" Are you willing to bank on financials?" by: John Sample

   We started off the New Year with 5 of the first six days having the equities markets climbing higher. There are some that would say that such a move is a positive indicator for equities for all of 2019. 
   I am sorry but I find that about as reliable as flipping a coin. I am concerned on that point as I have a 50-cent piece that I use to mark my ball when I play golf and we play a game where you flip to see who your partner is going to be on each hole. This coin comes up consistently heads. It would seem that the face of the coin would be heavier and therefore it would end up down but it doesn’t. 
   I have no explanation but have come to grips with the fact that it is going to come up heads. 


Are you prepared for a natural disaster?

   The year ahead offers new opportunities and experiences.
   But as you make plans throughout 2019, be mindful of the things that can derail those plans – such as natural disasters.
   Every area around the country is subject to natural disasters, whether they’re wildfires, hurricanes or tornadoes.
   How can you prepare for them?
   For starters, always maintain adequate homeowners insurance – and keep up with the premiums.
   Also, you might want to videotape the contents of your home, as this will make the claims process much easier.
   And if you have important papers, such as estate planning documents, think about keeping them in a secure place such as a safety deposit box at a local bank.
   On the digital side, know your passwords for your important financial accounts.
   To have cash readily available following a disaster, try to maintain an emergency fund containing several months’ worth of living expenses.


"The word of God always meets us where we are" by: Betsy Monico

   Christmas gifting for four teens challenged my finances and creativity this year. 
   They asked for clothes and shopped for themselves. Our daily conversations in December were centered on their latest discoveries, and if I would grant permission to purchase. 
   My oldest helped on Cyber Monday with electronics. Little sister was happy! 
   We intentionally shopped local too. 
   Visiting from shop to shop blessed me! There is something to be said about a small town. 
   One merchant reminded me to not to just take up a pew on Sundays, but do something! I needed her words of wisdom. 
   While marking items off of my list, I laughed with old friends, new friends, and joyfully spent money here at home with “my people.” 
   My dentist practices in Dallas; therefore, I traditionally schedule a morning appointment before Christmas and make a fast dash around the metroplex. 


"Most people know we’ve been given grace, we don’t realize the magnitude" by: Caleb Gibson

   “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 
   As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 
   Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:35-37) (KJV)
   This word loved is in the past tense, it means that before we were even born, God loved you. Long ago, God set His heart on you. 
   This is not a picture of you barely crossing the finish line, running out of breath, about to fall over. 
   No, this a picture of you at the end of barefoot marathon, booking it in a full sprint! You are more than a conqueror.
   The King James Version says, “I’m persuaded”. Paul was saying, in essence, that he was convinced. 
   The case for grace was one he believed in. 

"Reel Reviews: ‘Upside’ is a little overused, but it has positive message" by: Jessica Shepard

   Surprisingly, “The Upside” has toppled “Aquaman” to be No. 1 at box offices during its debut weekend with over $21.6 million in worldwide earnings.
   The film is technically a remake of a remake and based on a true story.
   Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, a Corsican French businessman who is the Director of Pommery and was the owner of an inherited historic Hôtel Particulier in Paris used as a function hall.
   He became a diabetic quadriplegic in 1993 following a paragliding accident.
   His life story inspired several other biographical films including Upside.
   Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston headline the movie with fellow actors Nicole Kidman, Julianna Margulies, and Aja Naomi King rounding out the cast.
   The film follows a paralyzed billionaire Phillip Lacasse (Cranston) who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a recently paroled convict Dell Scott (Hart) whom he hires to take care of him.


"Letter to the editor: Swimming in Matagorda County"

     It’s 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 2, school is not back in session following the holidays, and it’s just a plain nasty, nasty day - 49 degrees, raining, cold and wet.  
   On my way home after a light workout at the nice, warm and comfortable Anytime Fitness, where I barely worked up a sweat, I drove by our outdoor 16th Street pool and sat and watched for a while in some admiration.   
   There I witnessed about 20 young athlete swimmers pulling off the heavy pool covers, engaging in a rigorous workout, replacing the covers, and then sprinting for the warmth of the locker rooms.  
   Coach Bob Button, under an umbrella and himself cold and wet, paced the deck, conducting the workout.   
   The thought of discipline, commitment, and dedication came to my mind - a teaching experience and growth for the youth of our community.   


"Making sure I don’t become one of Texas’ influenza victims" by: Jessica Shepard

  Since Texas is now the number two state out of the top 10 with flu activity, I’m definitely carrying hand sanitizer everywhere I go. 
   I’m also looking into getting my flu shot and possibly investing in disposable face shields/masks. 
   I hate being sick out of every little pet peeve or personal preference – sickness is the absolute pits! 
   In my 30-plus years of life, I’ve only ever diagnosed with the flu once, which makes me pretty lucky. 
   Thankfully, I was in college at the time and with a simple email to my professors I was excused until I could get well. 
   The worst part about having the flu was being eight hours from home. 
   Naturally, I headed home to rest up and recuperate with a little help from mom. 
   I’d been living in the dorms at the time and it’s just not the best atmosphere for riding out the flu, or any sickness for that matter. 


"It’s a new year and there are new chances to take " by: John Sample

   Well 2019 has at least gotten off to a good start in in no small amount due to the resurgence in the value of Amazon.  
   It is now the most valuable listed company surpassing Microsoft. I heard a CNBC analyst project the company would double in value from this level above $1,650.  I have no opinion on that but that any positive move along with the other FANG stocks will do nothing but help the market move north.  
   Along with that good news, it appears the Federal Reserve realizes that raising interest rates in the near future is unwarranted. Moreover, trade talks with China are progressing. You take all of this, along with the significant job growth gains announced last Friday, and the economy is not nearly on life support as some suggested. 
   While I tend to think that we have hit a bottom, it will take time to prove such.  


What’s keeping you from protecting your family’s future?

   If you were no longer around, could your family members maintain their lifestyle?  
   Could they even stay in their home?  Could your children still go to college?  
   All these outcomes might still be possible – if you had sufficient life insurance. 
   Unfortunately, too many people are uninsured. But why? 
   Some people just don’t like talking about death, so they postpone thinking about life insurance.  
   And some say they have other financial priorities – paying their mortgage, car loans, and so on.  
   Of course, these bills must be paid – but should they really take precedence over life insurance that can protect your loved ones? 
   Finally, many people mistakenly believe that life insurance is too expensive. In reality, though, some types of insurance are quite affordable.  
   A financial professional can help you find coverage that’s appropriate for your needs and your budget. 


"New year, new semester brings new opportunities" by: Betsy Monico

   Tomorrow officially marks the first day of the New Year for me. Jan. 1 included black eyed peas, cornbread, and my favorite, cabbage.  
   We also briefly tossed around the idea of resolutions here. However, the first day back to school is when I really see fireworks and think new beginnings!   
   I assume other educators agree. We get a generous Christmas vacation that continues on way past the New Year.  
   Thus, we mentally postpone the idea of transformation. 
   Now that we have a house full of teens - the late nights, lazy mornings, unscheduled meals, trips to the movies and friends coming and going lasts for what seems like forever!  
   We do have a revolving door, and I love it!  
   Come tomorrow morning at 7, it all comes to an abrupt, somewhat screeching, halt for me personally.  
   I go back to school and for the first time in many years, full-time. 
   Prayers appreciated!  


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