Sunday, March 31, 2013

Opening Night baseball

My Opening Day of baseball string continues, but in a little different way. After last year's debacle of extremely overpriced tickets and parking way far out due to tailgaters without a ticket, we saw the Rangers open on the road tonight.

There were as many Ranger fans as Astros fans in Houston for the first game of all of Major League Baseball. We were there for the Astros first game in the American League.

By the way the Rangers were launching balls in batting practice, we thought it was going to be a great game for us. We were wrong. Very wrong. To the tune of 8-2.

It was worth it, even though I had to drive through a crazy thunderstorm with hail.

Nelson Cruz chasing down a ball, right after he flubbed up the play the last time the ball came to him.
There's nothing like watching a ball game in air conditioning in Texas.
They had to open the doors early because the thunderstorm was about to hit Houston.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Beautifying my view

I am not much on yard work, but I am hoping to keep my new plants alive so I will have a nice view from the sunroom. That has been my Easter weekend project.

The plants I have kept alive up to this point are looking rough. I am hoping my palms and pineapples perk back up in better sunlight and access to rain.

In addition to my new rose bushes, I planted morning glories to grow up the world's largest backyard TV antenna still in existence. I also threw out a whole bag of Texas wildflower seed. The bag said it was enough to cover 500 sq feet and was guaranteed to grow, so I better end up with blue bonnets. I am not holding my breath, but a girl can hope.

I also bought plants for inside my sunroom which now feels like a sunroom rather than a catch all now that I have all the boxes that were in there put away. I really hope I don't kill the banana tree this time. Now Dad can make a coconut tree short of a pink coulda jokes. Seriously! Auto correct is stupid. Pina colada. How is coulda an actual word?

And yes, I am aware the palm tree already more than touches the ceiling.

Friday, March 29, 2013

For Every Decision, There is A Consequence

 An interview with Lisa T. Bergren,
Author of Grave Consequences

There was a time when a months-long trip across Europe to see the sites, soak in the culture, and learn the history brought an end to a young person’s formal education. In The Grand Tour series, best-selling and award-winning author Lisa T. Bergren becomes the tour guide, vividly painting the landscapes and historical events that shaped Europe one hundred years ago, transporting readers back to 1913. Next on the itinerary is the release of Grave Consequences (David C Cook/March 1, 2013/ISBN 978-1434764324/$14.99), a powerful, captivating story of a woman searching to find herself, opening her heart to love, and discovering what a covenant truly means.

Q: Grave Consequences is the second book in your Grand Tour series. A Grand Tour was popular among the wealthy a century ago. What exactly was a Grand Tour and what purpose did it serve?

It was considered a way to “finish” one’s education or prepare for a life in society from about the 16th century on. Travelers, many of them from England, went from England over to “the Continent,” and traveled through France, Germany, Austria, and Italy. They sometimes went to Greece and Spain, too, but for my purposes, and because my troop only had a summer, I abbreviated their trip. The purpose was to see major monuments and works of art, as well as meet people who might assist the young people in the future to “get ahead.”

Q: I’ve heard you like to travel. Were you able to go on your own Grand Tour of Europe to research for this series?

For a long time I fantasized about a year away with my family, traveling Europe for the most part. But even as that dream grew and I started writing this series, God began funneling my attentions back to home. He’s created a new fire for us in our ministry close to home, so we couldn’t picture leaving. And a serious lack of funds for such an adventure made it even clearer! Still, we’ve managed to go to England, France, and Italy, so I had some good research to work from.

Q: What is the theme that runs deep throughout the Grand Tour series?

It’s an ongoing search for identity. When everything you know about yourself and your foundations is destroyed, how do you find your identity again? In a way that can never be “destroyed” again? It’s in our identity in Christ, of course. That’s what Cora is uncovering, piece by piece. She began in Glamorous Illusions, she gets a bit lost and confused in Grave Consequences, but it will really come to a satisfying end in Glittering Promises.

Q: Cora stubbornly believes she will be able to return to her old life when she returns from her months-long trip. Can we ever really “go home again” or “go back to the way things were” and not be changed by the events and circumstances in life?

I think we can go home again. But to think it will be the same is foolish. We’re forever being molded and grown and pruned and changed in life. We can return home, but we return an evolved person.

Q: Would you say God puts circumstances in our lives in order for us to grow and change?

I’d say he uses every single factor in our life to bring us face to face with him. He longs for us. And fortunately for us, this tough world often makes us turn to him.

Q: The theme of parents leading their children to make certain decisions affects several of the characters in Grave Consequences. Do you think parents today still tend to send their children on the paths that they believe is right for them rather than letting their young adult children discover their own direction?

Oddly, I think this has become an issue for parents and children again. Back in Cora’s era, futures were heavily directed by parents. Now, parents are trying to dictate their children’s lives, too. Make it easier. Pave the way, instead of allowing them to find their own.

Q: One of the lines from the book’s summary reads, “For every decision, good or bad, there is always a consequence.” The word consequence usually has a negative connotation.  Do even good decisions have negative consequences?

Every decision does result in consequences, but I wouldn’t say they’re always bad. I’m fascinated by looking back at decisions my ancestors made, or I made, and to think about what would’ve happened had any of us taken different roads. It makes it all the more important to seek out God’s guidance!

