Friday, June 29, 2012

Flag of the week


I love being a citizen of the United States of America.

Some of the things going on in our country right now are scary, but there's nowhere else I'd rather live.

So I plan to celebrate our freedom this 4th of July.

I appreciate all the men and women who've fought for my freedom since America was discovered.


I hope you all have a great weekend.

And may God bless America!

(Pictures by Kelli)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Jennifer Johnson

Hi! This week I'm excited to welcome Jennifer Johnson to my back porch. Jennifer lives about an hour away, and it's always fun to get together.

Jennifer, tell us a little about yourself.

I've been married to my husband for 21 years. Still over-the-top in love with him. Sure, he gets on my nerves. Of course there are days I'm glad to see him go to work, but still, he's my man, and I'm always happy when he comes home. We have three daughters. Brooke, a 20-year-old senior at Western Kentucky University. She's studying to be an elementary teacher. Engaged to a man planning to go into the ministry. More about them in a bit. Our second daughter, Hayley, is 18 years old. She just graduated high school and will be attending UK in the fall. Allie is 14 years old. She starts high school this year and is an awesome soccer player. I teach 6th grade writing at our local middle school. By the end of this year, I'll have fifteen books in print. Crazy, huh! You can check out my website at www.jenniferjohnsonbooks.com.






How long have you been writing?
In high school I wanted to write children's books. I had several rhyming stories starring a critter named Albie. Time passed, and I got married and started having children. On one of our weekly visits to the library to borrow children's books, I stumbled upon one of Janette Oke books. I fell in love! Read all of them in a couple of months. I moved on to Lori Wick's stories. I devoured them as well. Once finished with her books, I thought, I think I could write these types of stores. So, at 26, I started writing. My first book, A Willing Heart, was a prairie historical. It was awful! Story was cute. Writing needed some help. :) My next book was I Promise. It was a contemporary romance- a genre I am much more comfortable writing. The story won 2nd place in the first Noble Theme Contest put on by ACRW (American Christian Romance Writers). The contest is now called Genesis and the organization is now ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). Because of contacts I made at ACfW's first conference in Kansas City, I now have a critique buddy, Rose McCauley, and I met Jim and Tracie Peterson, who gave me my first contract in May, 2005.

Do you want to touch on picking out Brooke's husband?

My first daughter, Brooke, is getting married this December. She and Derek have been dating for 3 1/2 years, since the beginning of their senior year in high school. Their upcoming nuptials are actually kind of comical, because, you see, I picked Derek as my future son-in-law when the child was in middle school. He didn't know me, and all I knew about him was that he was this cute kid who loved God. Moms of daughters, isn't that what we want for our daughters? A guy who loves the Lord, and if he's cute, that's an added bonus! :)






Anyway, I told Brooke that Derek was going to be my son-in-law. She thought I was crazy. He was a nice friend, and that was all! Well, time passed. Brooke got a boyfriend. Derek told her she and the boy weren't right for each other. For a while, she didn't listen, but she and Derek remained friends. When she and boyfriend broke up, Derek remained a good friend to her. Of course, my mommy radar said, This IS the kid God has picked out for her. For the entirety of her junior year, I had to bite my tongue as I watched their "friendship" deveDo you want to touch on picking out Brooke's husband? We won't embarrass anybody by mentioning your thoughts on son-in-law #2. Ha!
My first daughter, Brooke, is getting married this December. She and Derek have been dating for 3 1/2 years, since the beginning of their senior year in high school. Their upcoming nuptials are actually kind of comical, because, you see, I picked Derek as my future son-in-law when the child was in middle school. He didn't know me, and all I knew about him was that he was this cute kid who loved God. Moms of daughters, isn't that what we want for our daughters? A guy who loves the Lord, and if he's cute, that's an added bonus! :)

Anyway, I told Brooke that Derek was going to be my son-in-law. She thought I was crazy. He was a nice friend, and that was all! Well, time passed. Brooke got a boyfriend. Derek told her she and the boy weren't right for each other. For a while, she didn't listen, but she and Derek remained friends. When she and boyfriend break up, Derek remained a good friend to her. Of course, my mommy radar said, This IS the kid God has picked out for her. For the entirety of her junior year, I had to bite my tongue as I watched their "friendship" develop. Those who know me know I don't "bite my tongue" well. By senior year, they were dating. He has been a wonderful, supportive boyfriend, now fiance to her. Derek likes to think that HE'S the one who picked Brooke as his wife, but really, it was her mother who was praying for the two of them long before he knew it! :)

I'm sure you've read stories about nosy mothers who are constantly trying to match up their daughters. I have to admit it. I am one of them! I have been blessed to be head-over-heels in love with my girls' daddy since the first day I saw him. Corny, but it's the truth. I want that for them. I want them to have a godly husband, one who's not perfect, but still a man they can be proud of, respect, and love. I have a few potential candidates for the next two daughters, but we'll just have to wait to see if those fellows are in God's plan for the girls' lives. I confess. I'm a nosy mommy! :)lop. Those who know me know I don't "bite my tongue" well. By senior year, they were dating. He has been a wonderful, supportive boyfriend, now fiance to her. Derek likes to think that HE'S the one who picked Brooke as his wife, but really, it was her mother who was praying for the two of them long before he knew it!





I'm sure you've read stories about nosy mothers who are constantly trying to match up their daughters. I have to admit it. I am one of them! I have been blessed to be head-over-heels in love with my girls' daddy since the first day I saw him. Corny, but it's the truth. I want that for them. I want them to have a godly husband, one who's not perfect, but still a man they can be proud of, respect, and love. I have a few potential candidates for the next two daughters, but we'll just have to wait to see if those fellows are in God's plan for the girls' lives. I confess. I'm a nosy mommy!


