Monday, August 30, 2010

What About YOU? Classy Careers

Every Monday I ask a question, to get to know YOU better.

Ready for today’s?

As a child, what did you aspire to be when you grew up?

In first grade, I admired my sweet, youthful teacher so much I wanted to emulate her and teach school. By the end of my first year in college, I’d changed my mind more times than a hermit crab changes homes, from a gourmet chef to a journalist; from an opera singer to a service woman.

The one thing I said I’d never be was a preacher’s wife!

God sure has a creative sense of humor, doesn’t He?

Your turn…

Friday, August 27, 2010

Why Humor?

Please join me at Sunnybank Meanderings today, where I'm guest blogging for my dear friend, Carole with an article entitled, "Why Humor?"

Have a Splendid weekend!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

3 Reasons You Need to Fail

When I heard her words, I cringed.  “I guess I’m afraid to fail. All my life I’ve succeeded at everything I tried, and it scares me to think I might mess up.” I smiled and gave my young friend some trite, reassuring words about how everyone starting college with her was feeling the same way, and that she’d be fine.

What I wanted to say, what I should have said, was, “Girl, you NEED to fail. Succeeding your entire life has ruined you.” Why would I think that?

1. Until we fail, we don’t know what doesn’t work. If I make a cake and forget to put the baking powder in, I end up with a pancake I get to frost. Because of my anguish over this failure, I will never again forget to add baking powder. I can apply this same principle of using painful memories of failures to avoid hurtful relationships, going broke before the next payday, and gaining weight. So. Failure teaches us how to live on purpose, and what values to cherish.

2. If we never fail, we have no compassion for others who mess up. How can I help you through a rough time with a family member if my own family has never experienced trouble? How can I empathize with you over rejection letters from editors and agents if I’ve heard only compliments? By our familiarity with failure, we develop gracious hearts to encourage others around us.

3. Finally, failing will enable us to get over our fear of failure. I know it sounds crazy. But it works. If I get on a horse the wrong way, and slide off, I may bump my fanny or my elbow. My fear might have been that I’d break my neck and die. When all I do is bruise my elbow or bum, I’m encouraged that falling off a horse isn’t the end of the world. Surviving a failure helps us grow brave, so we can attempt greater feats.

I certainaly don't want you to fail. And I don't make it one of my daily goals to fail. I'm just sayin'. A litle failure now and then makes us appreciate the victories.

Do you agree or disagree that a person needs to fail to be a well-rounded individual? What failures in your life have matured you?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Horse Hugging Therapy and Winner of Tammy Barley's newest novel

When Tammy Barley asked me to hug a horse while on the 7-day Dude Ranch trip I won from her, I giggled and agreed. The last giggle was on me, though.

While riding--and hugging--these magnificent creations of Almighty God, I realized why people so easily give their hearts to them.

They each have their own personalities, every one a mixture of endearment and orneriness. Sound like anyone, or everyone, you know?

Here are a few of my favorite moments of horse hugging therapy from last week's trip to Deer Valley Ranch in Nathrop, Colorado, aka Paradise...

Thank you, Tammy, for the opportunity to take this trip. We had no idea how empty we'd become until we got away from our lives and allowed God to fill us up with His beauty. If not for your generosity, we couldn't have afforded this trip, my dear. My heart overflows with gratitude to you and Jesus, for all the horse huggin' we got to do!

And now, to announce the winnner of Tammy's newest release, Hope's Promise, a splendidly woven story from the old west brimming with hope, horses and love-filled hearts...

Terry Tiffany

Congratulations, Terri!!! I will let Tammy know you won; she'll be as pleased as a rancher with a new Thoroughbred!
Thanks to all who joined Tammy last week for this contest and review of her bright new novel. To purchase either of her books or find out more about her, please go to

I will post more pictures of our trip--as well as share with you a few miracles the Lord gave us--in days to come. See y'all soon! Love, Jen

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hope's Promise Drawing, Horseback Riding Trip for Your Family and Book Trailer

If you were here Wednesday, you read about award-winning author, Tammy Barley's newest release, Hope's Promise.  Did you leave a comment to win a copy of the book?