Learn more about Lisa T. Bergren and Grave Consequences at her online home, Readers can also join Bergren’s Facebook fan page or follow her on Twitter.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Susan May Warren Talks Duchess

An interview with Susan May Warren, Author of Duchess

Best-selling Susan May Warren brings what she considers to be her most ambitious series yet to a dramatic close in her latest release, Duchess (Summerside Press / March 1, 2013 / ISBN 978-1-609367718/ $14.99). The Daughters of Fortune series is an epic generational series following the family of New York newspaper magnate August Price from the Gilded Age to the end of World War II. Each generation of Price women must navigate love and ambition in a world of wealth, power and social expectation.

In this final installment, Duchess, readers pick up the story of Rosie Worth, who has achieved her dream of becoming a starlet and is now known as Roxy Price. The golden age of Hollywood is in the business of creating stars, and Roxy has found everything she’s wanted in the glamour of the silver screen. With adoring fans and a studio-mogul husband, she’s finally silenced the voices — and grief — of the past. Her future shines bright, that is until the fated Black Friday when it all comes crashing down.

Q: Each story in the Daughters of Fortune series carries with it a parable or moral lesson, more subtle to some readers than others. What is the message you hope your audience will take away from Duchess?

I really feel for Rosie in this story. By now, she’s has her heart broken by her father, lost her true love, given up so much of herself, and she comes into this story hoping that finally, she’ll find a future. She believes if her audience loves her that will fill up all her broken, hollow places. But it isn’t until she is able to take her eyes off herself that discovers true happiness. I believe so many people are thirsty for love, for the hope that God shows them, and that He will fix their broken hearts. He will, and Duchess is the proof of this truth, through Rosie’s life.

Q: In what ways does the series come full circle by the end of Duchess?

Oh, I can’t give away any spoilers! But I love this story because the things lost or broken in books one and two are revisited . . . and in many ways healed. Most of all, Rosie and the rest of the Daughters of Fortune discover God had a plan in it all, from the beginning. I based this story on Jacob and Esau, and then Joseph and Benjamin, and very much on, “What man meant for evil, God meant for good.” This truth is played out in the final chapters of Duchess.

Q: This is a little bit of a spoiler, but do any of the Price women find the real love and true happiness they have been searching out?

Yes. Of course. It’s a Susan May Warren novel! But it might be a different kind of happiness than they imagined.

Q: In Duchess, the characters live through events such as Black Friday and the aftermath of the Night of Broken Glass. Could you share a little bit of the history behind both of these dates and how they impacted your characters?

Black Friday is briefly touched on in the beginning of the first section of the novel — it shaped the fates of so many wealthy people who believed their worth was found in their wealth. When they lost it, they lost their identity. Rosie is affected by this, and she has to discover who she is, also, after this terrible event. It’s part of her journey — stripping away of who she believes she is to discover something more.

The Night of the Broken Glass was the official beginning of the Nazi pogroms to destroy the Jewish population.  Many people believe it was planned long before it happened, and the Nazis were simply waiting for a suitable moment to enact it. As it was, it started with the assassination of a German diplomat in Switzerland by a Jewish man (some say he was framed), and it rippled throughout Europe in an attack on all Jews. Through Austria and Germany, Jews were ousted from their homes and places of business, made to watch helplessly on as they were destroyed. Those who resisted were beaten, and the worst was their fellow man stood by and watched, or participated. Those who tried to help were also beaten and arrested. I built this moment in as an opportunity for Rosie to look beyond herself . . . and really invest in the lives of others. It’s a watershed moment for her that is used in the final part of her journey. I hope she pays attention!

Q: What are some of the most interesting things you learned about 1930s Hollywood while writing Duchess?

Where do I start? The most fascinating piece was the making of movie stars and how they were groomed by the studios. The studio had a machine, and they put actors and actresses through it in a grueling transformation — including the kind that made Jean Harlowe’s blonde hair fall out! Also, it was news to me that actors and actresses were signed onto a studio via a term contract — and paid per week, not per movie. If they decided to quit, their pay was held back until they agreed to come back to work. And they could be loaned out to other studios. So, let’s say Jean Harlow (the first bombshell) signed a contract with Warner Brothers for $1000/week. She could be loaned out to MGM for $3000/week and never see a dime of this. This is why United Artists was formed by Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith — so they could control their own destinies. The studio controlled everything, including who they dated, their publicity schedule and what they wore. Their lives were not their own.

Not that they suffered. Movie stars, even more than now, were considered American royalty.

Q: Which do you enjoy writing more, historical or contemporary novels?

Oh, I love them both, but historicals require more research — and I love research! I love to dive into the period and learn all I can about every aspect of it. So, the writing is more fascinating with a historical.

Q: What kind of “crazy things” do you do while you are writing a historical novel?

I wear period clothing (especially shoes). I play period music. I watch movies and read books set in the era, and attempt to read books set in the era. For example, I read Emily Post’s etiquette book for Heiress and read the tabloids of the times for Duchess.

Q: You encourage authors always to visit — in person or virtually — the locations where the book takes place. Are there any places you’ve been unable to get to that you would like to visit one day? Do you have any trips planned?

