Bringing Out the Winner

Formula for Success in Tough Decisions

As parents we are making decisions every day regarding our family. Now imagine you are one of my children, Brodie or Reagan, who are now leading Big Oak Ranch. When they make a decision, it affects over 220 children and staff. That is a lot of pressure to say the least.  However, there is a formula that helps them through this decision-making process.

As you and your spouse sit down to make decisions regarding your family, let me give you this formula that you can apply and will guarantee your success. This works on minor and major issues. I know what you’re thinking – when someone makes you a “guarantee,” you better be careful. But this one I know is sound and true.

First, claim Psalm 32:8,

“For I will counsel you with my eye upon you and I will show you the way to go.”

Then use this Three Point Checklist as a guide:

1) What does the Bible say in regard to the issue at hand?

2) What is the Holy Spirit saying within your heart?

3) What direction are the circumstances that you are looking at pointing toward?

If you are a faced with a decision, whether it’s minor or major, I promise you that the God we serve will never lead you wrong. God always shows up – you just need to ask.


-John Croyle, Founder, Big Oak Ranch 

Author, Who You Are/Defying the Circumstances that Define Us, Bringing Out the Winner in Your Child, The Two Minute Drill to Manhood and Raising a Princess,




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Bringing Out the Winner

What’s on your Priority List?

I had the chance recently to take two of our grandsons to a bungee jump park in Panama City. They both did very well and had a great time. The youngest, Gibbs, jumped so high, he was above the support beams. His older brother, Will, was doing backflips – and sometimes three somersaults – with one jump. It was so much fun to watch!

In one of the jumping stations next to ours was a young boy who was continually trying to get his dad to watch. Over and over he pleaded, “Dad, watch me. Hey, dad, watch this flip!” I turned to see his dad engrossed in a game on his cell phone. It was so sad to see this boy’s facial expressions as he continued to seek approval from his dad and continued to be ignored. I wanted to go over and shake the man and say, “What are you thinking? That game is not going to matter one bit in the future – but your son’s self-worth and confidence are going to last a lifetime. You are the one responsible to build that!”

Our son and our son-in-law have done a good job encouraging our five grandsons. NEVER underestimate the power we as parents have in a simple encouraging word and its ripple effect in our children’s lives. Regrettably, the dad at the park missed out because his cell phone was more important to him than the boy in front of him pleading for his attention. Let us learn from his error in priorities and make it a point to show our children that they are the priority in our lives.


unnamed-1John Croyle, Founder, Big Oak Ranch




Amy GrantSeptember 20 the Auxiliary of Big Oak Ranch presents an Evening with Amy Grant at the Samford Wright Center. All proceeds benefit the Ranch, www.bigoakauxiliary/2016fundraiser. Tickets available at, 726-2853.


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Back to School from a Mom Perspective

My husband calls me a “schoolie.” I loved being a student, I loved being a teacher… I would go get another degree right now. Post-grad school I taught tenth grade at Briarwood Christian School, and after some settling in, found the job to be a source of great joy. My days were filled with hilarious interactions, heart connection with my “ladies lunch girls,” and moments of knowing God used me. It was my first year not going back to school that really twinged— the year I transitioned to motherhood.

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 1.52.18 PMThe cultural expectation was clear: I would go from a job I loved to a job I would love more. Unfortunately, that’s just not what happened—at least initially. My newborn days were fear-soaked, over-analyzed, and comparison-driven. I felt equipped for teenagers, but needless to say, my daughter didn’t come out as one. It was as if I was drowning every single day, clumsy and helpless with an infant in my arms. I began to believe some very deep-seated lies. I believed I wasn’t cut out for this, my husband and I had made a mistake, or God had made a mistake. Evil whispered in my ear in a raw emotional time and I bought in. I began to forget who I was in Christ. Because we serve a merciful Father, these lies have been undone in my heart, but really only recently—and my oldest is now 5. They cut deep, had consequences of disconnect from my young family, and required much repair to be done. But for God… He met me, and he was sufficient.

New mamas have loads of logistical questions in this age of mommy analysis. Now when I hear a question about sleep schedules, feeding, or tantrums, I want to listen for the question behind the question. Because there’s likely another one there, one which cuts far deeper, sounding more like, “Am I doing a good job?” “If I try my best and still mess this up, what does that say about me?” or “What does that say about God?” These questions, the deep secret ones, are the questions my co-authors and I want to address in our new study, Engaging Motherhood, Heart Preparation for a Holy Calling. We want the eyes of a new mom to be lifted from the stifling how-to’s onto Christ’s sufficiency in meeting her every need along the way. So if you are a new mama, or you’re loving on one right now, would you remind her God’s got her? Even if she’s not asking… she’s asking.


Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 1.52.52 PM— Holly Mackle is Co-Author of Engaging Motherhood, Heart Preparation for a Holy Calling, a graduate of Samford University with Masters degrees in Spanish Literature and Secondary Education, and a regular contributor to enCourage—the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) women’s blog.

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Going for GOLD AGAIN

Allyson Felix Preps for Rio with God-Given Speed

Allyson Felix has won more medals than any other track and field athlete in the last three Olympic Games. She has four golds and two silvers, plus six wins in the U.S. Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Her Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 1.18.26 PMbest event is the 200-meter sprint. Humble and soft-spoken, the runner is considered a favorite for the summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, this month and says her speed is a gift from God

While athletic in her youth—she always liked basketball and gymnastics—Felix did not start running until her freshman year at Los Angeles Baptist High School in California. “I was always super competitive, so the idea of getting to line up and right away know who’s the fastest was just super cool to me,” she says. “It hasn’t really stopped since then.”

She made history in Mexico City in 2003 when she ran the 200-meter in 22.11 seconds, the fastest ever by a woman under age 20. That year Track and Field News named her the female “High School Athlete of the Year.”

Felix landed a professional contract with Adidas and attended the University of Southern California. In 2007, she became the second woman in history to win three gold medals at a World Championship. She won her first Olympic gold medal as a part of the 4×400 meter relay in the 2008 Games in Beijing. Coming in second in the 200-meter to Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown, however, left her crying in the tunnel beneath the stadium. 22-year-old Felix was considered the favorite, and she didn’t anticipate second place. She maintains today that was one of her most difficult losses. “There were such high expectations, and when things didn’t work out the way I had hoped they would, I had to learn how to deal with that and learn how to see if this was still something I wanted to go after—if it was still important to me,” she says. “Looking back, some of my greatest lessons learned were in that moment. It really refueled me for the next four years to keep competing hard and keep going to reach my ultimate goal.” In 2012, Felix finally clinched gold in the 200-meter as well as the 4×100-meter relay and 4×400-meter relay, making her the first woman to win three gold medals at an Olympic Games since 1988.

Prepping for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio this month, Felix says her average day includes five hours of training—three on the track and two in the gym. Her afternoons include chiropractic massage work, and her meals are interspersed throughout the day with a large dinner. Sundays are for rest alone. When she has time to herself, Felix likes to go to the beach with friends, go to the movies, go bowling or simply stay at home.

Off the track, Felix is also a big fan of fashion and attended Fashion Week in London and New York in 2012. “I love Tom Ford and anything that’s unique or different, but I also like classic pieces as well,” she says. “I’m a laid back girl. On a typical basis I am wearing jeans and a t-shirt.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 1.17.55 PMWhen it comes to matters of faith, Felix is well known for her Christian upbringing. As a child, her father was a pastor, and she attended Christian schools. Both parents have been influential in her continued growth in the faith. “My mom—whenever I would travel or go anywhere or be on my own—would tell me ‘remember who you are.’ For me that really just meant remember the things that you believe, remember your faith, and carry those things along because people are always watching. They are always looking at you, and that’s the best way to share your testimony.”

Felix’s father teaches New Testament Greek at the Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, Calif., and has returned to a pastoring position where Felix attends worship. She finds it special to attend church with her family and see her father’s work firsthand.

Felix also has a close relationship with her brother, Wes, who was the USA Junior Champion in the 200-meters in 2002 and the Pac 10 champion in the 200-meters while running for USC in 2003 and 2004. Wes became her agent after health issues caused him to hang up his cleats for good, and he encouraged her after her unexpected silver standing in Beijing. He also carried her off the track when she injured her hamstring during the 200-meter final at the 2013 World Championship in Moscow.

Felix says watching Wes battle a liver virus and have to walk away from his dreams to support hers has been an inspiration. “I knew how passionate he was about the sport and that he hadn’t reached his potential. There was still so much left there,” she says. “Seeing him switch gears was inspiring to me…. It has been awesome to work together and be o
n this journey together. He sees me at all different moments and knows better than anyone what’s on my mind. He’s there to help pick things up when they are falling down and celebrate when they are going well.” Under Wes’ guidance, Felix secured a sponsorship with Nike. He handles all press and off-track responsibilities so she can focus on training.Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 1.17.00 PM

Felix is quick to call her speed a blessing from God and a talent that she can use to bring Him glory. “I feel like I have been blessed with this amazing gift…. And I am able to be on a platform, to show my lifestyle and show this gift that He has given me. It’s a really awesome opportunity.”

When she sees other athletes credit God for their talent—like the NBA’s Steph Curry, who led the Golden State Warriors to a record 73 wins in the last regular season—she is inspired to continue demonstrating her faith on and off the track. Curry is known for pointing a single index finger upward after making a jump shot, a subtle credit to God for his success. “Whenever I get to see an athlete in that moment, it’s completely inspiring,” she says.

