The Story of Elle and Emma and Ecuador

About two months ago, my business partners and I launched the grand opening of our non-profit, Elle + Emma’s Bake Shop, which was the realization of years of envisioning and contemplating. Elle + Emma’s is a mission’s-based bake shop that partners with missionaries and Christian mission’s organizations in order to help fund the projects necessary to spread the Gospel and bring relief to those in the most dire need. By definition, to go on mission is to step outside of one’s personal boundaries, to cross over into foreign territory with the sole purpose of sharing Christ.

Without question, surrendering one’s life to Christ in this way takes courage, discipline, a selfless attitude and the perspective that the Great Commission was never meant to be the Great Suggestion. I shared in my last worship post that doing the work of a missionary is worship because worship is indicated by our obedience to God’s word. Thus, the launching of Elle + Emma’s denotes a practical acknowledgement of the Great Commission.

Taking all of this one step further, though, Elle and Emma actually engage in missions work along with baking the sweet treats folks buy to help fund the work of missionaries. But, who is Elle, and who is Emma, right?! Good question! It is quite a random story surrounding the naming of our business, but simply put, Elle and Emma are all actual people. In fact, they are us (my sisters and I). Alexis, my youngest sister, who goes by “Lexi” is L (or Elle). Amber, our middle sister, whose middle name is Nicole is “N” (or and). Then you have yours truly! I am Ashley, the eldest sister. My middle name is Marie (think of the “em” sound) and I am the Emma of the motley crew! I cannot begin to express to you how one brainstorming session to name our business produced such a wonderful collaboration of characters! lol

Although Elle is embarking on a mission’s trip of epic proportions, I would like to highlight my upcoming mission’s trip. In June of this year, I will be heading to Ecuador to serve the people in need in that South American country. Whether loving on orphan children, leading worship, teaching Vacation Bible School, spending quality time with the native people, or building a place for worship or learning, I will have an amazing opportunity to share Jesus in everything I do. This may sound cliche or uninteresting, but it’s truly an amazing opportunity for me to step outside my comfort zone and smack dab into the middle of an adventure with Christ. Sometimes I think we believe–and consequently cause the world to believe–this faith walk is boring or monotonous. Since the God we serve is so expansive and endless, when we find our walk is becoming boring, we may need to check our devotion to living obedient lives to Christ…because Christ is always challenging us beyond where we are comfortable!

My upcoming trip to Ecuador is definitely a test of my obedience and willingness to exit the zone of comfort and enter the zone of adventure! I am truly excited. So, if you would like to help me get into the field this summer to share Jesus, if you are passionate about making Christ’s name famous, or if you just have a heart for helping others, feel free to donate to help make this trip possible. I have a goal of $2,500…and believe me a little help from you will go a long way! I am going into the field with an organization called Adventures in Missions. Please feel free to check them out before deciding whether to head over to my mission’s fund link!

If you are interested in more information about Elle + Emma’s Bake Shop or if you would like to purchase your gourmet goodies, please visit our website! www.elleandemmas.com

Again, my mission’s fund link is http://www.gofundme.com/ashleymariegray.

Thank you in advance for you readership, support, and donations!

Cheers to Exiting the Comfort Zone!

Xx,

-AMG

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Are You the Wise Woman?

Proverbs 14:1 says, ” A wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Wow! What a succinct but powerful statement! Although this scripture mentions that a woman builds her house, I think it is safe to say that Solomon (the writer of the Book of Proverbs) is not talking literal bricks here. When I think of the word house in this context, I think of people– husband, children, extended family, pets (is it a bit of a stretch to add Fido in?). So, for this particular post, I really want to focus on how a woman can build up her king, her husband, her covering.

Much pressure is put on the man to be the provider, protector, defender, superman, problem-solver, so forth and so on. Essentially, society looks at the man as the one who can handle it all. However, as I have been thinking on this topic lately, I have come to personal terms with the fact that this not how God views men; nor is this the expectation He places on them. In fact, why would scriptures such as Matthew 11:28 exist that encourage people (men and women) to bring their heavy burdens to Christ? Why would Philippians 4:19 exist if men were actually the providers? Let’s relieve some of this pressure by understanding that God is the quintessential EVERYTHING we need, not our husbands. The husband is–among other things–the leader of the home, the one who facilitates order, hears from God and prophesies over his home, leads the family into worship, and stewards well what the Lord provides. And, when there seems to be a shortage or lack in some area, the man seeks the Lord for direction and puts his hand to the plow. So, yes, the man works diligently to provide (thank God for my hubs!). Keeping this all in proper perspective, though, God is the ultimate provider, strength, foundation, problem-solver, protector, and defender as it relates to the family life.