I was able to visit Hollywood for my research for Duchess . . . and of course New York and Montana for Heiress. I wasn’t able to fit in a trip to Paris for Baroness. However, I’m taking that trip in April, and I can’t wait to see the places I researched and dreamed about! I think I’ll bring the book with me!

A full listing of Warren’s titles, reviews and awards can be found at Readers can also keep up with her on Facebook (Susan May Warren Fiction) and Twitter (@SusanMayWarren). 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What Does it Look Like When You Lead Your Family Like Jesus?

Leadership experts Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges

team up with parenting mentor Tricia Goyer

to present a revolutionary approach to parenting


Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager® (a New York Times Best Seller for two years), has teamed up with his Lead Like Jesus co-founder Phil Hodges, and author/parenting expert Tricia Goyer to release Lead Your Family Like Jesus: Powerful Parenting Principles from the Creator of Families (March 25, 2013/ISBN 978-1-58997-720-4, HC, $19.99, Tyndale House Publishers). Recognized as one of the world’s top business leadership experts, Blanchard now looks to Jesus, the greatest leader of all time, as the model for this new, revolutionary parenting book.

Does your family need a five-star general at the helm? A psychologist? A referee? Lead Your Family Like Jesus, points to a better role model. In Lead Your Family Like Jesus, the authors show how every family member benefits when parents take the reins as servant-leaders. Moms and dads will see themselves in an entirely new light—as life-changers who get their example, strength, and joy from following Jesus at home.

The book begins by explaining that leadership is an influence process and that anyone who influences the thinking, behavior, or development of others is a leader—making parenting the most important life role leadership position most people ever hold. Offering practical examples from real-life parents, the authors then encourage the alignment of four leadership domains:
  • Heart - the character and values employed in influencing children
  • Head - one’s viewpoint and beliefs about leading
  • Hands - what a parent actually does while leading and influencing
  • Habits - how a parent must continually refocus his or her desires to lead as Jesus would do.
Published in cooperation with Focus on the Family, this book provides 12 powerful parenting principles, which are easily extendable to grandparents and other caring adults within a family; Pause and Reflect questions; and Points to Ponder—making it an excellent selection for both personal reading and group discussion.

This user-friendly book’s practical principles and personal stories mark the path to a truly Jesus-centered family, where integrity, love, grace, self-sacrifice, and forgiveness make all the difference.

“When my kids were young, I often used Ken Blanchard's business books to train my children. I knew that as a mom I was a leader, and the more I had my act together the better I could lead the troops,” says Goyer. “A mutual friend encouraged me to put together some ideas to share with Ken for Lead Like Jesus for Families at the same time Focus on the Family approached Ken with the same concept. Maybe God was speaking to a few hearts!”

“What I love about this book is that it reminds us of our role as parents,” Goyer continues. “Any time we are trying to influence the thoughts, behaviors, and development of another person we are a leader. If this isn't the definition of a parent I don't know what is!”

Goyer is teaming up with fellow Focus on the Family/Tyndale author Tracey Eyster (Be the Mom: Overcome Attitude Traps and Enjoy Your Kids) for the Lead, Momma Lead webcast on April 16 at 8:00 PM EDT. During the event, Goyer and Eyster will offer encouragement to moms based on their respective books and interact with participants by asking questions submitted during the webcast. Moms can join the live event via Tricia Goyer’s Facebook Page.

Click here to RSVP!

Visit for more information about the book, the authors and for free family resources.

About the Authors

Ken Blanchard:
Leadership expert and author of over 50 books, including the New York Times bestseller, The One-Minute Manager®; co-founder of Lead Like Jesus; and coauthor of Lead Like Jesus; Lessons from the Greatest Leadership Role Model of All Time.

Phil Hodges:
A human resource and industrial relations manager in corporate America for 36 years with Xerox Corporation and U.S. Steel, co-founder of Lead Like Jesus; co-author of five books, including Lead Like Jesus, The Servant Leader and Leadership by the Book with Bill Hybels.

Tricia Goyer:
Bestselling author of more than 33 books, including nine non-fiction releases, and more than five hundred articles for national publications; selected as one of the Top Moms to Follow on Twitter in 2010 by; popular blog contributor, Teen Mops mentor, speaker, and radio host.

Click her to enter!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Enter Regina Jennings' Love in the Balance Kindle giveaway!

Regina Jennings is celebrating the release of
Love in the Balance with a Kindle Fire Giveaway
and a Facebook Author Chat Party on 4/4!


One "lovely" winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire 
  • A copy of Regina's Sixty Acres and a Bride and Love in the Balance
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 3rd. Winner will be announced at the "Love in the Balance" Author Chat Party on April 4th. Connect with Regina, get a sneak peek of her next book, try your hand at a trivia contest, and chat with readers just like you. There will also be many fun giveaways -- gift certificates, books, and more!

So grab your copy of Love in the Balance and join Regina on the evening of April 4th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 4th!

About the book:

Handsome Cowboy or Debonair Tycoon.

How’s a Girl to Choose?

Molly Lovelace dreams of a life without cares in Lockhart, Texas. She also dreams of handsome wrangler Bailey Garner, her ardent but inconsistent beau. The problem is, with Bailey’s poor prospects, she just can’t fit the two dreams together.