Please see her lovely book trailer here:

In addition to Tammy's book giveaway on my blog today, she is hosting a Hope's Promise contest, a chance to win a horseback riding adventure for your whole family! To find out the details, go to

And for a second chance to win a copy of Hope's Promise, please leave a comment on this post with your email address. I will draw the winner on Sunday, August 22 and post on Monday, August 23.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review and Givaway of Award-Winning Author, Tammy Barley's Second novel, Hope's Promise

Winning a seven-night stay at a Colorado Dude Ranch from award-winning author Tammy Barley, had nothing to do with my falling in love with her writing (but she did become my new best friend). This week while I am in Colorado enjoying God's creativity and Tammy's generosity, I wanted you to experience a taste of her lovely writing by a chance to win her newest novel!

Tammy's debut novel, Love's Rescue, brimmed with romance, adventure, and a sterling dose of faith. 

It also placed #11, Historical Fiction Best-Seller
at and the 2nd Place Winner of the
Golden Rose Contest, Inspirational Category!

So when I heard about the release of her second book, Hope's Promise, I pre-ordered a copy, and was not disappointed. This beautifully-crafed historical set in the West during the Civil War is the perfect sequel to Jake and Jessie Bennett's story of love and honor:

For Better, for Worse
Jake Bennett is finally wed to the love of his life, Jessica Hale—but he isn’t convinced she won’t leave him. Life is a constant struggle for the Bennetts as they battle drought and live in fear of raids on Southerners, and he is not sure that Jess knew what she was getting herself into when she married him.

In Sickness and in Health
Jess, however, despairs for another reason—she is unable to conceive a child.

A Solemn Vow to Stand Together
While trying to prove their unconditional love for each other, the Bennetts must defend against attacks on the Paiutes, the doubts that haunt them both, and an unknown force that threatens to destroy all they hold dear. Together, they must stand in faith through betrayal, barrenness, and a very real threat, trusting that God will reward their hopes for a better future.

For a chance to win Hope's Promise, Tammy's newest page-turner, please leave a comment with your email address at the end of this post. Then return Friday for the book trailer, an announcement about a contest to win a horseback riding adventure for your family, and a second opportunity to win Hope's Promise. I will draw the winner when I return from my trip on Sunday, August 22nd and post Monday, August 23rd.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I Miss You, But...

I am here today.
And here.

Possibly here.

Thanks to the generosity of award-winning novelist Tammy Barley, we are enjoying the vacation of a lifetime at Deer Valley Ranch in Southern Colorado. Last winter I won Tammy’s contest in conjunction with the release of her debut novel, Love’s Rescue.

This Wednesday and Friday I will be reviewing Hope’s Promise, the exciting, romantic sequel to Love’s Rescue, and Tammy has graciously agreed to gift one copy to one of you!

I hope you’ll join her, while Kevin and I enjoy her generoisty and God's handiwork.

What’s the best vacation you’ve taken so far?

Friday, August 13, 2010

In Honor of my 55th BD Tomorrow: Guest Blogger and Fellow Humorist Rhonda Yoder Schrock

I met Rhonda Yoder-Schrock via the Army of Erma's humor blog, to which we both contribute.

Rhonda also writes colums for two newspapers, and hosts her own blog, called, The Natives are Getting Restless.

After emailing a few times, we decided to meet face-to-face, and I found an instant soul-mate in this godly, gifted writer.

This lady thinks being surrounded by a teepee full of men is great fun. Because of this quirk, as well as being fall-on-the-floor hilarious, I asked her to guest blog today (I'm forcing myself to take the 7-night Colorado Dude Ranch vacation I won last winter from author Tammy Barley). Please welcome humor writer, Rhonda Yoder-Shrock.

Diaper changing should be an Olympic sport

It’s summertime. The days are long and lazy. Flags are flying up and down Main Street. The county fair is in full swing and the Summer Olympics are right around the corner.

At our house, the countdown to the Olympics provokes two distinctly different reactions. One of us sits poised, panting with excitement on the edge of her seat in anticipation of the opening ceremonies. The other one huffs and grunts and hunkers further into his favorite corner of the couch, declaring that under no circumstances is he biologically capable of surrendering the remote for a mere two weeks.

To the chagrin of the one waving the flag and sporting the five special rings, feverish phone calls to the insurance company requesting approval for an emergent remotectomy have been met by outright guffaws and rude hang-ups. It’s so unprofessional.

