"The choices we make change
the story of our life." ©

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Schmoozing at CBA

One of the most difficult things about attending special events and parties at CBA/ICRS is all of the schmoozing one must do. –heavy sigh- You can tell by the look on my face that I am having a horrible time of it as I visit with Jonathan Clements from The Nashville Agency and Steven James, Author/Speaker, at the Baker Publishing Group Dinner held on Sunday, July 9th, which just so happened to be my birthday as well.

Tough life, but hey, someone’s got to do it. :-)

Have a blessed day!

And that’s what’s on my mind today.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Nothing Changes ...

Good Morning Bloggers!

It’s Monday morning and I hope everyone had a pleasant weekend. With only four days left to complete my second novel, I’m entering the home stretch. I’ll do my best to blog this week, but not sure how successful I’ll be. Make sure to stay tuned for our next Celebrity Guest Blogger – none other than author, speaker, and Bible teacher: EVA MARIE EVERSON. For a great summer read you might want to pick-up her latest novel, co-written with Linda Evans Shepherd and the second in the Potluck Club series: TROUBLE’S BREWING.

Eva’s BLOG week begins Sunday, August 7 thru the 13th.

In the mean time, I came across a couple old black and white photos my mom took of me when I was a kid. Things don’t change much over the years, do they?

Have a blessed day!

And that’s what’s on my mind today.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


The Joy of Photo Memories!

Good Morning Bloggers!

If you’ve read any of my blog posts this past week, you’ll know I’ve been having one heck of a time uploading photos. Sigh. Hopefully, it will work today. Why all the fuss about photos? Because it’s true, a picture really is worth a thousand words.

I grew up in the projects in Cleveland, Ohio and one of the few “luxuries” my mother insisted on was to always have film in her old Brownie camera. I can recall when months would go by and there was no money to develop the exposed film, and roll upon roll would collect in her dresser drawer. But when a windfall came our way, she’d gather up the film and take it to the drug store to be developed. Back then, they were usually black and white photos with scalloped edges. (Yes, I really am that old.) It used to drive all three of us kids crazy that mom was always pointing that silly camera at us. But you know what? Today we have celluloid memories that can never be replaced and, guess what?

I’ve become my mother with my own silly camera—always pointing it in someone’s face!

For example, let’s take Day #1 at CBA/ICRS in Denver earlier this month. It was Friday, July 7th and I had stopped by the Denver Athletic Club on my way over to another event at the Adams Mark Hotel. No, I wasn’t there for a quick work-out. It was the gala dinner for AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Services.) I was kind of bummed out I wouldn’t be able to attend, but equally excited that I would be signing my first novel for a group of Parable bookstore owners at an event hosted by my publisher. I stopped in long enough to say hello and to Oooo and ahhh at how wonderful my fellow AWSA looked.

I was dressed in casual business attire, but everyone at the AWSA gala was dressed to the nines. Especially the Diva herself, Eva Marie Everson (Eva Diva to us.) Looking ever so mahvelous in her elegant black velvet gown and diaphanous shawl, she hurried over to me and said, “Have you got your camera? I forgot mine, I can’t believe I forgot mine. I must have a picture of this dress.” (Truth be told, it was how she looked in the fab dress after losing ten pounds that she really wanted captured on film, but hey, who am I to let that cat out of the bag?) And yes, I must admit, she looked great J as did everyone!

If my photos uploaded without trouble, you’ll see Eva Diva at the top of the page, and the encouraging Lucinda Secrest McDowell and the gracious Pam Farrell directly above this text. (That's me in the suit.) All three awesome AWSA’s and all three authors and speakers with a heart for Jesus and a passion to share His love with the world.

Have a blessed day!

And that’s what’s on my mind today.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Brandilyn Collins, Allison & Lissa Halls Johnson

Another photo that was supposed to accompany the Monday, July 17th posting. Is anyone else out there is the blogosphere having as much trouble as I am uploading photos to blogger.com?

Liz Curtis Higgs and Allison!

Dear Readers:

Okay, now this is the photo that was supposed to be part of Monday's posting. Whew!


Photos for Previous Posting!

Dear Readers:

Okay, here are the three photos I refer to in my previous posting. Now, if I could figure out how to COMBINE my photos and text postings I'll have it made! I'm going to see if I can upload the photo of Liz Curtis Higgs and Brandilyn Collins. Be right back!



A Day at CBA in Denver

Good Morning Bloggers!

It’s a little after 6:00 AM here in sunny southern Minnesota. It was 52 degrees this morning at 5:00 AM when I got up – too weird! Considering it’s been in the 100’s the past several days. Don’t get me started on weather, but something pretty weird is going on these days, don’t you think?

I tried on and off all day yesterday to post photos on my blog – to no avail. My dear friend, author, teacher, editor, and tech wizard W. Terry Whalin also tried for me – and while he was able to see the photos on his end, I’m afraid most of my readers could only see empty photo boxes. Sigh. And I have such a lovely photo of Lissa Halls Johnson and Brandilyn Collins in her green sequin dress (different from the one she refers to in her blog posting) and another great pic with Liz Curtis Higgs. Shucks. Maybe I can get things to work later today. I’ll keep trying. Any feedback from fellow bloggers about this photo posting issue? Feel free to send comments.

In the mean time, I promised more updates from my week at CBA/ICRS in Denver from July 7-13. It was a whirlwind of activity and appointments.

Bethany House hosted the first book signing for my debut novel (A Stitch in Time) at their booth on Wednesday, July 12. I was seriously stressing all week that no one would show up. Believe me; I’ve been to more than my share of book signings where helpful volunteers are pulling people into line off the floor so I’m not standing there looking like a blonde joke.

Well, I was joyfully stunned! We had a non-stop line and I think I signed about 200 books. I know we handed out every book we had. With the help of Bethany House publicist Linda White, and my dear friend and author Sharen Watson, I praise God that we were able to get my debut novel into the hands of book buyers and bookstore managers from all points of the country.

There would be no photo record of this occasion were it not for author, speaker and friend Tracy Klehn. If you can see the photos she sent to me, I’d like you to pay attention to the close-up. See the book poster on the wall behind me? I am always amazed at how God works. While I know that God is at the helm of any success I might be having with my writing career, I also have a lot of His children here on earth to thank for where I am today.

One of those special people is best selling novelist Tracie Peterson. A couple years back I took her fiction class intensive at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. The novel in progress I used as my class project was A Stitch in Time. It was in a very rough form but her encouragement and her teaching helped me get to where I am today. I’m not sure A Stitch in Time would be published were it not for her support. I love this woman not only as a writer and as a friend, but as a true sister in Christ.

If you’ve not had the opportunity to read her new Alaskan Quest series make sure to pick them up soon. I read Summer of the Midnight Sun (#1) in one sitting and as soon as I meet my August 1st deadline for my next novel, I plan to sit on a beach somewhere (or maybe just in my back pasture with the cows,) and read #2 in the series, Under the Northern Lights. Whispers of Winter, the third book in the series, is the cover you see on the poster that appears over my shoulder in the photo. (That is, if you can even see a photo.) J I think it releases next month.

I cannot believe I share the same publisher as Tracie Peterson. God is so good and I am praising His name for His transformational power. Since my first u-turn back in 1989 I have walked a journey filled with twists and turns. Many of us can relate. Yet through it all I rest in assurance that God is in control. His control and the way He orchestrates His plans was evident throughout my week at CBA. This poster of Tracie's newest book directly behind me was but one God-cidence in a week of head-shaking awe.

Check back tomorrow when I share highlights of other authors who were in attendance at CBA. I stood in a lot of author book signing lines to greet my brothers and sisters in the Lord who are working on the frontlines of literature today to bring the message of faith into homes around the world.

Have a blessed day!

And that’s what’s on my mind today.

Monday, July 17, 2006


A Week at CBA in Denver! A Retrospective

Greetings Dear Readers!

I’m back from CBA/ICRS in Denver and my head is still spinning! But first, a special thank you to guest bloggers Connie Pombo and Jennifer Cary. I’m sure you’ll agree that their posts gave us a lot to think about. I encourage you to please continue to comment on postings so we can stay on top of subjects that touch your heart.

Our next scheduled Celebrity Guest Blogger was to be “America’s Teacher,” Vicki Caruana. Alas, Vicki suffered a death in her family and is currently en route to a funeral. Please join me in praying for her traveling safety and that she would have strength of heart during this period of mourning.

Author and speaker, Eva Marie Everson will be our Celebrity Guest Blogger from August 7-13. Until then, it’s yours truly who will once again do her level-headed best to check in on a daily basis. However, I am on an August 1st deadline for novel #2 and I’m doing my best to stay focused. Ha! Easier said than done for an adult with ADHD. –Sigh-

I've decided to share highlights of CBA with you this coming week. But first, I am having one heck of a time referring to CBA as ICRS. Forgive me, okay? I’m afraid it will always be CBA to me.