Then mysterious stranger Edward Pierrepont sweeps into town–and her life–and for the first time Molly wonders if she’s met the man who can give her everything. But he won’t be in Lockhart long and while it certainly seems like he talks about their glorious future together, she can’t quite get Bailey out of her mind.

What’s a girl to do with all these decisions when love is in the balance?

Purchase a copy here.

Read an excerpt here.

About the author:

Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a history minor. She has worked at The Mustang News and First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She now lives outside Oklahoma City with her husband and four children.

Monday, March 25, 2013

With Love and Affection

I'm either getting old, senile, psychic or all of the above. Psychic more in the "plan to write something and it seems like I did, but maybe I'm just planning it for the future" kind of way rather than predictive. 

That said, I can't remember if I told the first part of this, so I'll tell this part again. Maybe I shared it just on Facebook. Anyhow!

A couple of weeks ago, I was actually getting the local paper because they were making it free to "new residents" or maybe just people who moved and had a new address. I don't know if the City of Corsicana water department sold them a list or if they are in cahoots with the postal service or what. 
Whatever the case may be, I got a newspaper in the mail (because they mail them which makes it less than news when it arrives, but I digress). 

On the front page on this given day, there was an article about Matthew and Gunnar Nelson performing at the Palace Theater in town. They are touring the country doing a Ricky Nelson Remembered tribute show in honor of their father. 

To most people, this would be a non-event. This is Corsicana, TX, after all. There's not a lot that goes on around here. It's the land where little things seem more impressive. However, when I was in 8th grade I loved the rock group Nelson and had a poster of the long-haired twins on my wall. This was a blast from my past.

I called my mother, who bought me their cassette when I was in jr. high and well saw this poster on my wall and asked her, "why didn't you tell me Nelson was going to be at the Palace?"

"Yeah, I saw that," she says un-enthusiastically. "Somebody was talking about that or..." Whatever her response was, it was rather blah. Fine. Be that way. I left a message for Jenny. I figured she would find this information the least bit interesting.

Later that afternoon, Dad came over to help me inspect my painting job of the living room. I tell him, "I called Mom about this thing at the Palace and got the lamest response."

"You need to take your mother. She wants to go, but I don't care anything about seeing it."

"Fine, I'll tell her I'm taking her. I'll see if Ruth Ann wants to go too." (My mom's friend.)

The next night at church, I ask Ruth Ann about going. Her husband Bronny wanted to go to. They liked Ricky Nelson. My dad just short of pouted because he couldn't care less and wanted to go with Bronny down to Palestine to the Jamboree. As if that isn't the same every time they go.

I want you to know, that I firmly believed I had my Nelson poster at my house when I moved a plastic tube with posters in it. I believed it held my New Kids on the Block door poster, my MC Hammer poster that Jenny gave me once upon a time, and my Nelson poster. By goodness gracious, I was going to have it signed. 

What I had in that roll was Disney posters and some from the Wizard of Oz. ARG. If I had found it and gotten it signed, it may have had to have actually gone back up on the wall in my office. Just saying.

I did find my cassette tape at my parents house. Yes, cassette tape. 

They asked the audience who watched The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Then who listened to Ricky Nelson, their dad. They followed up the question by, "who remembers us?" There were about 4 of us younger than 40 in the audience that were quite loud. 

I won't say that I'm a big fan of Ricky Nelson's music, but it was an entertaining show. They were funny. (I liked the joke about how they looked like waiters in a Mexican restaurant in Sweden when they were wearing black shirts with white trim on the shoulders.) It was especially good considering it was just two guys on guitars. Of course, they are rock guitarists that were invited to play for other artists when they stopped touring with their own group. 

Although they said that until recently they never play any of their own music in the shows, they did work in a verse of "Love and Affection" which was enough for me. At least it was something.  

I think that's me hollering once. I think I was otherwise quiet to be able to hear. There were two women about two rows in front of me, a little bit younger than me that were especially vocal.

Afterwards, the two girls I just mentioned had to touch up their hoochie make-up before descending from the balcony since they told everyone they would sign autographs.

I was standing there, when my mom made her way up to ask, "have they gotten up here yet?" Right as they were passing by her shoulder. Her good eye side at that. "Uh yeah, right there!"

I did tell Gunnar that I couldn't find my poster, but at least I had my cassette. "Rockin' the cassette! Oh, yours gets 'with love and affection.'" Everyone else got "love" on their stuff because they were over 60 and didn't get the reference. There were all of these old women wanting to get an autograph and gushing over how great the show was. They are the ones who have never heard "After the Rain."

Ruth Ann told me she was mad at me because I didn't get her program signed. I told her she should have gotten in line.

Really, and truly, I'm not one to get star struck. {My previous boss told me that was why I was good at my job... in her words something like, "you don't care who anyone thinks they are." They never had to worry about me making a fool of myself for an autograph. It's why I got to tend to the Duggars while my co-worker was ticked off at me for not introducing her to Michelle, and left the media room unmanned against direct orders from the bosses.} 

Even though I don't get star struck, the 13 year old girl from 23 years ago still thinks it's pretty cool that Nelson signed her cassette cover (even if they were only a big deal for like a year). It's the coolest thing that's happened to me in Corsicana in a long, long time.