As long as I can recall, the games have held a special fascination for me. I remember watching Nadia Comaneci, the famous Romanian gymnast, back in the seventies and wishing I could be like her. The same is true for the figure skaters who have always enchanted me with their grace and daring.

There are few pictures that provoke more patriotism in me than seeing a sweaty, triumphant American athlete atop the podium, bending to receive the gold medal as the flag is raised overhead and the national anthem plays. When he or she starts to tear up as the camera zooms in, I’m a goner, crying into my red, white, and blue napkin. If that scene doesn’t put a tear in your eye, then call a mortician because you have obviously assumed room temperature.

The only thing that can spoil my Olympic joy is watching it with a party pooper. Or two. During the winter games two years ago, my brother and his wife were visiting us. Every night we would tune in to get the latest medal count and to cheer for our athletes. Well, two of us would cheer.

The other two were suddenly armchair coaches, well versed in every sport, shouting instructions and holding up placards with hastily scribbled scores after each ski jump. As we women sat enthralled during the figure skating competition, they harrumphed and made snarky remarks about men who wear spandex. Never mind that neither one of them possessed the wherewithal to lift a 100-pound bag of cement, much less a grown woman, overhead on one hand while skating across the kitchen floor in tube socks. This, in their world, was not a disqualifier. When we delicately pointed this out, they only snorted again and went to look for more potato chips.

It is a sad reality that at my age, there just isn’t a spot for me at the games. When it comes to track and field events, I run in one place for too long. Yes, I realize that doggy paddling will never get me on that poolside podium. And there isn’t a chiropractor gifted enough to make me a well-adjusted competitor again if I tried out on the balance beam or attempted to leap and pirouette on the ice. I can, however, think of several events in which I and a few family members could truly shine and make you, our fellow Americans, proud.

Take diaper changing, for instance. Having been responsible for four prolific little colons in my career, my skills are so finely honed that I am now fully capable of diapering a crying, thrashing toddler in a blinding rainstorm with one hand tied behind my back. The reigning Brazilian champion who diapers her babies in banana leaves fastened with pincher ants doesn’t intimidate me at all. I can diaper her under the table.

If the Olympic committee would recognize the ability to produce earsplitting shrieks that can shatter crystal from here to Tupelo as an official sport, my cousin Rhoda would win. Once, during a tense cousinly game of hide and seek, she shut down the power grids on the entire eastern seaboard and sparked a tidal wave off the coast of Florida. She could be a medalist, that one.

For Mr. Schrock, it’s his nose that could take him to the gold. I have never in my life met anyone with a keener sense of smell. His olfactory abilities would make a beagle patently envious. If the IOC would stage a contest wherein the blindfolded participants would be asked to identify objects solely by smell, he would win hands down.

“That is the dung of an Arabian camel who recently passed through the Saharan desert,” he might say as the first object is passed.

“This is an extremely rare orchid only found in the rainforests of Papua, New Guinea,” he would proclaim.

“And this is a coffee bean grown in Costa Rica, medium roasted and infused with Jamaican and Mexican liqueurs,” he would assert to gasps and applause from the judges.

I’m confident he could parlay his gold medal into some lucrative endorsements. Please pray with me that the U.S. sniffing team doesn’t have to wear tights, or I’ll never get him to Beijing.

P.S. Although I'll be riding horses and trying not to tumble out of my white water raft next week, I will have a book reivew and giveaway for Tammy Barley's newest release, Hope's Promise on the blog. Please stop by for a chance to win! And please leave a girly-type comment for Rhonda here, so she won't feel so alone. Love, Jen

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Embellishing vs. Lying

While writing a story for an anthology, I stared at the computer screen in shock. Had I turned the corner from non-fiction and become a liar?

The incident I wrote about centered on a crisis of faith in my parent’s lives and a miraculous healing I received as a baby. My mom had shared the account with me many times during my growing up years. Because I couldn’t recall when I’d first heard it, I created the setting in which she first told me.

In other words, I embellished a true story to make it more appealing.

Some non-fiction writers consider this taboo. They contend that since that particular setting never took place, it is unethical to tell it as if it happened that way. That is lying*, they say.

Others believe this practice of creative non-fiction, or embellishing, is fine, as long as you don’t change the facts of the actual story you are sharing or the characters’ personalities.

