Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Inner Views of Lindsay Huggins

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
Roman 1:16

A few years ago, I was introduced to the music of the dear young lady I am interviewing today.
Soon, we connected online, and a sweet friendship was formed.
How blessed I was when later God orchestrated a way for my family and me to meet her in person while in Myrtle Beach where she was scheduled to perform!
God has gifted her with an amazing talent to sing
and an accompanying joyful, humble, Christlike spirit. 
I know you are going to love getting to know her, and I hope you can take the time to 
listen to a few of her songs included below.
You will be abundantly blessed!

So thankful to present to you the 
Follower of Jesus, Wife, Mom, Friend, Worship Leader, and Christian Recording Artist,
Lindsay Huggins.

Cheryl:  Please tell us about yourself. 

Lindsay:  I grew up in a small town - Sandersville, Georgia. My younger sister and I were blessed with wonderful loving and hard-working parents, who have modeled lives of character before us. My family was very involved in church and music, which went hand in hand. After graduating from high school, I moved to Nashville, TN, to attend Trevecca Nazarene University, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Music Business. I traveled in a singing group for TNU, along with this cute sweetheart of a guy named Craig. He also happened to be our sound tech and was good at his job, so I decided to keep him! We were married on April 8, 2006 in my hometown. In 2012, our son Tanner was born and we make our home just outside of Nashville.

Cheryl:  Can you share with us about your Christian testimony? When did you become a Christian? Were you raised in a Christian home? What drew you to Christ?

Lindsay:  I was raised in a Christian home, and we were faithful church members. It seemed we were there all the time, which I loved. My best friends were my church friends. From a very young age, I remember learning God’s Word. But it wasn’t until I was 13 years old that I really remember inviting Jesus in my heart. I was trying to fall asleep that night and the Lord was speaking to me. I was listening to a CD of one of my favorite artists at the time (this was how I fell asleep every night), and I made it all the way to the end, still wide awake. That last song talked about not missing the opportunity to respond to the Holy Spirit because we never know if today will be our last. I got up and woke up my Mama, and she came into the living room with me. We prayed and read scripture together, and that’s the night I truly invited Jesus into my heart.

Cheryl:  What a sweet and precious testimony, Lindsay!  What was your biggest, most cherished childhood dream? What did you most hope to accomplish in life? Who did you want to become?

Lindsay:  As cliche as it sounds, my dream has always been to sing! The dream has looked different during various seasons of my life, but I knew that’s what I wanted to do. My Mama will tell you, I could turn anything into a microphone. Hairbrush, fork, my thumb - you name it! And my sister would get so annoyed at me always singing. I loved Reba McEntire. Every Sunday, our family would gather at my Granny and Granddaddy’s house for dinner after church. Granny would make a big meal and after dinner, everyone would move into the living room. My sister and I would then perform a dinner show. We stood on footstools, sang into old microphones that had been discarded by our church, and performed a full show of Reba songs using her cassette as our band. Too bad we didn’t have cell phone cameras at our fingertips then. I bet the videos would be a hoot! I went on to work for Reba after college, and she’s still one of my favorites!

Cheryl:  Who is your most influential spiritual mentor?

Lindsay:  Well, of course I have to say my Mama. She’s been my mentor from day one, and still encourages me, prays for me, and spurs me on in faith.

Cheryl:  I love your song, “Praying Women”. Can you tell us about the most prominent praying women in your life?

If video doesn't load, click here.

Lindsay:  This song is definitely true about my Mama. My Granny has also modeled a strong faith, and there are so many women who have guided me, and prayed with and for me over the years - Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, school teachers. I’m very thankful for my pastor’s wife, Karan.

Cheryl:  How old were you when you began singing? Please share with us about your singing experiences and career.

Lindsay:  I’m sure as soon as someone would let me on the platform I was singing in the kids music programs at church. My first distinct memory of performing is when I was around five years old. I entered a children’s talent competition sponsored by our district church. I sang “What Makes Popcorn Pop” that Lauren Talley had recorded. (I had all her cassettes.) I won that day, and remember taking my trophy to kindergarten Show-and-Tell. :)

Cheryl:  Describe what you would define as the most exciting happening in your music ministry thus far.