When I showed my nieces, Peyton said, "are they boys or girls?" which I kind of expected. Paige thought it was pretty awesome which is what I was going for. Her response did not let me down.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Maroon 5 concert outranks a new episode of Scandal

There are few things that would actually make me excited to miss a Thursday night on the couch in front of new episodes of Grey's Anatomy and Scandal. Like very, very few things. I love Scandal that much. 

But, a night with some of my best friends and Adam Levine would win every week. Well, maybe not every week because I'm too old to come rolling in at 12:10 on a weeknight and standing up on concrete because my legs hurt so bad on Saturday. (Don't know why Friday wasn't a problem.)

Jenny, Rakia, Courtney and I are evidently making attending Maroon 5 a rule when they are around Dallas. This is the third time we've seen them together. This was the best, especially because A) we could actually see Adam unlike the first time we went at the Gexa Energy Pavillion, B) we weren't sitting on the ground like at Gexa getting our butts bit by ants, C) we weren't in Oklahoma like NYE  2012 and D) we got a full hour and a half and didn't feel ripped off at the end like we did when the concert ended at 10:00.

Now, I could have done without Owl City and Neon Trees both. Even if I was the one willing to get there for opening acts. All of Owl City's songs sound the same and the guy from Neon Trees is just odd and dances on his toes like Michael Jackson a lot. 

Our seats were AWESOME. We couldn't see the stage backdrop because we were side stage, but we were close enough to the action on stage that it didn't matter. 

Once I got home, I sang "Daylight" in my head half the night in my sleep. I'm not sure what all Courtney got recorded, but she did get "Daylight." I told her that her video would make the blog if she posted it. 

I don't know what my problem is in that picture. I think I was trying to stretch my neck to hide my multiple chins.
The only bad thing is we had to it 5 rows apart from Courtney and Rakia.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bacon bits and pieces

Obviously, I have tons going on at work. Like tons. Like so much I post about a different project every day of the week. I did get to venture away from home and painting, etc. this week though. And I do have some funny tidbits to share.

First of all, the first funny of the week. When I told this story to Rachel and to my parents, they got a good giggle out of it, so I'll share. In the Bible class that I go to at church, there is a woman close to 80. I've referred to her before in stories about the singles group. She's had purple hair at one time... Anyway... Mentally she is on another plane than most of us. But she definitely thinks outside the box. I have to give her credit for that.

The lesson was about Lazarus. As the person teaching the class was telling, at first Jesus told his disciples that Jesus was asleep. When they thought he was just sleeping, Jesus told them that Lazarus was dead. The teacher thought that maybe he was trying to put it nicely at first, and then had to be blunt when those around him didn't get it.

However, Ms. D, had a different theory. She explains that because they didn't have {heart} monitors back then, they couldn't be sure if someone was dead or not, so they said they were just sleeping until they knew for sure. This may possibly be a genius explanation. Maybe it did take 4 days, just to be sure.


What my mom got a bigger kick out of is this tale from Monday. We submit some of our blog tour lists way in advance of when they actually mail, so some of the books were sent to my old address and needed to be forwarded. When one arrived media mail this week, I had to pay postage due on the package.

I never have cash on me. I had $1. I needed $2.98. So, I had to tell the mail man to wait, go to my car and give him $2 out of my grandmother quarter stash. Remember that roll that I got for Christmas? I've had to use these quarters to get in basketball games when they were out of change, and now to pay postage due. This just annoyed me. I really didn't find this to be a funny story at all.

However, what was funny was when I told my mom this story and she realized where I was going with the quarters before I even said it. She laughed so hard. Like, she thought this was hilarious.

The point of me even telling her this is that I never have any cash and I needed $3 two separate times that day. Now, the retelling of this story makes me wonder why I ever started it in the first place. However, now that I've spent so much time typing it, it stays. It was funny at the time, I guess. Take my word for it.


This week was the youth expo. This blog takes us up to Tuesday! 

Paige, Peyton and Madison all showed pigs this year, but it may be the last. I don't think they are too into it. Paige got 6th in one of her classes - the best result among the six pigs that they showed between all of them. At least Layton and I got to hang out together. We never get to do that, but he decided I was his buddy the other day. 

This is the third show I've been to, and I know nothing more than the first one. I'll never get how you can select between the nuances of the pigs as long as I live. I do know the uglier in the face, the better this year. 

Paige has the black bow on her head
That's a better one of Peyton than I thought I had.
I thought I had one of all three girls, but I am not sure that I do. Trying to get them all while they are all moving around is really hard.

Friday, March 22, 2013

God is the Defender of All His Children

New book and curriculum open the doors
to talking to children about missions and orphans

As we start planning the summer for our children—signing them up for t-ball, summer drama camp, trips to see grandparents, vacation Bible school—we often forget how fortunate we are to be able to offer such opportunities to our children, especially when many children around the world don’t get to participate in activities like these. In her new book Tales of the Defended Ones (Standard Publishing / January 28, 2013 / ISBN: 978-0784736975 / $ 8.99), Beth Guckenberger skillfully and lovingly tells the stories of adopted children from Ethiopia, a child in slavery in Cambodia, a special-needs orphan from Mexico, and a foster child in the U.S. all with one thing in common. They are all real children whose lives of heartbreak and abandon became stories of hope.  Not only has God provided for these children, Guckenberger shares how we, too, young and old, can help defend these children who are defenseless on their own.