With all of this said, how can a woman (queen) build up her man (king) as he seeks God, walks in his ministry call, builds his business, leads the family, presses through hardship, etc.? There are several ways this can be done, especially since you know your mate best. However, I have come up with a short list of things I think are universally helpful as we wives endeavor to edify our husbands, making them feel appreciated, valued, loved, and respected. As you integrate these practices into your daily marriage life to give your relationship a pick-me-up, not only will you build up your husband, but your children will experience the joy and benefits of witnessing a healthy, happy marriage!

  1. Build him up with words. Ladies, believe it or not, your husband needs you to tell him he is doing a good job. He needs you to tell him how manly or great he is, looks, or smells. Lately I’ve been telling Devin he smells so manly to let him know I love his cologne/smell goods collection (and just for a good laugh). Whether that will fly with you and your guy, idk! Hahaha. If your husband is going through a rough patch, don’t expect him to handle it alone. It is scientifically proven that men use fewer words than women, so don’t expect your hubby to come to you like a natural Wendy Williams and spill his guts. Not going to happen! Instead, you take the initiative to pray, speak over his life, and invite him (not force him) to tell you what is going on in his world, his heart, his life outside of the home.
    2. Surprise him. Show your husband you are thinking about him! Nothing builds a man up more than knowing his one-and-only still thinks he’s absolutely divine! Whether this is a spontaneous date night, a video game he’s been wanting, a card with a heartfelt note written inside, a free pass to hang with his guys on a weekend he was supposed to watch the kids, or something more “intimate,” make sure it is obviously from your heart and not just something you threw together. Men love surprises, too! I remember I sent roses to Devin’s job once and it was a big hit with him (and his co-workers). It was suuuuper out-of-the-box but I wanted to let him know I was thinking about him.
  2. Say “I love you” often. When was the last time you professed those three special words to your husband? Regardless of your personality type, your husband needs to hear these words often. I am more of an introverted and shy personality, which means I have to be intentional about sharing my fondest thoughts of my husband with my husband, not just thinking them–because he can’t read my mind. You should say “I love you,” but you can text it, email it, FB it, Instagram it, write in on the mirror with lipstick. I don’t know! Just let the man know you love him…and then still be nice (because nothing is worse than an “I love you” followed by a “I thought I told you to…” rant.)
  3. Laugh together. Nothing will remind you of the foundation of friendship you have with your king more than laughter. It tears down walls between wives and husbands, takes away the inhibitions, and just lets us be ourselves together. I can’t put this more simply. Just get together and laugh. We are up against so much in the day-to-day that a good laugh a day will be medicine for your relationship! Guarantee 🙂

Cheers to being the wise woman.

Xx,

  • AMG

You Are Not Excluded

Looking at the banner photo of Devin and me, you probably assumed that the King + Queen segment of my blog is solely about marriage. Didn’t ya? 🙂 It’s okay…but I just wanted to clarify that this segment will address relationships, character-building, overcoming challenges in relationships, what I’ve learned in the first few years of marriage, and anything I feel could benefit us in our relationships with our spouses, significant others, and even in relationship to our Ultimate King–Christ.

With this said, I want to encourage all of my single friends/readers that you are not excluded…and I don’t just mean from this section of the blog. We live in a society that puts great emphasis on relationships, marriage, being in love, being with someone forever and always, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge proponent of marriage as God intended and I LOVE a good Nicholas Sparks novel, movie, meme, anything really. I get so sappy over the stories where a guy and girl grew up loving each other since they were five years old, grew apart, but always knew they would end up together. I love the stuff! My second favorite holiday–and I am completely shameless about this–is Valentine’s Day! In short, I LOVE love, ya’ll.

What I am saying, though, is that you ought not feel less-than in any way because you are single. It may not be the relationship status you thought would characterize your life at this stage–whether because you have never dated, had a bad break-up, or because you are divorced. Regardless of why you are single, it does not HAVE to characterize you in a negative way. Look at this as a moment in time where you can grow, mature, heal, save, travel, learn to love, start your business, broaden your social circle, go into your prayer closet more deeply…the options are endless. Whatever you do, understand above all that you are valued, treasured, and given a purpose by Christ Himself.

So, if you have been down and out, peeved that Valentine’s Day is around the corner, still embarrassed from how your mom called you out at Christmas for not having a significant other, or angry that he/she broke up with you after years of commitment, know that you are not excluded. Even if you are indifferent about your singleness and are living it up, know that you are not excluded. You have your place in the body of Christ, in the ministry, in your career, while you pursue your Master’s, as a light among your peers, wherever. And, as one of my favorite chick preachers, Christine Cain, says, “embrace your place!” Don’t run from this place in your life. Embrace EVERY season as it comes with its challenges, joys, accomplishments, and pit-stops. I guarantee you EVERY season of life has them, friends.

All of this said, you (and everyone) are welcome here. This blog, this page about relationship and marriage, is open to all who desire to read! Enjoy!

Cheers to Wearing YOUR Crown Well.

Xx,

-AMG