I attended my first Christy Award Ceremony on Saturday, July 8th. Imagine my surprise when my editor, Charlene Patterson, sat me down at the same table with Gary Johnson, President of Bethany House; Carol Johnson, Vice President of Editorial (Fiction) at Bethany House; and Dwight Baker, President and CEO of Baker Publishing Group. Gulp. I did my best not to gawk and gush, but I’m telling you, I am so like a kid when it comes to rubbing elbows with folks like this. I pretend I’m one of them, and I imagine I don’t look too much like a bumbling idiot, but I want to pinch myself and I continually whisper thanks to God above for the places He puts me!

One of those amazing places was orchestrating my exit from a taxi cab just as Liz Curtis Higgs was walking into the hotel for the Christy Awards. Liz was nominated in the Historical Fiction category for her novel: Whence Came a Prince (Waterbrook Press)

Liz has been one of my most favorite writers for years and years. I have read just about everything she’s ever written. Really. Every time I see her at a CBA event or a conference, she is always gracious to say “yes,” when I ask if I can have my picture taken with her. I am worse than a Paparazzi, it’s horrible. But I’m afraid it’s all a dream and if I don’t have visible proof I’ll wake up and find it’s all been a glorious fantasy. This photo of Liz and me was taken in the lobby of the Marriott City Center Hotel about one hour before her novel was given a Christy Award for Best Historial Fiction. Congratulations Liz! Don’t we look like we’re having fun? We were in full-blown evening gown mode and Brandilyn Collins had something to say about this on her blog – check it out here and make sure to scroll down and read all of her CBA updates.

(Note to Brandilyn: I for one LOVED your green sequin gown. I doubt you left green sequins in your wake as much as I left gold glitter. I felt like Gretel, leaving a trail of golden breadcrumbs to find my way back to my seat. No wonder my gown was on the sale rack at Neimann Marcus! Said gowns are displayed in the photo with the lovely and petite Lissa Halls Johnson.)

Any way, Liz was sitting almost directly next to me at the table next to mine at the Christy’s. Everywhere I looked I saw writing luminaries we have all grown to love—folks like James Scott Bell, Brandilynn Collins, Angela Hunt, Jerry Jenkins, Beverly Lewis, Gayle Roper, Tracie Peterson, and the list goes on and on. I was like a kid in a candy store—praise the Lord and help me not to be a total nincompoop!

NOTE: Bethany House went on to win four out of the seven Christy Awards and I'm honored that my debut novel, A STITCH IN TIME, has been published by Bethany House. Carol Johnson was the key force behind the creation of the Christy Awards and she still serves on the Christy Award Advisory Board.

Click here to read a list of the seven Christy Award recipients.

Stay tuned this week for more updates and photos as I share my CBA week with you. The 4th Annual God Allows U-Turns “Strength of Choice Award” was presented and I can’t wait to tell you who won! Plus, there was the AWSA Golden Scroll Banquet, and the Pearl Girl Tea, and the Women in Publishing event, and the Baker Dinner (WOW!) and ….well a lot happened in one week!

I’ll also be visiting with you about my time spent with Terry Whalin, Heather Gemmen, Eva Marie Everson, and a host of others, including Mark Kuyper, President of ECPA! Make sure to come back. Oh, and please check out our newly revised web site and tell me what you think, okay? God Allows U-Turns has a super new look!

See you tomorrow!

And that’s what’s on my mind today.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


A Prayer of Blessing

Well, my friends, here we are at my last day, my last post to you on this blog. I hope you have been blessed as I have. This venture has required me to think, to look deep inside, to recall happy and painful moments, and to turn to our loving Abba for guidance and words. I must confess I have procrastinated posting this last time, struggling with what to say in closing. I’ve decided to share a brief story before praying a blessing on each of you.

The incident I want to share happened when I was a teen. My parents were going through a rough patch and my grandparents wanted to help. Their offer was politely, but determinedly turned down. Finally, my grandmother called my father over and indicated that he sit. When she had his full attention, she took his hand and simply said six words. “Don’t deprive me of a blessing.”

My father couldn’t argue with such logic and accepted the help. It was the first time I had looked at it from that viewpoint. When we bless, we are blessed in return. That is not to say the return blessing is immediate or even in this life, but our Father knows. That is enough.

Dear Abba, thank You so much for the opportunity to share how You have poured out Your blessings on my life. I ask that these posts touch those that need to hear of Your extravagant mercy and love. Let every reader who comes across these messages be blessed by Your grace. May we bless others as You have blessed us and in so doing, bless You, in return. Father, I ask for favor to surround Allison and her team and the whole GAUT project. May You be glorified and may many make u-turns back to Your heart of love. I thank You again, for all You have done, for all You are doing, and all that You’ve yet to do. Be praised in Jesus’ Name. Amen and amen

Abundant blessings now and always,

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Blessing Discoveries

Welcome back! Yesterday I promised to let you in on some other discoveries I’ve made concerning blessings. I hope you are ready.

Just to set the stage, I want to remind you of my suggestion (from my first post) that perhaps God sometimes orchestrates the u-turn. I’ve been thinking about that and maybe that isn’t quite the best way to state what I mean. Maybe it is more like “orchestrates the opportunities” for the u-turn. With that in mind, here’s the story.

Back in the summer of 1775, a group of men from the wilds of Tennessee gathered. They were unhappy about their tax situation. Virginia and North Carolina both demanded taxes from Tennessee as both claimed ownership of the area. So, the men chose a few delegates to travel to Pennsylvania where they heard a congress of men from all the colonies were meeting. Perhaps they could get this ownership/tax problem settled. A young man named John was picked to go along as one of the volunteers.

That July, when John and the other men were meeting with some of our founding fathers, their settlement back home was attacked by renegades. When John returned, he learned his parents and most of his siblings had been killed. One brother was maimed and one brother, a deaf mute, taken captive. If John had been there, the odds were he would have been killed as well. Since he wasn’t there, he still had his life to live. He married, raised a large family and watched one son rise to become a Representative in the Congress of the United States. This son also had an unsuccessful bid for the office of president and eventually left for Texas where he fought at a place called the Alamo. You’ve probably heard of him—Colonel David Crockett.

My thought is this: If John had not gone to Philadelphia, he probably would have died. If he had died, there would have been no Davy Crockett. If there had been no Davy Crockett, there would have been no “me”—Davy Crockett is my great, great, great grandfather. God blessed Grandpa John with the gift of longer life by orchestrating the idea to go to the First Continental Congress for help and advisement. That did not change John’s free will, however, which he freely wielded by turning to alcohol (he was a raging drunk) instead of u-turning to God when faced with the torment of what we now know to be post traumatic stress syndrome.

So why is it that in spite of numerous opportunities to turn to God and allow Him to work in our lives, we often do horrible, destructive things, refusing His mercy, yet still live to tell about it?

My theory, and it is just a theory, is that God knows us and blesses us before we are even born. If our ancestor does not surrender to God’s love and guidance, then maybe the next generation will. We are not stuck in the curses of our ancestors. We do not have to remain in the family fetters. God has blessed us with life and gives us the opportunity to turn to Him, allowing Him to remove the chains that bind.

I’d love to hear what you have to say about this. Like I said, this is just a theory on my part, but Jeremiah 1:5 gives me the idea that this theory is a possibility.

Can’t wait to hear from you!

Abundant blessings,

Friday, July 14, 2006


Undercover Blessings

Ever run across a blessing in disguise? I know we all have heard the story of how someone who knows someone else whose cousin’s ex-wife’s step-sister’s uncle got stuck in traffic and how he ended up missing an important flight by mere seconds only to later hear the plane crashed. It makes a great movie but I’m talking about real life—your own life. Have you ever run across an undercover blessing?

There’s a story about the Reverend Dr. John Witherspoon from when he was president of what became Princeton University. A young man came rushing into Dr. Witherspoon’s office one day. “Dr. Witherspoon, you must pray with me now,” he demanded.

“Certainly young man. What do you want to pray about?”

“I want to thank God for sparing my life. I was on my way here and as I was coming around the bend, another buggy came careening in my direction. I thought for sure it was the end but somehow the buggy made it past and I want to pray and thank the Lord for His protection.”

Dr. Witherspoon stood and came from around his desk to put an arm across the young man’s shoulders. “I would be honored to pray a prayer of thanks with you but first I believe we should thank our Father for all the protection He offers that we do not see.”

I love that story. It helps me to remember that perhaps that slow car that won’t let me make it through on the yellow light might have just saved my life. Or maybe when I can’t find my keys for the longest time (only to discover they were right where I’d left them) that maybe I’m being protected from injury or expensive damage.