Tales of the Defended Ones is the second release of Guckenberger’s Storyweaver series, written to highlight the plight of orphans throughout the world in personal, heart-grabbing stories of loss, struggle and redemption. The premise of the series is that as the great Storyweaver, God is working in the lives of each of us and our stories can be more incredible than we could ever imagine. “It’s important that we not only care about our own stories, but also about the stories of others,” writes Guckenberger. “Orphans don’t have a lot of people watching their stories. It’s our privilege to watch them and then tell about them, and sometimes even be a part of them. That is a bit of the God-design he put in us, to care for others. He cares about each of us and wants to bring us into each other’s lives.”

Written for ages 8 and up, Tales of the Defended Ones presents an easy-to-read picture of the way God is intervening on behalf of orphans throughout the world. The inspiration for the title of the book came from Proverbs 23:10-11: “Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless, for their Defender is strong; he will take up their case against you.”

Like its predecessor, Tales of the Not Forgotten, which has helped teachers, mentors and families have meaningful conversations about clean water, orphan care, education and hunger, a corresponding six-part Tales of the Defended Ones Leader’s Guide on CD (ISBN 978-0784736982) is also available. The leader’s guide helps turn the book content into a simple, yet powerful six-week curriculum for any church or small group, complete with fun activities, compelling stories, biblical teaching and practical applications that can be customized based on time and setting.

The book and leader’s guide are driven by the personal mission experience of Beth and her husband, Todd Guckenberger, who serve as co-executive directors of Back2Back Ministries and are raising nine children—biological, foster and adopted. Beth was recently honored with the 2013 International Network of Children’s Ministry (INCM) Legacy Award at the Children’s Pastors’ Conference in Orlando, Florida, for her impact on children around the world.

“Beth’s heart for the orphan is passionate and contagious,” says Stephanie Woeste, vice president of marketing for Standard Publishing. “With her ability to communicate the reality of life as an orphan, God is using her to get people involved in one of the most important tasks He gave the church: to care for widows and orphans.”

Guckenberger has partnered with Standard Publishing on the mission content in its 2013 VBS program, God’s Backyard Bible Camp, as well as a Mission Project Pack. The goal of the VBS curriculum is to show children they can make an impact on the world and be a part of something larger than themselves. Through God’s Backyard Bible Camp, students can engage in interactive service opportunities that reach far beyond their own backyards,   benefiting the orphans Back2Back ministries serves in Mexico. The Mission Project Pack includes everything you need to get your kids involved in serving others. Kids taking part in the program will not only help individual orphans but will join a movement of VBS kids that are committed to service. In the fall, Standard will be releasing a SuperSimple™ Mission Kit which will include all of the mission resources developed for God’s Backyard Bible Camp, as well as the Tales of the Not Forgotten book and leader’s guide. The SuperSimple™ Mission Kit will provide churches with the tools they need to emphasize missions anytime during the year.

What better way to spend this summer than helping children in our own backyard and around the world? For more information on how to get involved, visit or

Join Beth Guckenberger for her Facebook chat with readers on April 25 at 8:00 PM EDT. Watch the Standard Publishing Facebook page for more details about the party and a social media giveaway opportunity.

About the Author

Beth Guckenberger and her husband, Todd, are the founders of Back2Back Ministries (based in Cincinnati, Ohio), which communicates a lifestyle of service by sharing the love of Christ and serving God through service to others. Back2Back Ministries connects willing workers to open hearts through international and local ministry opportunities. Their ministry is currently caring and providing for orphan children and needy people in Mexico, Nigeria, India and, most recently, Haiti. 

Guckenberger travels and speaks regularly at women’s and missions conferences, as well as youth gatherings and church services. Her topics include orphan care, missions, parenting, marriage/intimacy and faith. Her storytelling style captures audiences, and she draws from her field experience as a missionary and parent for illustrations to biblical concepts.

In addition to her children’s releases in the Storyweaver series, Tales of the Defended Ones (Standard Publishing 2013), and Tales of the Not Forgotten (Standard 2012), Guckenberger has written two books for adults: Relentless Hope (Standard, 2011) and Reckless Faith(Zondervan, 2008). She has also partnered with Standard Publishing on the mission content in its 2013 VBS program God’s Backyard Bible Camp and a missions kit to be released in the fall.

The Guckenberger family lives and serves in Monterrey, Mexico, where they have hosted more than 12,000 guests on their ministry campus. Between biological, foster and adopted additions to their family, Beth and Todd are raising nine children.

Learn more about Beth Guckenberger and Back2Back Ministries at,, the Back2Back Ministries Facebook page (back2backministries) or Twitter (@bguckenberger). 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Do you know someone facing infertility?

An interview with Lesli Westfall,
Author of Dancing Upon Barren Land

It is estimated that one in six American couples (7.3 million women) are affected by infertility. Christian women are no more immune to these astounding statistics than anyone else. When experiencing infertility, a woman’s feelings about herself, her relationships with others and her belief in God become confused and complicated. Having experienced these emotions herself, Lesli A. Westfall has written Dancing Upon Barren Land: Prayer, Scripture Reflections, and Hope for Infertility (January 18, 2013 / ISBN: 9780615746128 / $12.99) not only as a prayer guide for women facing infertility, but as a resource for churches and support groups.