Lindsay:  I’ve had lots of exciting singing opportunities - singing on main stage at National Quartet Convention, sharing the stage with some of top names in Gospel music, etc. But the most rewarding moments come when I know God has used my music and the talent He gave me to speak to someone’s heart.

Cheryl:  How many concerts do you perform each year?

Lindsay:  I’m never good at answering this question! I’d literally have to pull out the calendar and count all the dates. I’m always seeking and accepting opportunities to minister. I’d say on average, I’m on the road about three weekends a month.

Cheryl:  Of all of the songs you have recorded and sung, what is your personal favorite?

Lindsay:  Right now, I’d say there are two - "Praying Women" and "Nothing He Can't Redeem".

If video doesn't load, click here.

Cheryl:  What would you say is your driving force? What keeps you going on days that you are worn out and wondering how you will continue to keep up the pace?

Lindsay:  What’s the quote? “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Well, I wouldn’t say that’s 100% accurate because there’s quite a bit of work to be done! But I do love getting to sing and travel and share the Good News through the gift of music. I love meeting folks out on the road and hearing their stories. And I love that I can do this together with my family.

Cheryl:  Being a wife and a mother, how do you find balance? What would you say is your biggest challenge when trying to fill so many roles, simultaneously? What advice can you offer to others in similar circumstances?

Lindsay:  Umm…maybe you should get someone else to answer this question and then send their answer to me! :) Seriously, though, it is tough. There are so many standards we try to live up to - as a woman, as a wife, as a parent, as a minister, as a performer. It can be draining. One thing I’m trying to embrace is being fully present in my current situation. And remembering that my first job is to love God and my family well. And my witness and ministry to others will overflow from that.

Cheryl:  What is your favorite thing to do when you are off the road? What do you most look forward to doing when you get back home? What do you miss the most while you are gone?

Lindsay:  I guess I’d say I mostly miss the familiarity of home when I’m on the road. And sometimes our dog Chloe can’t travel with us, so we miss her when we have to leave her behind. But I’ve never been a home body. I love to travel, so I don’t get too homesick when I’m away, unless my husband and son can’t be with me.

Cheryl:  Can you share with us about one of the darkest times of your life? How did your faith in God sustain you?

Lindsay:  We had quite a difficult journey to becoming parents. It didn’t come easy for us, and this struggle is one that so many couples face, but yet not many openly talk about it. We felt pretty alone during this time. Myself probably more than my husband. It seemed all our friends were having babies. Some were on their second or third, and we were still hoping. We finally got that good news and two weeks later I started hemorrhaging. I knew that I must be losing the baby. I hadn’t even been in for my first doctor’s appointment but I called and spoke to the nurse. I was a basket case, but I remember her saying “I need you to just have a little faith.” Honestly I wasn’t sure how to take that comment. I mean, of course I had faith! Right? The issue continued for two weeks without explanation. But from that first very early appointment where we heard that little heartbeat, we had to hold on to our Hope, knowing that God was in control no matter what. Our perfect baby was born in March 2012, and he is ALL BOY. Even as I’m typing this, he’s pretending to be superheroes, running around my desk.

Cheryl:  As Christians, we are living in very discouraging times. What do you personally do to stay encouraged? What are your favorite Bible verses? Are there any particular books, hymns, or other resources that you turn to for strength and courage?

Lindsay:  There are so many sources of media that it seems we are constantly bombarded with the bad stuff. But we can also use all the media at our fingertips for sources of good news, too. I have a Bible app on my phone, it suggests daily readings. I also enjoy the “Jesus Calling” devotional. And of course, music is my go-to! When I was afraid we were losing our baby, I sang “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” a lot! Some days I was celebrating the comfort I found in trusting Him. Some days I was convincing myself that I had to trust Him. But always praying “oh for grace to trust Him more”.

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you? Are there any particular requests you would like us to share and bring to the Father on your behalf?