Several years ago, Ian’s doctors suggested we apply for disability through SSI for Ian. We did but were turned down. At the time, I was back in school working on my elementary education degree. Nearly two years later, when I was in my last semester, we received a letter from the Social Security Department. Apparently they had turned down someone who didn’t take it kindly—so much so, they unkindly took it all the way to the Supreme Court. And the Court ruled in their favor. The Social Security Department had to go back through their files for ten years and notify everyone they had turned down that they could now reapply. If accepted, the recipient would be paid a check for the back payment they should have received. We were able to make a down payment on a house with the money Ian got (this was approved because it provided shelter for Ian). If Ian had qualified when we first applied, we never would have gotten our house.

Another time, I went through a season of feeling forgotten by God. I had been graduated from a good university with a high GPA rating. I had all sorts of references and did well with my interviews. But time and again it would come down to me and someone else, and the someone else would get the job every time. I couldn’t understand it. I wanted a full-time teaching position. I wanted it with all my heart. Wasn’t God supposed to give me the desires of my heart?

About four years after graduation, I ended up having major surgery and was not available to interview for a full time job. I had been running on stress for so long that the time at home healing was a gift. The desire for my own classroom left though I knew, financially, I needed to work. So I prayed. “Lord, I hate to interview. If You have a position for me, would You please have them call me?”

The doctor released me on a Wednesday and I got a call on Thursday. “You don’t know me, but you were recommended to me. I have a preschool teaching position opening up and wondered if you might want to interview for it.”

It was a perfect fit and I loved my work. The pay wasn’t anything like an elementary classroom teacher would make but it was enough. Then in the spring of 1999, my boss and her boss asked me to stay after a meeting. They explained that when we moved into the new building (that was nearly finished), there were only two preschool rooms. Beginning with the upcoming year, one of those rooms would house a multi-needs preschool. I was not qualified to teach that and the other preschool teacher had more seniority. They didn’t want to lose me, though, so they offered me another position as Preschool Coordinator at a different site. I would be getting a promotion and a major raise.

I thank God to this day that I didn’t say yes on the spot. “May I go home and pray about this over the weekend?” They gave me the time and in the process I learned that if I took the job, it would cost us $300 per paycheck, besides losing Ian’s SSI money. He would no longer qualify for SSI or the state insurance or Children’s Rehab Services. Phil’s insurance with the city had been in place long enough that they wouldn’t cry “preexisting” if we added Ian but the formulary didn’t cover all his medications—some of which ran over $1000 per month. I suddenly realized that it had been a blessing all along to not get the positions I thought I wanted so badly.

I learned something else in the process. When God says to delight yourself in Him and He will give you the desires of your heart, He’s not talking like some cosmic sugar daddy. When I make Him my delight, my focus, my lord, He places in me the desires He has for me—to do what He wants, to fulfill the plans He has for me. I must seek Him first and His righteousness and these things will be added unto me. Make sense? It finally did with me.

Tomorrow I will share another discovery I’ve made about blessings. See you then!

Abundant blessings,

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Blessings All Around

I don’t know where I heard the story, but it stuck. Perhaps you’ve heard it as well. It goes something like this: In ancient China, a farmer had a couple horses. A storm came and the farmer’s horses got free. A neighbor noted the empty yard. “Oh, your horses ran away. That’s too bad.”

“Maybe yes, maybe no,’ the farmer replied.

The next day the horses returned with five wild mares. The neighbor heard the horses neighing and came by to see. “Now you have seven horses! You are very lucky!”

The farmer shrugged. “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

Word spread of the farmer’s good fortune. One day his only son came out to help him break in the new horses. He was thrown from one of them and broke his leg. Of course, the neighbor heard the commotion and raced over to see what happened. “Oh my, this is too bad for you.”

The old farmer didn’t even look up. Instead he helped his son into the house. “Maybe yes, maybe no,” he called over his shoulder.

The very next day soldiers of the emperor came riding in to the village and took every able bodied young man with them to fight in the war. Because his leg was broken, the farmer’s son did not have to go.

I think Job said it best when he asked his wife, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” Just like the whole half-empty/half-full glass theory, it is all in how we look at things. Everyone has troubles and everyone has blessings. If I came here to tell you all the hard parts of my life, you would probably have a hard time believing that I feel blessed beyond measure.

The same thing goes for our Ian. Born with a genetic disease that would one day take his life, Ian made so many trips to the hospital, I lost count—I stopped counting after thirty. Would you believe that we had to make him work on staying healthy? True! He had so much fun at the hospital he would let himself get sick so he could go back! Cable TV, sleeping in to whenever he wanted, a computer for his room, gifts and attention from friends and family, celebrity visits and the food he wanted—what’s not to like? All it cost him was some therapy and a few needles and he could handle that.

Thankfully, Ian outgrew that attitude but it was hard for awhile. Instead he developed an attitude of humor and generosity. He enjoyed making people laugh and bringing joy. I’ve dedicated a page on my website to his wit—we’ve come to call the sayings “Ian-isms” because they are so him.

After Ian went home to be with Jesus, our family gathered to remember stories and find reasons for joy. A friend took notes so the stories could be shared his memorial service. And oh, the stories we shared! I learned things that night as Ian’s sisters let the cat out of the bag for several things. Even in our grief, we couldn’t help but realize how blessed we were to have had him in our lives. Ever since, I’ve held on to those stories and laughter. I could choose to thank God for blessing me with Ian, even for such a short time or I could hold on to bitterness and grief and lose out on the joys of the present and the hope of the future. Like God said, He has placed life and death, blessings and curses before us. He pleads with us to choose life. He even sent His Son to die for us that we may have abundant life. Since it is a choice, I choose life. I choose blessings.

In closing today’s post, I’m going to share one of my favorite Ian stories. I was teaching at the same school where my kids attended. One day while I was working after school, Ian was hanging out in the boys’ bathroom with one of his friends. Now to get the proper picture of this, you have to know that both boys were in the seventh grade. Ian’s friend was on the Jr. High football team and was not only good sized for his age, he was also wearing his uniform, pads and all. Ian, on the other hand was more than a head shorter, a good fifty pounds lighter and wearing no padding whatsoever. However, both being thirteen year old boys, they were doing something which seemed to them most fun and entertaining—they were taking turns shoving each other into the bathroom door. Ian’s friend took his turn, by this time getting into the game, and shoved a little too hard. Ian’s g-tube popped out. At least, this is the story Ian told as he came running into my classroom, his hands cupped around the g-tube.

I’d like to say I didn’t panic, but I think I’m supposed to be honest here so let’s say I behaved like any other mom in the same situation. I called the doctor and we ended up spending the evening at the ER getting things fixed. It wasn’t until that evening of sharing Ian stories that I discovered what he had neglected to tell me.

Meg saw Ian at the water fountain. He was getting a drink, but then he straightened, lifted his shirt and stared at this stomach. Then he got another drink and did the same thing. “What are you doing,” she asked.

“I want to see if I leak.”
Well, his stomach might not have leaked, but his humor and generosity spilled out on all of us who knew him.

Abundant blessings,

PS If you have a story of blessing that didn't start out that way or a possible Ianism, please feel free to share in the comments. We love to hear from you and you might get drawn for a free book!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


And Then What Happened

Welcome back! (Didn’t I just say that yesterday?) I’m glad I haven’t chased you away and hope you are ready for my Paul Harvey imitation—you know, “The rest of the story.”

Yesterday I shared how, in spite of my prayers to the contrary, our son Ian was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. For those of you who do not know, CF is a genetic disease that attacks the lungs and pancreas. In short, the gene that is supposed to cause fluids to pass through cell walls is mutated making mucus in the lungs thick and sticky. Bacteria and viruses are trapped in the lungs. Also, the pancreas is unable to release enzymes for digestion so people with CF can technically eat 24/7 and die of starvation. It sure explained how Ian had managed to have bronchitis and pneumonia each twice before his first birthday. It also explained why he was so small and having difficulty putting on weight in spite of an appetite so large that I wrote to Kellogg’s to tell them how much cereal the boy inhaled daily. They were kind enough to send me some coupons for free cereal—and trust me, it came in mighty handy (thank you very much!).

It took a while to get Ian on the right track but he responded well to treatment. However, we were so busy getting used to our new lifestyle of twice daily chest percussion therapy and medication regime, we were a little surprised to find we were about to add to the family. Let me restate that—we were shocked and terrified to learn another Cary was on the way.

Remember back in biology class when you had to make the eye color chart? Well, the cystic fibrosis gene works the same way. Because it is a recessive gene, both parents have to be carriers. Carriers have no symptoms and, until fairly recent, there was no way to tell if you were a carrier unless you had a child with the disease. Once scientists isolated the gene in the mid-90’s, things changed but, at the time, Phil and I had no clue we were carriers until Ian was diagnosed. Then we learned that every child we had had a one in four chance of being born with the disease, a fifty-fifty chance of only being carriers, and a one in four chance of no CF/no carrier. We faced nine months of not knowing. More than once we were offered the opportunity to end the pregnancy, but we put our faith in God and said, “No!”