I wrestled with my conscience over this one for many days and nights.

I emailed several writer friends, talked to my husband, my writer son, and the Lord. I even looked up the word embellish** in the dictionary, to see how horrible a sin I’d be committing if I decided to keep the bejeweled story intact. I re-wrote the story, taking out the setting. It left me dry-souled.

Finally, I called my mom, who was one of the main characters in the story, and read it to her. I should have done this in the first place, but I have this stubborn streak (please don’t tell anyone)…

Mom was fine with my made-up setting. The setting was probable—I was a preteen, and we were cleaning out a closet together—and I upheld the accuracy of our personalities. Furthermore…

I did not falsify any facts about the actual story. My embellishments did not change the account of my miracle; they just gave it a prettier wrapping for the reader to look at. So…

With a clear conscience, I sent it off.

I pray that the editor I submitted it to will buy it, and that many people’s lives will change when they read that God still hands out miracles. After all, that’s my goal for my writing—to draw attention to Jesus, so others will fall as much in love with Him as I have.

I think He, like Mom, is okay with me embellishing His stories a bit.

*Lie: to make an untrue statement with an intent to deceive; something that misleads or deceives.

**Embellish: to make beautiful with ornamentation; decorate. To heighten the attractiveness of by adding ornamental details.

–Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, tenth edition

At what point does embellishing turn to lying? Do you think there is difference between the two?

Monday, August 9, 2010

What About YOU? Quiet or Loud?

Every Monday I ask a question, to get to know YOU better.

Ready for today’s?

Are you quiet or loud?

I bet you’ve already guessed which I am. Although I’m learning to listen as I age—I discovered that I already know everything I know—my natural bent is to laugh loud, talk fast so I can fit more in, and sing ‘til the goblet breaks. I love my nutty personality, unless I’m interrupting someone I need to listen to. Then I must back up and ask the Lord to help me can it once again.

Your turn…

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Winners of Tosca's books!

The winners of the Tosca Lee book drawing are...

For Havah: The Story of Eve...

Kathy Taylor!

For Demon: A Memoir...

T. Anne!

Congratulations, ladies!!!  I will be emailing you for your addresses, so Tosca can send you your prizes. These books will change your lives, and your relationship with God, I guarantee it.

Thanks to all who participated in this interview and contest. May the rest of your weekend be blessed by Jesus.

Love, Jen

Friday, August 6, 2010

Tosca Lee Interview Part 2 and Two-Book Giveaway!

We continue our interview today with the incomparable Tosca Lee, author of Demon: A Memoir and Havah: the Story of Eve.

Jen: Have any of your beliefs changed or been challenged as you researched your books?

Tosca: Yes. For me that is an intensely personal question, with an intensely personal answer. I won’t go into the details, but it boils down, again, to grace. To a life apart from the religiosity that is us, and to learning to truly embrace the grace that is God. I used to be extremely legalistic. I had a lot of answers. Today I have fewer answers. I know a lot less, and I have many more questions. And God amazes me more and more. It’s almost as though He was waiting for me to let go of my neatly packaged version of Him to reveal His wild self. God is a WILD God. We do ourselves—and Him—a great disservice when we think we’ve got our minds around I Am.

Jen: Please explain why you said the worst writing advice you’ve received is, “Write what you know.” Everyone tells us to write what we know. How can that be wrong?

Tosca: For me, writing what I know would limit me to tales of errand-running and laundry-folding, airplane-sleeping, and life-fretting. That’s what I know. What I don’t know, still, is how big God is. Is how great grace is. How someone goes on after the mistake of a lifetime. Why someone would betray his mentor and friend. What happens when we leave the safe mundane of our lives. Those are the things I write to learn.

Jen: Speaking of advice, we’d like some. What can you tell us that you wish someone had told you when you first began writing?

Tosca: Writing is hard. It is not glamorous. It is as difficult and dirty as blood-letting. You have to be honest. You have to weep and fear and kick. And come back again. It might be best not to write if you can help it. But if you can’t not do it… then write. Breathe your raw breath. Don’t make it perfect—just real.

Jen: Tosca, I so appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions. May the Lord richly bless your life as you write for Him, your Audience of ONE.