Lindsay:  Thank you for offering your prayers on my behalf! I’d ask that you pray for wisdom and guidance, safety in travel, and a purity in my ministry, that I wouldn’t be distracted by the unnecessary things or swayed by the desires of the world.

Such noble requests, Lindsay!
Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to share your heart with us today!
You are such a dear blessing, and I trust God will continue to bless you,
your sweet family, and your ministry. 
May He always work in and through your life in new and amazing ways!

Please keep Lindsay in your prayers, dear readers,
and if you have a moment, please stop by her website,
where you can buy her CDs and learn more about her music.

Make sure to have tissues handy before watching the video below!

If video doesn't load, click here.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Inner Views of Serena Smith-Williams

"Ah Lord GOD! behold, Thou hast made the heaven and the earth by Thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for Thee..."
Jeremiah 32:17

Today, I am so grateful to be able to introduce (to those of you who are not already acquainted)
a blogger who is a special and consistent blessing to me.
Her wonderful blog is chock full of amazing health and fitness information,
easy-to-understand recipes (many of them kid-tested and approved!),
and beautifully-written encouragement, support, and inspiration.
Her sweet spirit and genuine, caring heart shine through in every post she writes.
I know you are going to enjoy getting to know her,
and you will come to love and appreciate her as much as I do!

With joy and gratitude, I present to you the 
blessed mommy of 3, wife, blogger, actress, health coach, certified personal trainer, and holistic nutritionist,
Serena Smith-Williams.

Cheryl:  Please tell us about yourself.

Serena:  I was born and raised in New Jersey and still live there.

For the most part, my childhood was fine. Even though I was in and out of the hospital and diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 9 (then rediagnosed with Crohn's at the age of 15), my mother always made sure my life was as normal as possible. I had supportive friends and family and did quite fine.

Today, I am married (15 years) and have three children.

Cheryl:  When did you become interested in health and fitness? Who most inspired you to begin this journey? Was there a particular life event that influenced you to become more conscious of your health and the health of your family?

Serena:  Having Crohn's disease urged me to want to do something in the healthcare field. And although my diet wasn't the best, I was always pretty active in my youth.

I played basketball in high school and intramural basketball in college. My major was Psychology, and I even thought about doing Sports Psychology at one point. Then once I graduated I became an ACE certified personal trainer and got accepted into a Masters in Athletic Training program. Although I didn't pursue the program, I remained interested in general health and fitness.

The holistic & natural living aspect didn't happen until just 5 years ago when I took a natural health continuing education course to renew my personal training certification. I got hooked, and the rest is history.

Cheryl:  To those who are not familiar with the term, “holistic”, will you define what it means?

Serena:  Holistic refers to the whole person. In other words mind, body, and spirit. Not just fixing the immediate problem, but healing the origin or source of the problem. For example, if you're experiencing headaches - explore natural remedies (because traditional ones can wreak havoc on your body and cause other problems) to take care of the pain you are having as well as exploring different methods (like stress management, for example) to fix the cause of the headaches.

Cheryl:  Tell us about your blog. What do you most hope to accomplish through it, and what life events first inspired you to begin blogging? How has blogging impacted and enriched your life?

Serena:  I blog over at Simple Holistic Girl. I originally started it to share my experience with Crohn's and my slowly, (at the time), creeping up blood pressure. It soon turned into sharing healthy and natural living tips, natural remedies, workouts, healthy recipes, and more. I also use it as a platform to educate people on popular topics such as ingesting essential oils (being safe) and the process of how our cosmetics end up on the shelves (for example, no FDA approval like some people think).

I have met sooooo many wonderful people, including you, Cheryl, through blogging, and that, in itself, has positively impacted my life!

Cheryl:  Thank you ever so much, Serena!  I count it a Godsent blessing that I have met you, too!  Can you tell us what you are most passionate about?

Serena:  My main passion is arming people with the tools & knowledge to make their own decisions on how to be healthy, since healthy is not the same to everyone. Also, helping people understand that the same solution (even if it is based on research) will NOT work for everyone.