June 25th, five days late, we welcomed our beautiful Margaret Kathleen. One week after that we received the phone call. “How does it feel to be the proud parents of a perfectly normal baby girl?” My hand shook so hard I dropped the phone. When I found air enough to speak, I felt as if I’d been holding my breath for the entire pregnancy. And I cried—of course, I cried, my husband cried, my mother and mother-in-law cried. Another blessing. God is so good! All three of our girls have been tested now—even to see if they are carriers. In spite of the odds against it, all three girls do not have the disease nor are they carriers. Praise God!

I’ve learned over the years to count my blessings. I find myself looking for that blessing in disguise. Please, don’t mistake me for Pollyanna. Trust me, I can whine with the best. But I’ve experienced the living Word of God. His promises are not just words in a book. They are active and true. I know. I know.
I’m including a picture here of my kidletts when they were younger—taken the summer Charles Barkley took the Suns to the finals (hence the purple and orange) Our youngest, Meg, is now twenty so that should give you an idea how old the picture is. Even so, it is still my favorite. You probably couldn’t tell that Ian was making 2-5 hospital stays per year back then or that they had been putting up with Mom going to college and getting her degree or dad working long hours to meet the bills. We look happy and in spite of all the hard things going on, we were. And that’s another blessing.

Can you see a theme here? It’s a way of thinking that Ian caught and lived. Tomorrow I’ll share some examples. Until then. . .

Abundant blessings,
Jenny Cary

The Story Behind the Story Continues

Welcome back! When we left our heroine yesterday she was. . . oh, right, that was me. Okay, when we left off yesterday, I was sitting on the edge of my bed, little understanding the u-turn in progress. I was seven months pregnant and my husband was not only out of a job for the second time in a year, we were now without health insurance. Yet God was asking if I was ready to trust Him. It seemed like the best idea. (Okay, it was the only idea.)

As it turned out, our church was in the midst of a building program (not the same one from “A Legacy of Giving”) and we held an auction. Everyone one offered something of value and we auctioned it off with all proceeds going to the church. Our Sunday school teacher’s husband was a doctor and he offered a complete obstetrics plan. My mom purchased it and gave it to us thus providing where the insurance had left off. My brother-in-law decided to sell his lawn business and move his family to New York. My husband bought the business and we had income. God continued to meet our needs.

About two weeks before our son was due, our doctor (and friend) explained he had added a partner to his practice. “You could go into labor at any time. I’m going to be gone for about a week. You’ll like Dr. Smith.” Not funny.

Sure enough, early on the Sunday morning my doctor was due back, I went into labor (ten days before my due date) and our son Ian arrived. Dr. Smith was nice, like my doctor promised. As time went on, I noticed things were different with this baby—and not just because he was a boy. He didn’t nurse well, he projectiled formula, and he was slower putting on weight. (Projectile vomiting will do that.) We were scheduled to see Dr. Smith instead of my friend with the check-ups and Dr. Smith didn’t think there were any problems. Finally, due to the long drive, we changed doctors and I saw several others, not satisfied with any of them. At one point I asked if Ian could have cystic fibrosis and was told no. “It’s an expensive test and in my opinion he doesn’t have it.” I later learned the test was only $75 but I would have needed a doctor’s recommendation to get the test.

When Ian was twenty months, he stopped trying to walk or play. A friend recommended another doctor (doctor number five) who decided to do some testing, beginning with the sweat chloride test for CF. The hospital she wanted to send us to was booked until the next week. Our new doctor didn’t want to wait so she sent us to another lab. I watched carefully as they prepared the copper plates that would have electric charges sent through them to mottle Ian’s tender skin on the back of his calf. I was assured repeatedly that although he might feel something, it wouldn’t hurt.

They started the machine and Ian yelped. “It’s hurting him,” I told them.

“Naw, it doesn’t hurt.”

But when they took the copper plates away, there was a black blister, the size of my little finger nail, on the back of Ian’s leg. We were rushed to the ER where the head of the department gave us some salve for the burn and pushed us out the door. “I wouldn’t worry. Babies with CF sweat a lot and he didn’t so he should be just fine.”

However, Ian’s doctor didn’t agree and scheduled another test at her first choice hospital. Our family faced the longest weekend of our lives and I turned to my Abba, positive He would give us a negative report.

I was wrong.

Come back tomorrow when I share how God turned what was considered to be a death sentence in to victory. Until then . . .

Abundant blessings,

PS Remember to post your comments for an opportunity to win FREE BOOKS at our monthly drawing. See you tomorrow!

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Jennifer Lynn Cary--Guest Blogger This Week

Hello! My name is Jennifer Lynn Cary but my friends call me “Jenny.” Since you are going to get to know a lot of the more personal aspects of my life this week, let’s be friends, K?

Before I get started I want to thank Allison for this opportunity. I can still remember when I first met her. I’d attended the God Allows U-Turns banquet with my friend, Esther Bailey, during the CBA convention in Orlando. My number was drawn for a door prize, one of Allison’s GAUT books for kids, and I hung around after in hopes of getting it signed. Allison explained she had to do some PR but if I could wait a bit, she’d be glad to sit and talk awhile. For someone hoping for an autograph, that was right up there with dark chocolate (okay, my name is Jenny and I’m a chocoholic—non-recovering). When we finally got to sit and chat, I mentioned I had written a piece for GAUT. I thought I had submitted it but then maybe I’d only planned on doing it and forgot to follow through. (Wouldn’t be the first time).

Allison started to tell me to send it again but stopped and asked what the story was about. I gave her a quick synopsis and she put her hand on my shoulder. “I remember that story. I put a star on it.” She looked across the table to another of the GAUT authors. “You know what that means.” The other author nodded.

I looked back and forth between the women. “So, what does it mean?”

“It means it made me cry.”

My stomach knotted. “Is that a good thing?”

“Oh, yes, that’s a very good thing.”

More than a year passed though before we found the right book for that piece—“A Legacy of Giving” ended up in God Answers Moms’ Prayers. What I hope to share with you this week, among a few other things, is the story behind that story.

I’ve been thinking about the concept of God Allows U-Turns for sometime, especially since I learned I would be blogging to you all this week. When I think about the idea of a u-turn, it reminds of how the idea of repenting was explained to me. When a farmer is plowing, he makes his cut into the earth deep and straight. Once he reaches the end of the line, he moves the plow into a 180-degree turn and then makes a parallel line back in the direction from where he came. I understand that type of turning is where we get the root word for repent. But how many people in today’s society relate to the idea of plowing? (Besides my farm boy Ivy League husband, that is.) Driving terms are far more familiar.

So then I got to wondering if God allowing u-turns is only for the idea of repenting. Don’t know if you will agree with me or not, but I think it encompasses much more. In fact, sometimes, I think God orchestrates the u-turn. You can let me know if you agree after you read my posts.

The story behind my GAUT piece really began the summer of 1982. We had new neighbors who just happened to be new believers. They’d recently had a baby boy and we had welcomed a new daughter to our family so both of us moms were looking to lose a few post-baby pounds. Char, my neighbor, suggested we have a workout and Bible study three times a week. The workout sounded fine and the Bible study okay. I had grown up in the church and taken catechism classes from the time I was in third grade. I figured I could hold my own with a newbie. Funny thing, though Char didn’t know as many facts as I did about the Bible, she sure had a grasp on the relationship side that was new to me. It didn’t take long before I became the pupil and Char the teacher.

At the end of the summer, our family took a long awaited two-week vacation to visit family on the other side of the continent. The morning after we returned, my husband went into work at seven and was home by eight with no job. The company was downsizing. I dug deeper into my Bible.

My husband got another job with less pay and we plowed on. Then, in February of 1983, I was let go from my job (more downsizing from same company my husband had worked for previously). A month later I learned I was pregnant. Six months later my husband was out of a job again.

A particular moment in that day is etched in my memory. I sat on the edge of the bed wondering “Now what?” It was then I heard the words. “So, will you trust Me?” I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and made my choice. I even spoke it aloud. “Yes.”

If I’d had any idea what I was signing on for, I doubt I would have sounded so sure. But God knew how this u-turn business would transpire.

And I’ll give you all an idea of what happened tomorrow, same bat time, same bat channel. Or is it same GAUT time, same GAUT channel? Until then. . .

Abundant blessings,


Day Seven of Seven
July 9, 2006
Posted by Guest Blogger: Connie Pombo

“Who has been in Italy can forget all other regions. Who has been in heaven does not desire the earth.” —Gogol

You are looking at Lake Como and I’m standing on the terrace of Villa Serbelloni in “Bellagio”—deemed one of the prettiest towns in Europe. This place—heaven on earth—has attracted the likes of Goethe, Shelley, Byron, and many others. Wordsworth described Lake Como as “a treasure, which the earth keeps to itself.” But to me, this is where my passion for photography began! It was a perfect day in April of 1997, number five on my passionate to-do list. I flew over to visit friends—Vince and Cathy Costa—in Milano (“No”—not the Pepperidge Farm cookie—the city!). The cost of my airfare: $300 roundtrip (which I recovered from being bumped on several flights); the view—priceless! This is where my passions began and this is where I will end my posting journey on “Living the Passionate Life!” found in God Allows U-Turns for Women: The Choices We Make Change the Story of Our Life (volume 4). This is by far my most favorite photograph because I took it with a Fuji throwaway camera, and I didn’t know “anything” about photography (rule of thirds, aperture or shudder speed). It really doesn’t matter (does it?), especially when you have a view like this one! I keep several copies around the house: one on the refrigerator door, in my Bible, living room, bedroom, and office. “Why?” Because I never want to lose sight of the passion I felt when I first looked through the tiny lens of the camera and said, “I get it!”

