving is a life long journey which must be protected.

I heard of a woman, who happens to be in church leadership, who tried to hinder the marriage of her son to a beautiful christian young woman, because she was worried about who was going to look after her and keep her company. When I heard that story I felt sorry for her other adult unmarried children. It is so selfish and manipulative on her part.

Naomi in the book of Ruth was a beautiful mother in law who respected her daughters in law, so much so that they did not want to leave her. There are mothers in law that have a beautiful spirit and if they see anything go wrong in the lives of their children’s marriage, they will take the time out to pray. They honour the spouse their children has selected. I honour such inlaws. If you have inlaws like this treasure them, love them and appreciate them.

What I have stated works both ways. There are some women who cling to their parents and will not allow their husband to lead. Leave and cleave to your husband, do not be a stumbling block.

Dear heart, what does God say about marriage? If your inlaws are disrespecting what God says about your own marriage, then you need to take steps to do something about it. I appreciate that some cultures place a high value on in-laws and their input in their children’s marriage. Their input has proven to be detrimental in many cases. Your spouse is not a tool for your in-laws to abuse as they please. Please stand up for your spouse because the two of you have become one. You do not become one with your parents.

Please share your feelings about this in the comments section.

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