Bobby Kersee—Felix’s coach and husband to retired track and field veteran Jackie Joyner-Kersee— calls Felix “the quiet storm” because she transitions so well from laid-back family girl to aggressive competitor. He has said he believes this will be Felix’s “signature year.” Her original goal for Rio was to win gold medals in both the 200- and 400-meter—something that hasn’t been done in 20 years. But an ankle injury that has plagued her since spring caused Felix to come up short in the 200-meter final qualifying race last month. So at the Games she will aim for a win in the 400-meter and any relays she is chosen to participate in. Trouble could come in the form of that bothersome ankle, but there is no doubt Felix will rely heavily on her God-given gift of speed to go for the gold.

– Camille Platt

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Special Feature

ROOFTOP FRIENDS‘ Camping Adventure Ministers to Special Needs Families

RTF fishermenThe mission of RoofTop Friends is to “love, serve, fellowship and share faith with individuals and families affected by disability.” One way this Alabama based non-profit ministry carries out its mission is hosting an annual Family Retreat at Camp ASCCA on Lake Martin. June 20-24 families from across the Southeast will gather at this fully accessible camp to enjoy a week of family respite. There will be age-appropriate fun activities for all family members, home-style meals, worship time and meaningful conversations from a network of families who understand the challenges of life with disability. A buddy is assigned to the family member who has a disability, is there to be their friend and give the best experience possible.

RTF horsebackThe inspiration for Alabama Family Retreat came through the personal experience of Retreat Director Ruth Brewbaker. In 2001, at the urging of a friend, Brewbaker traveled with her family, including a son with spina bifida, to Flat Rock, NC to attend a Joni and Friends (JAF) Family Retreat ( “It was one of the most incredible weeks of our lives! We were greeted right as we got out of the van by people who showed us the love of Christ until the time we packed up to go home. It was a piece of heaven on earth for families touched by disabilities,” explains Brewbaker adding, “It hit me… we have to bring this to Alabama.” Brewbaker and a band of tireless volunteers received 11 years of training under the JAF Knoxville, Tenn. Field Office. RoofTop Friends became a non-profit ministry and Alabama Family Retreat became a reality in the summer of 2015. Learn more about this year’s Alabama Family Retreat at


Consider making Alabama Family Retreat your mission field this summer. Volunteer/STM slots are still available. Most STMs are paired with a camper with a disability as a “buddy” who enjoys camp right along with their camper… helping them participate in programs and activities; helping during meal time; getting to know their families, and building relationships that often extend beyond days at camp. You do not need training in special education or a healthcare field to be an effective STM. You do need to be a Christian over 17 years old with a teachable spirit and a heart to serve others. STMs arrive at Camp ASCCA on June 19 for training. The cost to be a STM is $450 but keep in mind, this is a mission trip! You are leaving home and availing yourself to serve and share the love of Christ.
Support can come from family, friends and your church- just as you would if you were going halfway around the world! Visit to learn more.


Lori Sealy


Jay and Catherine Wolf







Key Note Speakers at this year’s Alabama Family Retreat will be Jay and Katherine Wolf, both graduates of Samford University. The couple founded Hope Heals ministry after Katherine suffered a brain stem stroke at age 26. Music will be led by Lori Sealy, a singing artist who is on the autism spectrum.

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Cleaning Out the Night-Stand Drawer

Bedside table with lamp

Spring has always been about working in the yard, doing some much needed house cleaning and taking or planning some long weekend trips with the family! At the same time all the local flowers shops start putting out their various displays, everyone begins ordering mulch or pine straw for their yards and you start seeing more advertisements for different ways to get your home organized. If you are like most families the Night-Stand Drawer beside your bed contains more documents and junk than all the other drawers in the house combined! Unfortunately, more times than not it is skipped over during spring cleaning.

Did you know it is usually the first drawer a family member goes to when a loved one dies? Over the years I have heard numerous stories of family members cleaning out the Night-Stand Drawer searching for the life insurance policy, only to find pictures and cards from birthdays and anniversaries past of the loved one they just lost! I am all about keeping your homes and yards looking great, but if your family has to put a “For Sale” sign in the front yard because the Night-Stand Drawer was empty and no life insurance policy was in place, then all that dusting, painting and planting was done for the new homeowner!

This spring take a few moments away from the home chores and the yard work and meet with an insurance agent to make certain that your family will continue to enjoy the memories you made in the place you made them, your home!

Ben Franklin, LUTCF

Ben Franklin, LUTCF

2960 Columbiana Road, Vestavia, Ala. 35216






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Impacting God’s Kingdom thru Foster Care

Faith and Foster CareJohn DeGarmo, Ed. D. is a leading expert in the foster care field and the author of the recently released must have foster care resource, (ITALIC)Faith & Foster Care: How We Impact God’s Kingdom (New Hope Publishing). DeGarmo shares insight into how all of us, and particularly the church community, can provide support to the approximately 400,000 children in the United States who are in the foster care system and impact God’s Kingdom.