A picture is a moment in time: that time, that place, that person will never be the same again, and that’s what I wanted—more time! Time to enjoy the gifts of this life; time to see my boys through safe passage into adulthood (see yesterday’s post—Day Six); time to spend with family and friends—I just wanted more TIME!

Since then I have added a few more passionate “to-do’s” to my list, and I have discovered that I’m passionate about speaking and writing (although I have yet to attend a writer’s conference). I know you editors out there are “cringing” right now (just to let you know, I do have an editor that I work with in town—Gregg Dubbs—and I have his number on speed dial). He is so passionate about all things “editing”: like an ellipsis, em-dash, en-dash, and other punctuation “marks.” Actually, he’s quite obsessed with them! I’m so thankful he’s on vacation this week because there would be a lot of red marks all over my posts. That’s okay! I’m not passionate about editing, but I am passionate about sharing my heart!

Speaking of writing, I just might have to attend a writer’s conference because last night I couldn’t get to sleep (it was that café mocha that I had at 10:30 p.m.). I rummaged through my suitcase at 1:30 a.m. and started reading A Stitch in Time. Well, I got hooked and now I’m half way through (don’t anyone e-mail me the ending!). What are you waiting for . . . go buy your copy! Thanks, Allison, now I’m inspired to write fiction (it’s been a “secret” passion of mine for a while). I would love to write Christian romance novels in Tuscany (after all, I know the language, the culture, and “yes” . . . the people!). But, alas, I will have to attend a writer’s conference and figure out how to develop my characters and plot!

Okay, this is where I say, “Ciao”! In Italian, “Ciao” can be used for “hello” and “goodbye”—the beginning and the end! I just love the way Italians stand on their doorstep and wave “Ciao”—a backward “Hi.” They wait, waving continuously, until you are gone from sight and then—and only then—they close the door! Can you tell I left my heart in Italy? In three years when my “caro sposo” (Mark) retires, we will have a change of address once again—“Under the Tuscan Sun”! Until then, dear friends, “Ciao” for now!

Allison, thank you for this rare opportunity to share with the world “all things” passionate. You have been so gracious to share this “place” of U-Turns with all of us--especially me. By the way, I logged on this morning to the new U-Turns website. Wow—what a “facelift”! It looks like a road trip to me—I’m ready! (Next week: All things French—Quebec City—here we come!)

Okay, this is the end (il fine!). If you would like to know more about Women’s Mentoring Ministries or the books that I’ve written, please feel free to browse my websites (listed below).

My greatest love is the “Passion-Giver,” the Lord Jesus Christ, who turned my greatest tragedy into a life of joy, purpose, and “yes”—passion. I’m so thankful we serve a God who specializes in “U-Turns”!

Okay, this really is “Ciao.” Did I happen to mention that Italians have a difficult time saying “goodbye.” Arrivederci tutti!

Living Life Passionately!

Connie Pombo
My Blog: Living Passionately!
Trading Ashes for Roses: From Pain to Passion
Baskets Full of Hope

Postscript: Many of you personally e-mailed me regarding “Bob”—the Wal-Mart greeter (Day Six). Maybe someday I will have the opportunity to share with you this incredible “U-Turn” story!

We'd love to hear from you! Remember to post your comments for an opportunity to win FREE BOOKS at our monthly drawing.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Passing It On . . .

Day Six of Seven
July 8, 2006
Posted by Guest Blogger: Connie Pombo

Climbing the “Heights” of His Passion: Yosemite National Park (June 27, 2006)

“No temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite,” wrote naturalist John Muir. Jeremy, my 25-year-old son, would agree! He celebrated his twenty-fifth birthday “climbing rocks.” If you’ve never been to Yosemite, check out page 585 of 1,000 Places To See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz.

El Capitan (“El Cap”—to rock climbers), is the largest single granite rock on earth, rising over 350 stories from the valley floor—drawing rock climbing enthusiasts from around the world (including my son).

Jeremy is passionate about climbing (I think it’s one of the reasons he became a teacher, so he could climb during the summer!). Rock climbing is a dangerous sport (have you seen the movie: “Cliffhanger”?). I “try” not to think about it too much when I know he’s doing a difficult climb. But that’s what moms do—worry about their “children”! This is Jeremy’s last note to me before he left for the “Disneyland” of rock climbers:

“Mom, just wanted to let you know I stopped by to say 'goodbye'; I’m sorry I missed you! I will make sure I come back in one piece (maybe two) and take tons of pictures just for 'U.' See you on June 30—my 'B-DAY'—25 years old. Love, Jer!” (Yes, I missed saying “goodbye”!) Doesn’t he write nicely for a high school teacher (he's a poet too!)?

I took that note, along with the first picture I have of him in Yosemite (age three, throwing rocks!), a photo of Yosemite Chapel, and tacked them up on my bulletin board as a prayer reminder: “Lord, please keep Jeremy safe and bring him back in 'one' piece!”

Which all brings me to number “ONE” on my passionate to-do list: “Seeing my children through safe passage into adulthood.” I have done that! This year they are now twenty and twenty-five. And guess what? They are “passionate” about life!

Jer discovered his passion for the “rock” at age fourteen, shortly after I was diagnosed with cancer. It was a great escape for him (who wants to see “Mom” suffer?). So we sent him indoors to a rock climbing gym (hint: they have spotters!); then later outdoors (I watched him with eyes half shut); and much later came weeklong climbing trips (I prayed: “Oh Lord, couldn’t my ‘boys’ be passionate about playing an instrument—like the violin instead?). Jeremy worked through his pain and loss on the rock: “A Metaphor for Life” (for a copy of his college entrance essay, just e-mail me). This summer a lifelong dream was realized, climbing in Yosemite for ten days—the “summit” of his passions!

In the book, Conversations on Faith, I write: “Cancer was once a huge boulder, so large I couldn’t see beyond it. Then as time went on, I saw it more like a rock; the path was less obstructed. Then cancer became more like a pebble in my shoe—annoying to have it there—but I didn’t want to stop and take it out. Now, it’s more like grains of sand; a constant presence, a friendly reminder of the once huge boulder that stood in my way!”

Friends, it doesn’t matter if you’re hang gliding off a cliff, climbing “El Cap,” working in a “tollbooth,” being a greeter at Wal-Mart, writing, or taking pictures of sunsets; if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, God will use you in ways you never thought possible!

I’m convinced that God wants us to be “passionate people,” and then and only then, will we realize our God-given potential! But first, we need to be connected to the “Passion-Giver.” Through my tragedy, pain, and loss, I made a “U-Turn” toward my passions and I’ve never looked back!

I will leave you with a classic book on pain and suffering. If you haven’t read it yet, grab yourself a copy: You Gotta Keep Dancin’ by Tim Hansel. Put this one at the “top” of your passionate to-read list!

It’s been a joy to share my passions with you this week (I told you that I would be using that word a lot)!

Remember: Passionate people don’t give up . . . they pass it on!

From God’s Word: “The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10, NIV).

Tomorrow: The end . . . or is it the beginning?

Living Life Passionately,

Connie Pombo
My Blog: Living Passionately!

P.S. We'd love to hear from you! Remember to post your comments for an opportunity to win FREE BOOKS at our monthly drawing.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Don't Let Your Passions Pass You "Bye"!

Day Five of Seven
July 7, 2006
Posted by Guest Blogger: Connie Pombo

In December of last year on a cold and blustery Thursday afternoon in a small café, I met with "Ellen" (not her real name). She sat across the table from me twisting her paper napkin with pursed lips. I broke the silence! “So, how’s your new book coming along? I wasn’t prepared for what I heard next: “Writing was my passion; I don’t write anymore!" Did she say, "Was?" (I’m not an English major, but that’s PAST TENSE—that means not present—not future—PAST; it is no longer!) I swallowed hard, took a deep breath, and paused before I spoke (very difficult for the Popular Sanguine Personality to do—ask Katherine Robbins). And then I asked, “You mean you don’t even write your mother?” She smiled, the corners of her mouth widened into a grin, and we “both” started laughing!