For a chance to win a newly-released copy of Demon: A Memoir, which includes characters named after me and my husband--no joke!--or Havah: the Story of Eve, please leave a comment for Tosca* and your email address at the end of this post. Please say which book you prefer. If you’d rather buy a copy of Demon or Havah, go to or

*I want comments on this post that I can forward to Tosca, to put in her “encouragement file” for days when she needs a soul battery charge. That is why I'm requesting this as part of your entry.

You have until Saturday, August 7 at midnight to enter. I will draw a name on Sunday afternoon and post the winners then. Thanks for joining us!

News from Tosca:

 Here's a quick update for your blog readers: Havah is free for a couple weeks as a B&N download and readable on most e-readers here:

If any of your readers would like to read my devotion that ran today on Proverbs 31, it is here:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tosca Lee Interview Part I and book drawing

When I read these few simple facts about Tosca Lee:

the critically-acclaimed author of Demon: A Memoir--Christy Award finalist and ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Silver Award winner--and Havah: The Story of Eve, which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and 4.5 stars from Romantic Times. Both novels have been newly acquired by B&H Publishing Group for re-release Summer 2010. A former first runner-up to Mrs. United States, Tosca received her B.A. from Smith College in Massachusetts. She also studied at Oxford University. Tosca's highly-anticipated third novel, Iscariot, releases Fall of 2011,”

I thought, Yes, but this doesn’t tell us what rattles Tosca’s soul, what keeps her up at night writing stories about how demons operate and how God grieves over His lost creation, about Eve having a tiff with Adam that lasted three years, and her anguish over losing Cain. I don’t want to glimpse an image of this lady—I want to soak up the substance of her heart.

So I asked her for an interview. And she agreed. Which tells you something about her right there.

Jen: Tosca, I read where you stated you can’t not write, which is true for many of us. But I’d like to know what keeps you writing when your own personal demons whisper insidious lies in your ear. It must happen to you. How do you overcome those voices of despair?

Tosca: I don’t know. I really don’t. I can avoid writing, procrastinate, run from it… but I always go back in some form. I used to be a dancer. Writing feels like dancing to me, like a breath from the soul. Just as I can’t not worry, or can’t not muse or cry, I can’t not move. I can’t not breathe. I can’t not write.

Jen: I love that one of your hobbies is studying theology, but it’s apparent to me that you live out of Jesus’ heart. How did you become a Believer, and how do you keep your love for Him alive, when distractions press in?

Tosca: I became a Believer at the age of 11 when I realized that just believing in God isn’t enough (after all, demons believe in God). There was this Jesus, and he made everything right for me. But I’m still learning about what that means. I’m still discovering grace. It’s an immense concept for me for grasp, grace.

Loving God, for me, is filled with intermittent periods of doubt and amazement. Doubt that He could love me, or a kind of bland acceptance (yes, yes, Jesus loves me—I grew up in church, I sang the song)… to an amazement that God knows me. That God loves me… and may even like me. We all know God loves us. It’s what God does, right? But that He might really like us… What a concept.

For a chance to win a newly-released copy of Demon: A Memoir, which includes characters named after me and my husband—really!—please leave a comment for Tosca* and your email address at the end of this post. If you’d rather buy a copy of Demon or Havah, go to or

*I want comments on this post that I can forward to Tosca, to put in her “encouragement file” for days when she needs a soul battery charge.

You have until Saturday, August 7 at midnight to enter. I will draw a name on Sunday afternoon and post the winner then. Please return with us on Friday for the second part of this interview and another chance to win. See you then!

This just came in from Tosca:

Here's a quick update for your blog readers: Havah is free for a couple weeks as a B&N download and readable on most e-readers here:

Monday, August 2, 2010

What About YOU? Your Favorite Meal

Every Monday I ask a question, to get to know YOU better. Ready for today’s? What is your favorite meal?

Because it comes at the end of the day when most of my rushing and fussing is through, I most enjoy dinner—or supper, if you are from the Midwestern U.S. I take time for breakfast, but usually rush through it with a list of twenty-seven agenda items on my mind, and I spend lunch blogging, answering emails and Face booking. So, the evening meal is my most relaxed and fun.

Ice cream and Andy Griffith reruns usually follow supper, so that gives me another reason to enjoy it best.

Your turn…

P.S. Please join me Wednesday and Friday for an interview and book drawing with the incomparable Tosca Lee!