Cheryl:  When did you become a Christian? Who do you consider to be your strongest spiritual mentor? Is there a particular person who has prayed for you most and influenced you in your walk with Christ?

Serena:  I have been in church all my life, but became a Christian when I was a teenager. I would have to say my former youth leaders, who are now pastors at the church we attend, are my strongest spiritual mentors.

One person that has prayed for me the most? Oh, that is most definitely my mother!

Cheryl:  As a Christian wife and mother in these troubled times, what do you consider to be some of our greatest challenges? How do you, personally, rise to the occasion of these challenges?

Serena:  Oh boy....the greatest challenge during these troubled times I think is keeping your faith. And that's not just in God, but in people, mankind, the universe, you name it.

I rise to the occasion by trying to be a little nicer to people (which sometimes can be easier said than done) and appreciate the little things like that warm smile from your neighbor or a friendly encounter with a total stranger, because after these things happen you realize nice people really DO exist in this world!

Cheryl:  What is the most important thing(s) we should be teaching our children?

Serena:  Love and respect to ALL - even if it means you don't get it back.

Cheryl:  How do you balance your home duties as a wife and mother with the demands of your work schedule and blog?

Serena:  I actually do not know....hahaha. It just works out. I only really share a new post once a week on my blog right now because I recognized doing more was way too demanding. I also get to work from home so those days give me an extra two hours put back in my day from not commuting.

I also try not to be on the computer as much as I used to be if everyone is home...keyword is "try"

Cheryl:  We would love to hear about your love story. How did you meet your husband? What is your favorite part of walking through life with him? What is the best marital advice you have ever been given?

Serena:  My husband and I went to the same college. My favorite part of walking through life with him is being with our kids and getting involved more and more in the church.

The best marital advice we have gotten is communication is key, and pray together.

Cheryl:  To the reader who is struggling to lose weight, what advice can you offer? Where should we start? What are some of the most important things we can do to jumpstart a weight loss journey?

Serena:  I think people think too hard when it comes to weight loss, when in reality you can start with simple changes. Simple changes over time will lead to big changes.

For example, I have a blog post entitled: 9 Ways to Lose Weight Without Trying Too Hard (

Those 9 things are: 1) walking, 2) eating more color (meaning colorful fruits & vegetables), 3) drinking more water, 4) keeping a food diary, 5) taking your sauces on the side, 6) limiting your alcohol intake (it contains a lot of calories), 7) choosing beverages (other than water) wisely, 8) choosing your fats wisely, and 9) getting enough sleep.

Cheryl:  What do you consider to be the most effective form(s) of physical exercise? For someone who is severely weight-challenged, can you offer some doable, obtainable steps that would enable them to feel they are making a good start?

Serena:  I think the most effective form of physical exercise is the type that will keep you motivated. I can sit here and say a few different kinds are effective forms of physical exercise, but that doesn't mean that it will have the same effect on everybody. Since everybody is different you need to find the exercise that is easy enough for you to stick with, but hard enough to challenge you, and most of all produces results so you'll continue to be motivated.

I think the best form of exercise to start with, even for those that are severely weight-challenged is walking. Walking is an activity of daily living and will build up your stamina and endurance the more you keep at it. Even if you cannot physically walk fast it makes a good start and you can slowly build up over time. You can eventually even turn it into a jog and even a run and the best thing about walking is, it's free.

Cheryl:  Obesity is often accompanied by severe depression and feelings of hopelessness. If you were sitting across the table, having coffee with someone in this dark place, what would you say to them?

Serena:  First, make sure that your severe depression doesn't warrant outside help. It is important to recognize when you need additional support so that it doesn't turn into something more. Having the proper tools in place will also help you reach your goals.

Once you put those steps/tools in place, then I would suggest you start keeping a journal/diary.

In that journal I suggest you write down your daily activities, including things like, what you eat, how you felt before and after you ate, what time you ate, how much sleep you got, your emotions for the day, your daily stressors, what were you doing before grabbing that bag of chips, etc. This way you can start to see how one thing connects to another. Perhaps you will figure out that you need to cut a certain individual out of your life. Or perhaps you'll realize you need to change jobs or maybe that one food item causes you to feel sick.