How did “Ellen” let her “passion” pass her “bye”? Let me paint a picture for you: Ten years ago, I would wake up at 7:00 a.m. sharp, to a blaring alarm clock, grab a piece of burnt toast, and rush out the door. I listened to NPR, the weather report, and put on make-up in the car (I still do that!), and then tried to beat the next person in line for the closest parking space to the office door. After work, I jumped in the car, got in the fast lane, headed for the gym, and waited—with my foot tapping—for the first available treadmill. I hit the red button for 30 minutes, and ran as fast I could until my heart reached its “peak” target rate, jumped off, didn’t acknowledge anyone in the gym, and speeded home. I fixed dinner, cleaned up, listened to “NBC Nightly News” for five minutes, and went to bed! I never saw a sunrise; never admired a sunset, and I couldn’t tell you what flowers were blooming! (This weekend: Rent the movie, “Ground Hog Day,” and watch it over and over and over again—until you FINALLY get it!)

That was ten years ago! Today, I let my body wake me up (usually around 7:30 a.m.) as the morning’s rays filter through our bedroom window. I don’t need an alarm clock (unless I have to catch an early morning flight—Ugh!). My body wakes me up. I pour a hot cup of hazelnut cream coffee, walk outside, and see what new portrait has been painted on the canvas of dirt (all from a packet of “wildflower” seeds, bought from the Dollar Store). My blooming extravaganza includes: California poppies, baby’s breath, and an array of purple, yellow, pink, orange and fuchsia flowers. I know they all have names, but I don’t care to know them all! I just enjoy watching them blow gently in the breeze—a symphony of color! I pick off the dead ones, brush away the beetles, and talk to the flowers and say, “You are so pretty today; keep standing straight and tall—don’t let last night’s storm get you down!” Before you reach for the phone and call the “National Mental Health Association’s Hotline,” read on . . .

Ten years ago, I could repeat the weather report verbatim: 87 for a high, low 58, light winds from the north, and a chance of rain. Now I feel the warm sun against my face, the gentle breeze in my hair, and the dew on the grass with my bare feet. I look up at the blue sky with white fluffy clouds and say, “What a beautiful day!”

Ten years ago, after work, I jumped on the treadmill and watched the LCD screen until I reached my target heart rate. Today, I usually walk or jog OUTSIDE at a healthy pace, unless it’s raining (I go to the gym!). I often stop—more than once—to smell the flowers and soak in the warm sunshine.

Ten years ago, I never noticed a sunrise or sunset, now I’m a sunset chaser! I actually keep a “throw-away” camera in the glove compartment of the car, pull off the side of the road, and watch the red fireball in the sky float down below the horizon, casting off hues of orange and yellow, until it totally disappears. It takes just a few seconds and it’s gone. Another portrait in the sky captured on film!

You know what’s interesting? I’m busier now than ever before! I have more on my plate at fifty than I did when I was twenty-five. I have deadlines, speaking engagements, articles to write, e-mails to answer, laundry to fold, and dishes to wash. But here’s the difference: I have learned to set priorities: God, family, friends, and then ministry! Get a copy of the book, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No, To Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend (I’m so glad I read it—thank you Carolyn Ruch!). I have learned to say, “No.” If it’s not on my passionate to-do list, and I don’t have a green light from God; it’s “no” for now—maybe forever! I don’t keep a perfect house because people are more valuable than things! Do I always keep on task? “No!” Do I ever miss a deadline? “Yes!” Do I always get it right? “Absolutely not!” Am I passionate about what I do? “Without question!”

Recently, I spoke to a group of cancer survivors at the"Weekend of Hope". My favorite audience is a group of “survivors.” You know why? They get it! They don’t have to watch “Ground Hog Day” over and over again! They nod in affirmation while I’m speaking because we’re all on the same page!

In May, from the Salzburg Suite (compliments of the von Trapp Family Lodge), I set my alarm clock for 5:30 a.m. Where’s the sun? I waited until 5:45 a.m. Okay, that's it; I’m going back to bed! And then it happened: a gorgeous palette of purples, blues, and yellows filled the sky! The sun crept ever so slowly over the green mountains of Vermont, while I hummed the tune: “Here comes the sun . . . dah-dah-dah-dah!" It was a rare moment; I don’t get up that early! I had to speak later that morning and I knew by nightfall, I would be exhausted. But do I regret rising to see such a spectacular creation of God’s pure majesty? Never!

Remember: Don’t let your passions pass you “bye”!

Thought for the Day: "That it will never come again, is what makes life so sweet." —Emily Dickinson

From God’s Word: “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4, NIV).

Tomorrow: Passing it on . . .

Living Life Passionately!

Connie Pombo
My Blog: Living Passionately!

P.S. We'd love to hear from you! Remember to post your comments for an opportunity to win FREE BOOKS at our monthly drawing.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Passionately Making a Difference!

Day Four of Seven
July 6, 2006
Posted by Guest Blogger: Connie Pombo

Yesterday, I went to Wal-Mart to pick up some things before our trip to Canada next week. The parking lot was full, so I checked around the corner next to the Bible bookstore (I wanted to pick up a copy of Allison’s new book, A Stitch in Time, and read it while we're on vacation). Both parking lots were full, so I circled around again and ended up in another “country" (okay, okay--another parking lot!). It was pouring down rain, but I still managed to smile at the “greeter” in Wal-Mart. He’s blind, but he recognizes people by their voice, so I always make a point to shake his hand and ask how he’s doing. I hurried through the store, picked up a "few" things, and headed for the self-checkout (not always the fastest route!). It stopped raining, so I ran into the Bible bookstore, picked up Allison’s book, and out the door I went (that’s no small book!). When I got back in the car, I checked the rearview mirror and screamed! It was my reflection, but who was "that"? I had mistakenly put on “waterproof” dark brown “eyeliner pencil” on my lips, and never filled it in (I guess that would have been worse—right?). I thought of Marita and Florence Littauer who taught us in CLASS to always put on a darker shade of lipstick—it shows up better in pictures (I don’t think that's what they had in mind!). Thankfully, no pictures were taken and I have a healthy sense of humor!

But taking a hard look at ourselves is so difficult, isn’t it? We miss all the "small stuff" that others see so clearly. The “joy mentors” that John Ortberg speaks about in his book, The Life You Always Wanted, make the “truth” feel like a warm blanket instead of a cold wet towel. Two of my “mama” mentors are now with the Lord, Juanita Hiestand and Edith Keener, but they were my prayer warriors through my many years as a young pastor’s wife (oh, how I needed their prayers!).

And now, a whole “new world” of mentors in the area of speaking and writing that I would have never met had I not discovered my “passion.” Some I have not been introduced to personally—only through websites and blogs—and others I’ve had the privilege of meeting at conferences and book events. And still others I feel as though I have known all my life. At the top of the list is the incredibly faithful servant of God, Joni Eareckson Tada. As writers we are all too busy—most days—and Joni more so than most! But as a 17-year-old reading her first book, Joni, I got a rare glimpse into the world of “suffering” and “passion.” Through her tragedy, pain, and loss, she discovered her passion of speaking, writing, and art. Her words made an indelible mark on my heart and life. The original paperback, Joni, has joined my items of timeless treasures.

When I was writing Trading Ashes for Roses last year, I e-mailed Joni a permission release to use a quote from a Billy Graham crusade that she had spoken at several years ago. Not expecting to hear for weeks—and most likely from an assistant—I filed it away. On June 22, 2005 at 3:50 PM, a personal e-mail appeared from Joni.

“Dear Connie, thanks so much for contacting me regarding using my name and my quote in your new book. I am always amazed—always so thrilled—to learn how God has used this wheelchair to inspire or encourage others. I’m humbled that those few words I spoke on a Billy Graham crusade touched you so deeply. Because of the brevity of the quote, no formal written permission from me is required. Many blessings as you publish this book and as others are inspired to a closer walk with Jesus Christ through reading your words.” ~Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni has been my “mentor” in suffering. How could I know at the age of seventeen that her words would penetrate so deeply? And then when my greatest trial came, her words came pouring back like a spring rain to refresh my parched soul. We never know how God will use our “suffering” to touch the lives of others.

As writers and speakers our words have impact, and sometimes we will never know who our audience is. But the truth is—words matter! They have the power to change lives. I know the “greeter” at Wal-Mart will never see my face, but he knows my voice!

Let me close with some marvelous speakers and writers who are making a difference in my life and others: Allison Bottke, the U-Turn Poster Girl, and "sister" to us all, who is so incredibly gracious and generous with her time and resources; the ever quirky, hillarious, and incomparable Julie Ann Barnhill; the eccentrically wonderful,Charlene Baumbich; Liz Curtis Higgs (who loves all things “Irish” as I love all things “Italian”); the elegant Marie Barlow (thank you for the privilege of working with you last year at Mt. Gretna--your voice is a national treasure); Debra White Smith; Gracie Malone, and the list goes on . . . Oh, "Ms. Personality”—Kathryn Robbins! Did I mention she is hysterically funny, but so refreshingly real! And my CelebrateMoms Team, especially Kathy Pride, who can make writing and talking about the most difficult subjects seem so easy!