Q: Infertility is a problem far more couples face than most of us realize. Can you share a few statistics with us?

·         Infertility’s is defined when a couple 35 years or younger is unable to conceive within one year of unprotected intercourse, and for couples over 35, if unable to conceive after six months of unprotected intercourse.

·         Infertility is one in six American Couples (15% of couples), one in 13 women, even more worldwide.

·         There’s a misnomer to think it’s just a female problem. The breakdown of infertility/sterility is ⅓ female, ⅓ male, and ⅓ a combination of both male and female, or unexplained infertility.

·         The term “delayed parenting” is when couples choose to begin their families later in life. Therefore age is the most important issue in conceiving. This is consistent with our present-day culture.

·         The World Health Organization in 2009 defined infertility as a disease.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your own struggle with infertility?

For me, as a young child I had always dreamed of being married and having children. Once I did marry, we waited to start a family. Our goal was to further our careers and to save up enough money to put a hefty down payment on a house—essentially what is now called within the fertility world “delayed parenting.”  Yet, there would be days I’d have this intense longing.

It was during a Mother’s Day church service when the pastor spoke on barrenness that stirred in me that childhood dream to have children. I left the church that day feeling a sense of peace and purpose in my life, to become a mother, finally. Since I had such a profound impression of God’s purpose in the Mother’s Day service, I just assumed that I would get pregnant easily, so I did not obtain diagnostic testing for my infertility.

As the months and years passed, no pregnancy.  Eventually, I saw the first fertility specialist at the age of 40, which for most medical professionals would be too late in life.  I had diagnostic tests, which revealed a few problems, and I had surgeries to correct them along with medicines to balance hormones. But still no baby after the corrective surgeries and thousands of dollars spent.

I sought another fertility specialist and went through additional treatments. With the last treatment, we were given the news, “With your age and egg maturity there is no hope for you to conceive.” I felt as if those words left me lifeless. I felt as if something died within my heart. The only thing I could think of to do after receiving this terrible report was to turn to God. I prayed asking God to mend my broken heart, which was shattered in a million pieces. Truly, he supernaturally brought healing to my confused mind and broken emotions.
Q: What does it mean to dance upon barren land?

Dancing upon barren land means to enjoy life now, to live life while you wait for life in your womb or to hold your adopted baby in your arms. You can learn to “dance” by discovering who you are in Christ, enjoying the relationships around you and exploring your passions and pursuing them along the journey to parenthood. I expand more on this in chapter five of the book, Living Life While You Wait. This scripture sums up “dancing upon barren land” in Romans 15:13: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing as you abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Q: What lessons has God taught you through your journey?

I can’t make things happen. No matter how hard I try in my own strength, I can’t make a baby just appear. I’ve learned to trust God, His timing and His ways, even when I don’t understand (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Be led by peace and be in agreement with your spouse. There were many options presented along our fertility journey. Each fertility journey is different for each couple, so what might be the right plan or fertility treatment for one couple might not be the best plan for you. Asking God for peace through the process, discussing with my spouse all of the options and then coming to a mutual agreement has helped us tremendously.

God is in the “now.” We can tend to focus on God for the end result—the answered prayer of a child of our own—but we fail to recognize God is with us during journey. I discovered He is with me now, to help me during the pain, disappointment, misunderstanding and confusion.

Q: Why did you write Dancing Upon Barren Land, and what do you hope readers will gain by reading it?

From leading support groups I sensed a felt need for a resource to help women and couples going through infertility. Initially I just wanted to have a simple, small paperback a woman could tuck in her purse and just pull out when she felt the need to be spiritually uplifted. But the book has evolved and expanded due to my writing coach, Karen Porter’s, prompting. While she was reviewing and editing the prayers she said, “Lesli, you have lived through this struggle and are experiencing peace and joy. You should write how to live this thing out.”  So I did.

I hope readers will gain an understanding that:

·         they are not alone, God loves them and they are not forsaken
·         the prayer and scripture will sustain them in this hard journey
·         even though there may be conflict within relationships, there is also resolution
·         to discover joy and peace during the journey while they wait the desires of their hearts

Q: Dancing Upon Barren Land focuses on specific prayers for women to pray concerning their infertility. What are some of the things you encourage women to pray for?

First of all, I encourage them never to give up on praying for the desires of their heart even though their journey has been long or full of misunderstanding. Peace for their mind and emotions within their relationships and their fertility options. For God’s perfect will to be done and their hearts to be open to His will and plan on how to grow their families.

Q: Why is it important for churches to offer support groups for women dealing with fertility issues?

Given the statistics above, there's a probability someone is hurting within their congregation, whether from infertility or infant loss (miscarriages/stillbirth). For women, there is a loss that is silent and secret. The loss can be from a desire yet to be fulfilled or loss experienced through miscarriage or failed adoption attempts. The social interactions often decline due to the feeling of “not fitting in.” A church could offer support groups, helping them through the complicated grief via Biblical principles, provide a safe haven to connect with others, essentially offering acknowledgement there is help and hope for the hurting. My new book, Dancing Upon Barren Land, is a resource support groups can use and Dancing Upon Barren Land ministry and website is available to help churches start a support group. 