Cheryl:  When working as a health coach, what have you found to be your most effective tools in motivating someone to start a weight loss and fitness journey?

Serena:  Helping them find their "why". Everyone's reason and motivation will be different on starting a weight loss journey so it's up to the individual (not me) to find their own motivation and reason to succeed. The journey and destination is ultimately theirs, I just help them get started heading in the right direction.

Cheryl:  To the reader who has tried multiple weight loss tactics, only to repeatedly fail, what would you like to say?

Serena:  Write down everything you have tried, and then figure out what you need to do differently. If you have been doing the same thing over and over again, guess what? Chances are it's not going to work the 4th and 5th time you try it either.

And if you have been trying different methods already, then you need to evaluate why they are not working. Are they pills you're trying to take to make the weight "magically" disappear? Are you excessively exercising, but not changing your diet? Did it work for your friend/spouse/sister/cousin, so you figured it would work for you, too?

Go back to the basics and practice small changes first, like the ones I mentioned above.  (
1) walking, 2) eating more color (meaning colorful fruits & vegetables), 3) drinking more water, 4) keeping a food diary, 5) taking your sauces on the side, 6) limiting your alcohol intake (it contains a lot of calories), 7) choosing beverages (other than water) wisely, 8) choosing your fats wisely, and 9) getting enough sleep.)

Cheryl:  There are many things about your blog that I love, one of them being the way you develop recipes that are kid-tested and approved. How do you come up with the recipes on your blog? How do you convince your kids to try them?

Serena:  I simply think about what we love to eat and go from there. I will sometimes even just peruse certain sections of the grocery store, like the produce section, and think of things I can do with a certain food item. Instagram also serves as a source of inspiration.

My kids are more apt to try new recipes if it's in a form they are already familiar with, like cookies, brownies, and pancakes. I sometimes will even ask them what they want me to make and go from there.

Cheryl:  What are your favorite Bible verses, hymns, books, and other resources to turn to in times of discouragement?

Serena:  After starting my blog, I wanted to use a special verse and came up with Genesis 1:29 - Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole Earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food." It's not the only verse in the Bible that has to do with food, of course, but it's one that I have grown to love regarding food.

It's so easy to find resources to turn to in times of discouragement, especially with technology and social media. I use the YouVersion Bible App. You can find Bible lesson plans for certain topics, and it delivers a verse of the day right to your inbox if you choose. And their Instagram account posts Bible verses using the most beautiful pictures!

My other go to social media accounts for encouragement are Proverbs 31 Ministries, Women Living Well, and Thrive Moms.

Cheryl:  Looking back over your life, will you share a time of intense trial that you have walked through? How did your faith in God sustain you during those difficult days?

Serena:  I will have to say when my Crohn's disease flared up. Those were some trying times. The pain could be so unbearable, I wondered if I would ever pull through, but then I remembered God pulled me through all the other times, so why would He fail me now?

Cheryl:  At the end of your life, what legacy would you most like to leave behind?

Serena:  I would love for people to remember me for my spunkiness 😀, yet kindness and love.

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you in this current season?

Serena:  A prayer for my finances, marriage, business, and family. Both to have success and a hedge of protection around everyone and everything.

I am so grateful to you, Serena, for taking the time to visit with us,
to share your heart, and to answer our questions in such a helpful, supportive way!
I have enjoyed this interview so much and thank you from the bottom of my heart!
My prayer is that God will honor your request and send abundant blessings
and continual protection to you and your sweet family.

And, thank you, dear readers, for reading and for adding Serena and her family to your
individual prayer lists.

I hope you will take the time to go by and visit Serena's blog, leave her an encouraging comment,
 and consider becoming a follower/subscriber!
And, for all of you who are health-conscious,
she is offering a 14 Day Smoothie Challenge that you may be interested in participating in!
I just joined and can't wait to get the daily recipes!
Thank you again, Serena.
You are a blessing to us all, my friend!

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