But the ability to share with others what I’m learning is the best part of the journey: Katherine Bowers you have taught me so much more than I could ever impart to you! I can't wait to read your next book: Don't Drink the Water Under the Outhouse! By far, the most incredibly talented writer I know—you are the genuine article! Funny, funny, funny--did I mention she was funny?

And to my U-Turn Sisters: Susan Kelly Skitt, Carolyn Ruch, and Tammy Gehman—I’ll meet you "girls" at the “tollbooth” (see post for July 3, 2006).

Living Life Passionately,

Connie Pombo
My Blog: Living Passionately!

Challenge for the Day: Take some time today to write an e-mail, note, letter, or postcard to someone who has made a difference in your life. I know they will appreciate it! And, Joni, if you’re reading today, my heartfelt appreciation for showing me the way!

Postscript 1: Oh, I almost forgot, my editor friend, Gregg Dubbs. You always clean up my mistakes and make me look so good on paper (oh, how I needed you this week!).

Postscript 2: This almost sounds like the “Academy Awards of Writing”; I know I forgot someone . . . oh yes, my husband, who hears me “clack, clack, clack” all night long on the keyboard. How are those new earplugs working for you, honey?

Tomorrow: Don't let your passions pass you "Bye": Avoiding Burnout!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Living in the Present Moment!

Day Three of Seven
July 5, 2006
Posted by Guest Blogger: Connie Pombo

I would like to introduce you to “Carlo,” our gondolier in Venice (#17 on my passionate to-do list)! Never mind that my husband was kicking and screaming the whole way—I got him in the boat, didn’t I? (See him smiling?). He’s passionate about what he does (no—not my husband—“Carlo”). In fact, he is the fourth generation gondolier in his family. The gondola that we’re standing in has been passed down from generation to generation. It’s more than just a job; it’s more than just a profession—it’s a way of life! They don’t have the “Teamsters” in Italy; they have the “Gondolier Association,” made up of passionate Italians gliding through the glistening canals of Venice. Yes, they’re “touristy” and “overpriced”—unless you speak Italian (hint!). But they are the most enjoyable and romantic way to see the hidden corners of this unique city whose streets are filled with water. Do you ever get the feeling that one of my “secret” passions is to be a travel journalist?

What’s the ONE thing you would do if time and resources were no problem? Okay, better put: If all jobs paid the same, what would you be doing? I know "Carlo" is passionate about his "job," and he couldn't imagine doing anything else! But what about you?

There is a worrisome trend in America: We are not necessarily "passionate" about our jobs or professions. We are a “to be, to do, to have” culture, which means “things,” mean a lot to us. We seem to need a lot of them! Fortunately, I had the privilege of living in another culture—Italy—that regards relationships as the most important “thing” in life—family and friends! I married into a large Sicilian family and I have been showered with hugs, kisses, and yes—“pinches” for the past 30 years. You can’t help but feel “loved” in Italy. Italians are "passionate" about life in general!

My son, Jeremy (Geremia) was born in Catania, Sicily—the birthplace of his great grandfather (bisnonno). I’m blessed to speak another language and to know another culture. Why is it so important? Because we need to realize that there is more than one worldview, and if you have the opportunity to visit another country—DO IT! (In fact, put that at the top of your passionate to-do list!) You just might realize a "new" passion!

Speaking of Italy, I can’t help but share this story: When I first met the legendary Florence Littauer two years ago at CLASS, I had never heard of her before (remember: I’m still a newbie!). I just returned from Italy with a broken foot and was miserable with a hard cast up to my knee. I spent most of my “free time” in the hotel room at Sandy Cove. The last day, I managed to make it to the dining hall and sat at Florence’s table (everyone was bearing her gifts). One of the author/speakers had just returned from Florence, Italy and brought her an exquisite Florentine pendant. I was gushing over its beauty and then turned to Florence and said, “So, what’s your favorite city in Italy?” Everyone seated at the table was silent—all eyes were on Florence—waiting for her timely response (I still didn’t have a clue as to what I said wrong!). I absolutely love what Florence did next. She smiled graciously, picked up her fork without a pause, and said, “Florence, Italy.” By the way, I still didn’t get it (duh!) until I got back to my hotel room and ended up laughing myself to sleep that night! There are some things in life you can’t do without it and a sense of HUMOR is one of them. Don’t leave home without it!

It’s been a long holiday weekend, full of celebration, travel and family get-togethers. Some of you are waking up to the “real” world this morning and off to work. So in case you were away and didn’t read my last two posts (by the way “Day Two” just won the award for the lengthiest post in GAUT history—thank you to “everyone” who e-mailed me to share that wonderful news!).

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of the Last Two Days: “Living Life Passionately!” found in God Allows U-Turns for Women: The Choices We Make Change the Story of Our Life (vol. 4): What I thought was the “end” of life was just the “beginning” of a glorious road trip! And what I perceived as a “Dead End” was a miraculous “U-Turn.” And this “ONE” thing I know: God takes us from the place where we are to the place where He wants us to be. And He wants us to be “passionate” not only about Him, but what we are doing!

Friends, I feel so blessed to wake up every morning and feel intense excitement about the work God has given me to do. It brings me such great joy to know that I’m right where I’m supposed to be. And I believe that’s when we’re doing what we’re supposed to do—it not only brings a SMILE to our face, but to God’s as well!

There are several books in my library that I read over and over again—I never tire of them! One of my favorites is Life Wide Open by David Jeremiah. He writes, “Passionate people hang in there when the going gets tough. They persist, they persevere, they never lose heart, and they never quit.” He goes on to share this verse: "For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again" (Proverbs 24:16, NIV). In other words, we need to get back up!

The most passionate people I know are the ones who have suffered the most (look up the etymology of the word “suffering”). Is it any wonder? Check out one of my favorite resource tools: P-R-E-C-E-P-T A-U-S-T-I-N (you will think you died and went to resource heaven!).

The best advice I ever received on life came from a nurse oncologist: "Connie, this isn't the end of life . . . it's only the beginning. Some women start entirely new lives: they go back to school, travel, quit jobs they dislike, and pursue their passions." You know, she was right. Cancer was a wake-up call! I feel such an urgency about life! I have no regrets, just great memories!

Remember: "Yesterday is gone, tomorrow isn't here yet, we only have this present moment--that's why it's called a gift."

Thought for The Day: “Don’t waste life in doubts and fears; spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour’s duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that will follow it."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tomorrow: The people, the places, and the mentors that have given me inspiration. Don’t miss this one—your name just might be on the list!

Living Life Passionately,

Connie Pombo
My Blog: Living Passionately!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


"Let's Take a Road Trip!"

Day Two of Six
July 4, 2006
Posted by Guest Blogger: Connie Pombo

Warning: This post is not for the weak or faint hearted. You may get carsick!

Back to the “end” which is really the “beginning” . . . (continued from Day 1):

Did you ever take a road trip that you wished would never end? My trip in May to Stowe, Vermont was ONE of the “never-want-to-end” road trips! I followed 87N all the way up to catch the last ferry across Lake Champlain (just 26 miles from the Canadian border). Along the way I had lots of company—breathtaking scenery along each curve, surrounded by the Catskills and the primeval forests of the Adirondacks with more than 2,500 lakes and ponds including: Lake Saranac and Lake Placid. Everywhere I looked there was more blue sky and open road. I sang, clapped my hands (yes, I was the driver!), whistled a few songs (I can’t sing), prayed (with my eyes wide open), and took pictures with my digital camera (please don’t try this at home—I mean in your car!). I called my husband from my final destination, the von Trapp Family Lodge (remember: 1,000 Places to See Before You Die)and said, “I’m not coming home!” Mark didn’t even “flinch” because he has heard me say the same thing—at least 1,000 times!

I was in Vermont for the Weekend of Hope for cancer survivors and their families giving a therapeutic writing workshop. Each year the Stowe Community opens their hearts and their resorts to “survivors’ for a weekend of hope and healing (including the renown von Trapp Family Lodge). The entire weekend, I was Maria von Trapp singing (whistling): “The hills are alive . . .”

Not all my road trips have been so lovely! On a moonless night on March 7, 1996, I took a “short-cut” and ended up on a country back road in Lancaster County, PA (to get a better idea where I live, you can rent the movie “Witness”). The two-lane road quickly turned into one lane, through a covered bridge, and then abruptly ended in a “dirt” path. When I looked up, I was facing a “Dead End” sign! I laid my head on the steering wheel and cried out to God, “I can’t keep on like this—you have to do something!” That sign represented my life: I too had come to a dead end. For months—maybe years—I had experienced a “gnawing” sense of emptiness. I was tired, irritable, restless, and overly discontented with life in general. It was a “secret” I kept hidden from the world. After all I was a former missionary and pastor’s wife. Everyone looked to me for counsel and guidance, but I was running on “fumes”!