Churches are very family-centric and rightfully so, but there is a need not being met within the body of Christ. Due to delayed parenting, single women attend my support group because they are hurting, because they are not married yet and because they feel their chances of having children is very slim. Couples will not attend church on Mother’s or Father’s Day because the focus is on a role in life they’ve yet to achieve. Also, those who’ve experienced miscarriages/stillbirth will refrain from churches on that day. Their loss is never validated.  

Q: I think we all can understand to some degree the physical tolls that infertility has on a woman, but what about the emotional and spiritual effects?

Infertility reaches to the core of who we are, therefore affecting our emotions (especially women). Women go through a range of emotions throughout the fertility journey. Initially when first diagnosed there’s a sense of denial or anger. As one moves along the path with months or years of no baby, there’s a sense of jealousy and envy. A woman can feel ashamed or even condemned by others because she can’t conceive. A deep sorrow can replace the once-desired child.

Spiritually, one’s view of God can be distorted through infertility. A woman may feel as if God is punishing her due to her lack of conceiving. She feels abandoned and forsaken by God and her church (spiritual) community. She wonders what the use of prayer is if God doesn’t hear and He does not answer.

Q: What are some of the other strains that come along with fertility treatments?

Financial:  When seeking a specialist (a reproductive endocrinologist) it is very expensive. Most couples do not have an upfront savings of $12,000 or more for an in-vitro fertility treatment or any savings for additional treatment options. Most will take out a loan for the treatment. However, the treatment is never a guarantee for a baby; therefore if the procedure does not work the couple has lost all of the money with nothing to show for it. It is very disheartening and discouraging. I’ve personally seen marriages fall apart due to this and couples go into massive debt just to conceive.

Relational: What once was an intimate act has now become a scheduled routine due to “mandatory” intercourse. Therefore the loss of intimacy can be huge while trying to conceive. Because timing is so important, the demanding spouse places great demands on his/her partner. Also, if one spouse does not agree upon a fertility treatment and the other one does, this causes conflict. If the conflict is not resolved it leaves bitterness and resentment and therefore a breakdown within the marriage.

Q: Some people simply don’t identify with the strong biological desire to have children of their own and might ask, “Why don’t you just adopt?” How do you respond to questions like these?

We’ve been asked this question a lot. And we’ve prayed about it, but we feel for us, presently, adoption is not the way to grow our family. I know, as a Christian, we’ve been adopted by God into His kingdom (Ephesians 1:5). At times I know other Christians and even our friends who don’t understand why we don’t adopt. When we’ve been presented with the actual offer to adopt a baby on several occasions, we’ve not closed the door but are open. Our first response to them is that we will pray and discuss it. Once we discuss the options, we give it some time. It is very tempting to take in a child who needs a home. Yet we are careful not to make a decision based upon our emotions, but instead based on praying and being led by the peace of God.

Q: Even if a person means well and doesn’t set out to hurt any feelings, what are some of the things that you should never say to a couple struggling with infertility?

·         Give up. Let it go. It will happen.
·         Just go and get drunk.
·         Just relax.
·         Just adopt.
·         You’re too old to have a child.
·         It’s not the end of the world if you don’t have kids!
·         Can I have some grandchildren, please?
·         It will happen when you are least expecting it.
·         At least you are an aunt and uncle, that’s fun!
·         Complain about your own children

Q: What are some of the words of hope someone could and should say to a woman facing infertility?

·         I am here for you.
·         I’ll be praying for you and your spouse.
·         Non-selfish comments
·         If couple is pursuing fertility treatments, voice interest.
·         Give a call on Mother’s/Father’s Day.
·         Don’t say anything, just listen and encourage.
·         Be their biggest cheerleader.

Q: What encouragement would you offer to a woman who has a stronger desire to start a family than her husband does?

Apart from my own experience, I came across this subject from women through the support groups. It means if you two are not on the same page in starting a family, back off, give him some space and pray. Ask God to help you maintain a good attitude toward him in spite of his viewpoint now, or pray for God to change his heart or ask God to calm your anxiousness. Step back and trust God to work in His heart and yours. It may take some time. Most of all, at all costs maintain peace within your home and your relationship. It is very easy to allow bitterness to set in. Continue to nurture your marriage. Your future children will be all the better for it.

Q: Tell us about your ministry that shares the name with your book Dancing Upon Barren Land.

Dancing Upon Barren Land — Spiritual Nourishment for the Infertility Road is a Christian online support ministry encouraging those grieving through infertility and sorrow from loss. Actually the ministry was birthed out of my own pain. After receiving a devastating doctor’s report from our last fertility treatment, there was a determination in me to reach out to others. Through a series of God-ordained events I was given money to begin the ministry that now reaches those hurting around the world. God knows how to bring joy and purpose even through the most difficult struggle. The online support offers a devotional, Christian resources, infertility etiquette, prayers and products. My heart is filled with compassion to reach those hurting through infertility in the hope of offering comfort and resources to ministry leaders, friends and family all through the online ministry. 

Find out more about Westfall, and the Dancing Upon Barren Land book and ministry at, or on Facebook and Twitter (@DUBLhope).