How are churches being called to care for children in foster care? “Not everyone is called to be a foster parent. As you know, not everyone has the skills to bring children into their home and care for those in need. Yet, everyone can help a child in foster care, the foster parents, and even the birth parents who are struggling. To be sure, we are all given different skills and talents. For some, these talents might be to care for children in their own homes on a day to day basis. For others, it might be to support those who care for them, while others might be given the resources to share. The Bible is quite specific on the gifts of talents and abilities. God is indeed calling us to care for His children in need.”

What are some of the ways the church can help children in foster care? “Today’s churches have a tremendous mission opportunity before them; the mission to help children in foster care. Sadly, with roughly 500,000 children in foster care in the United States, the need is so very strong. Yet, with the help of the church, these children can finally find the help, support, and love they so desperately crave, and so very much deserve. Perhaps there is a church in your area that is looking for a way to minister to others. Maybe your own church is seeking ways to reach out to those in need. Hosting a local foster parent association and support group is one such way a church can serve foster parents. Another way is serving as a location for family visitations. Churches can provide a safe, consistent, warm, and inviting atmosphere for children and birth family members to meet during visitation sessions. Indeed, not only can this be a form of outreach for a church, but the message of love and forgiveness is also being practiced, as well. Brand new suitcases for a child who is moving into a foster home, or even back home is another option. These are just a few of the ways a church can help.”

John DeGarmo

Learn more by visiting DeGarmo’s foster care resource website For local opportunities to serve in foster care visit

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City Scene

Bible Reading Marathon

City Scene Bible Marathon Southside BaptistThe front steps of Birmingham’s historic Southside Baptist Church will be the site of the sixth annual Birmingham Bible Reading Marathon. Reading of the Bible begins at 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 1 and will continue around the clock until 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 5, the National Day of Prayer. city scene bible marathon child on stool DSC05727The Bible Marathon will be one of many going on simultaneously throughout the world. Everyone is welcome to read or listen during the event. Reading will be in 15-minute increments and you can sign up for one increment or a group may sign up for a block of time. For details or to sign up to read visit The event will conclude on May 5 with a time of prayer for our city, state, and nation.

Join the annual Bible Reading Marathon being held on the front steps of Southside Baptist Church, 1016 19th Street South.

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Fashion for You

What to Wear When Exploring the Outdoors
fashion for you Afico long sleeves Marks OutdoorsThe days are longer and the sun is brighter- it’s time to get outside and take advantage of the gorgeous Alabama scenery! Of course, you will want to keep yourself fashionable when you are half way up a mountain, walking down the beach or camping in the wilderness. No worries; I am here to give you some fashion tips for playing outside without compromising your comfort.


Choose footwear that touts style and comfort. Available at Gus Mayer.


Beach Babe. Walking the beach can be one of the most therapeutic paths to refresh your body, mind and soul. The sea mist gives a natural lending hand by tousling the hair and flushing the cheeks, but what makes your look complete? Keep it casual and relaxed with a pair of shorts, a cozy hoodie or flowing kimono. In terms of footwear, gladiator sandals, trainers,Fashion for you Sorel_Major_Pull-on_Tan or everyday flip-flops are perfect for flinging off and walking along the shore.


Trekking Pro. One thing Alabama has is hills. Lots of hills. They are made to be explored and loads of fun too! But you don’t have tFashion for You SOREL_Joanie_Sandalo sacrifice your style for comfort. Start your look with a good, solid pair of walking boots and quality socks. I am currently obsessed with Sorel boots in every style and color. Another key item to have handy is a wax jacket that will keep you warm, dry and looking sharp. One of the brands that will make you look trendy and
feel comfortable is Barbour.


fashion for you pullover simmons

Remember if you are hiking up in the hills, temperatures can change quickly so layer up. Available at Simmons Sporting Goods

Camping Queen. Whether you are a girl set for the full-on camping experience or happier with camping in comfort, it can be tough to know what to pack for a weekend in the woods. Remember the Golden Rule of Fashion: Less is more. Invest in a cute poncho or vest that you can pair with any outfit to add a touch of understated glamour. Don’t forget a cozy warm sweater for the cooler, brisk evenings. Accessorize with a baseball cap, shades and a crafted stainless steel water bottle.

Now if all this outdoorsy stuff has you already breaking a sweat, remember in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Live in the sunshine. Swim in the sea. Drink the wild air.”


Fashion for You Krista Conlin BCF Sept 14

-Krista Conlin Robinson

KC Projects, a full service public relations agency providing branding service to clients from the fashion industry to the corporate world,




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