I asked God for help, but “help” came in the form of an unexpected package. Isn’t that how all U-Turns begin—at a point of desperation—when we’ve used up all of our “natural” resources? Two weeks—to the day—after pleading with God for “help,” I was waiting for biopsy results from the surgeon’s office. In a monotone voice the surgeon said, “You have breast cancer.” I was in shock! I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. I screamed, “What did I do wrong?” I was 40 years old—in the best shape of my life—running and working out every day, eating “tofu” (when no one else knew what it was), and drank bottled water! What could I have possibly done to “deserve” cancer?

The following weeks found me numb as I tried to absorb the shock of a life-threatening illness. My greatest fear: not being around to see our boys—ages 9 and 14—through safe passage into adulthood.

I struggled through surgery, treatment, and six weeks of radiation. On the outside, I kept up an “it’s okay façade,” but inside I was crumbling. I would leave on my 45-minute lunch break with my familiar jingle: “Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go—can’t be late to radiate!” So deeply entrenched in denial, I asked the hospital staff if they could possibly make a “well” waiting room for those of us who didn’t need to be brought in by ambulance or wheelchair. After all, I wasn’t like “them”! I was perfectly fine—I just had “cancer.”

On the last day of radiation, the doctor sauntered into the exam room and exclaimed, “You’ve completed all the treatments successfully, but I need to go over a ‘few’ more things before you leave.” What happened next is still a blur, but I remember the words “survival rate” and “mortality” being used in the same sentence. I don’t remember walking out into the hospital parking lot or even how I drove home that night. But I do remember the following weeks found me numb—depression had replaced fear.

After several weeks in my despondent state, my husband sent me off to California to visit my folks. They took one look at me (a skeleton with a zombie-like gaze) and realized they had their work cut out for them!

During those seven days I stared out the window and watched the movie “City Slickers” with Billy Crystal and Jack Palance. I caught ONE phrase in the entire film. These “businessmen” were on a quest—to find out what they were missing in life. They were trying to escape the “tollbooth attendants” for another life on “horseback.” Curly (Jack Palance’s character) shakes his bony finger at “Mitch” (played by Billy Crystal) and says, “This ONE thing!” And Billy Crystal, in a confused state, says, “What thing?” Curly retorts, “It’s for you to find out!”

I repeated that line over and over again, “This ONE thing!” until I boarded US “Scare-Ways,” on my way back to Pennsylvania, where I rocked back and forth for six hours (the flight attendants and other passengers didn’t have any trouble avoiding me!).

My husband picked me up at the Baltimore Washington Airport—his eyes glazed over from lack of sleep. I caught his expression as he looked into my blank eyes. I knew what he was thinking, Where’s my wife, where did she go?

As we drove up the driveway to our home, I realized the backyard had been perfectly landscaped: there were colorful flowerbeds were mounds of dirt had been and in the center—a beautiful pink dogwood tree. I whispered, “What’s this?” Mark reached over to grab my hand and said, “This is our tree of life; we’re starting a new beginning. God hasn’t brought us this far just to leave us!” For the first time in weeks, I saw a glimmer of hope—it was brief, but it was there!

One afternoon as I looked out the window at that beautiful tree in full bloom I asked myself this ONE question, “What if I had a year to live—what would I do?” I randomly wrote down 27 things I wanted to do before I died! That would become my passionate to-do list: spend more time with family and friends, take a vacation to Maine, go on a cruise, visit friends in Italy, write a book, and #27—parachute out of an airplane!

That was ten years ago and today, I have accomplished everything on my list except ONE thing: parachute out of an airplane (You are all welcome to join me with your parachutes if you like), but I reserve the right to decline!

Although I can’t imagine re-living the events of the past ten years, I can’t imagine my life without them! There were mentors along each turn of my “road trip” that showed me what this “ONE” thing was . . . putting the “Passion-Giver” first! I had been so busy controlling my life, I forgot who was “in control.” God knew exactly what He was doing . . . I finally let go and let “Jesus Take the Wheel!”

Thought for the Day: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” —Annie Dillard

From God’s Word: “I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you” (Joshua 1:5, The Message).

Are you headed in the wrong direction, are you facing a dead end, do you need to make a U-Turn? Just remember this “ONE” thing . . .

Tomorrow: “Back to the Future” . . . fasten your seatbelts!

Living Life Passionately,

Connie Pombo
My Blog: Living Passionately!

Postscript: A note was pasted on the double-glass doors of the gym this morning: “In honor of the birth of our country’s independence, we will be closed.” As you travel on the roads and gather with your families for a picnic, remember this ONE thing: God has set us FREE! Have a glorious Fourth of July!

Monday, July 03, 2006


Connie Pombo - Guest Blogger for the Week!

Day One of Seven
July 3, 2006
Posted by Guest Blogger: Connie Pombo

First of all, thank you, Allison, for the opportunity to be a guest blogger on GAUT. I have so much enjoyed reading all the prolific posts of the “bloggers” before me!

A brief introduction is in order because I’m sure by now you’re saying to yourself, Connie, who? Here’s my attempt at being “brief”: I'm an empty-nester mom (don’t worry—it’s just a term—“once a mom always a mom”), wife (to my college sweetheart, Mark), author, speaker, and founder of Women's Mentoring Ministries.

My life at age 50 is full to overflowing . . . most days! It’s certainly not the life I envisioned for myself—thanks to my U-Turn—but a life that I’m “passionate” about. You’ll be hearing that word a lot this week! When I’m not speaking or writing, I’m traveling. In fact, I just picked up a book for my husband (really for me!), titled: 1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz, and I’m checking them off just as fast as I can!

After having lived in Italy for six years ("la dolce vita”), we returned to the states to “finish” our family. We have two almost grown sons: Jeremy (a high school social studies teacher), and Jonathan (a sophomore at Grove City College).

I’m fairly new to the world of writing (I pursued my passion of speaking first!). As I have learned from many authors/speakers, there is no right or wrong way to begin—just follow your passion! With that being said, my list of writing credits include: Conversations on Faith by Insight Publishing; Trading Ashes for Roses: From Pain to Passion, and contributing author to God Allows U-Turns for Women: The Choices We Make Change the Story of Our Life.

In the July/August 2006 issue of “Coping” magazine, my article “Living Life Passionately: Portrait of a Survivor” will appear. It’s the story of my life—surviving cancer and finding my passion! Sometimes our greatest tragedy in life can lead us to our greatest passion, and in my case an amazing "U-Turn."

After that “brief” introduction, I would like to ask you a question: Are you passionate about what you are doing? If you’re a speaker or writer, I would hope you would respond with an exuberant “yes”!

But did you realize that 84% of Americans dislike their career or profession? And a whopping 63% dread getting out of bed on Monday morning because they dislike what they do! I was amazed—shocked really—to realize most of us are not living in our “passion” zone. Since reading those startling statistics, I have adopted a new policy when going to the dentist. Before they start drilling, I ask: “Are you passionate about your profession?” If there is even the slightest hesitation, I vanish!

Last month the “U-Turn Sisters of PA”—as we like to call ourselves: Susan Kelly Skitt, Carolyn Ruch, and Tammy Gehman and I were at a GAUT book signing event at Barnes & Noble in North Wales, PA (see Allison’s post on Friday, June 23). It was an easy two-hour drive from my doorstep. That is until I met up with the tollbooth attendant (if you’re wondering, most of these folks are in the 84%--see above). I missed my exit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike (not good), and made a U-Turn (really not good), and didn’t have a tollbooth ticket when I exited (unforgivable!). When I feebly tried to explain my predicament to the tollbooth attendant, she didn’t want to hear my pitiful excuse. She asked for my driver’s license and a "quarter" (I’m still not sure what that was for?), and exited her booth to write down my license plate number. (I was just a little disappointed that she didn’t ask me first because it’s one of the few things--besides my phone number--that I actually have memorized!) When I tried to ask for directions, she murmured, “I’m on my break!” I was close to tears and pleaded, “I need some HELP!” To that she responded, “Are you raising your voice? Do I need to call a State Trooper?” For those of you who are wondering, I have this strange habit of “raising” my voice a few decibels when I’m lost, scared, and dangerously close to being late for a book signing! I tried to imagine how the headlines would read in the “Philadelphia Inquirer” the next morning: “U-Turn Author Arrested at Tollbooth Plaza for Raising Her Voice!”

After I drove off (without my driver’s license), I thought, I bet that tollbooth attendant really dreads getting out of bed on Monday morning!

Ten years ago, I was in her “booth”—dreading going to work every morning, and I didn’t have a clue as to what the word “passionate” meant. But then I hit a “Dead End” sign on a moonless night on a country back road in Lancaster County, PA. That night changed the way I would live the rest of my life!

Tomorrow, we’ll start at the “end” which is really the “beginning.” Stay tuned!

I’ll close with this thought: "Be careful when you put off the enjoyment of life until the time is right. Before you know it, the right time can change into a lost opportunity." —Author unknown

Living Life Passionately!

Connie Pombo
My Blog: Passionate Living!