I'm enjoying your new book, A Wedding Song in Lexington, Kentucky. I noticed it's longer than some of your other stories. Was it harder to write?
It is longer- 80,000 words in length. Normally, I write for Heartsong Presents. Those books are 45,000 to 50,000 words. A Wedding Song wasn't harder to write. It simply took a bit more time. I enjoyed being able to develop my characters on a deeper level. I plan to keep writing for Heartsong, but I would like to write longer books as well.

I hope you have much success. It's a great story. Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer.





Thursday, June 21, 2012

NYC Mission Trip Part 2 & Flag of the Week



I'd like to welcome Kelli back to share more about her mission trip to New York.

It sounds like you had a great trip working with the kids at tennis camp. Did anything break your heart while in New York?

One of the things that broke my heart while in New York was to see the community we were helping out and to hear stories about the people that lived there. I take for granted the fact that I live in a house, have my own room, have two parents that are involved in my life, a church that I can be involved in and much, much more that I should be more thankful for. To hear stories about the families and how many fathers are not involved in the home, tore my heart. The church staff told us that many children come home from school to an empty apartment and are there by themselves with other siblings until late at night, due to moms who have to work two and three jobs to put food on the table, clothes on their back and a roof over their head. Since the children are left at home for so long alone, this is when kids get involved in the wrong things.

What else did you do?

Other than the tennis camp, our team was able to get to know one another through various meals and subway rides. Our team was also able to sit down and eat with the Everyday Church staff as they told us about the church and the community they live in. On our last full day, after the tennis camp, we were given the rest of the afternoon and evening to explore New York City. A small group of us were able to walk around various streets in the city, take a ferry to Stanton Island and eat dinner.





Is there any specific way we can pray for the Everyday Church?


God is really beginning to work through Everyday Church and you can definitely see His presence in the community, but there are still a lot of things that we can pray for. Pray for Everyday Church and the work that they are doing. Pray that the staff has the energy to keep on going and to not give up when times are tough. Pray for the community of Inwood and that their hearts and minds are open to hear the news of God and His goodness and grace. Pray that the community will trust Everyday Church and allow them to begin coming to the church services. Also pray for the financial needs of Everyday Church, they continually need support.

Kelli, thanks for sharing your story and pictures with us this week!



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

New York Mission Trip Part 1


My niece, Kelli Lutz, recently returned from a mission trip to New York City.
I asked her to share about her trip.



Hi Kelli,

Thanks for joining me today on my back porch.

I am so glad to do this for you! Thanks for asking me!

What was the goal of your trip?

The main purpose of our trip was to help Everyday Church that is located in Inwood, a small community in New York. This church is a church plant, in which our home church helps support. The church has slowly been gaining the trust of the people in the community through their work/programs for the youth. The church works closely with a school in the community, which is where they are able to hold their church services and help students through tutoring and other programs. Our team of 12, went to New York to run a three day tennis camp for Everyday Church. It was a unique opportunity to teach the kids how to play tennis because life in their community is not conducive to allowing them to be involved in sports activities. Our goal was to not only teach the kids how to play tennis, but to just love and encourage them. We were also there to help build trust between the church and the community.



Do you feel like you accomplished your goals?

I definitely feel like we accomplished our goal of teaching the kids how to play tennis, as well as loving and encouraging them. It was so neat to watch how quickly the kids picked up tennis in just three short days. It was also fun to watch the kids as they played tennis because even if they were not able to hit the ball over the net, they still had the world's biggest smile on their face because they were having fun and trying something new.



- The highlight of the trip, for me, was to see the smiles on the kids faces from the time the walked onto the court until they walked off to go home. They were so excited to have the opportunity to come and try something new, even if every ball they hit went into the net. It was amazing to watch their faces when they were able to hit the ball over the net because they were so excited and so proud of themselves. It was a very humbling experience for me and showed me that I take things for granted everyday that these kids would give anything to do and have.








The kids were so great! For the most part they all warmed up to us pretty quickly, but we still had a few shy ones. On the first day, when the Everyday staff introduced us and told the kids that we were from Kentucky, one of the kids asked what country Kentucky was in...haha it was so funny to see their faces when we told them we were from the same country. The kids were very well behaved and did a great job listening and participating. During the three days, I never heard one complaint from any of the kids. They were all just out there having the time of their life.

Please come back and join us for the rest of our conversation.

Thanks!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day



Happy Father's Day.

I'm so thankful for all the father's in my life.

My dad has always been supportive of my brother and myself and all the grand kids. He'll be 75 this year and he's still coming out to cheer us on in our endeavors.

This spring he came to see Asbury University's Mens' Tennis team play in Richmond, IN to cheer on his youngest grandchild.

He doesn't stop there, he gets to know the other parents and guys on the tennis team so he can cheer for them all.

So if I can be corny for a minute, I'd like to cheer for my dad.

GO DAD! YOU'RE THE BEST!!!


Friday, June 15, 2012

Flag of the week

Here's this week's flag of the week.

From the USS Alabama Battleship Visitor Center.






Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Traci Hilton

I want to introduce you to a new friend, Traci Hilton.







Traci lives in Portland, Oregon and is the author of Foreclosed, Buyer's Remorse, and Eminent Domain. All three are Mitzy Neuhaus mysteries.

Traci, I guess you like living in Portland since you set your story there.

I love Portland! I live just across the river from Portland now (housing costs being what they were when we were house hunting.). I set the stories here because it is so easy to write what you know. Mitzy’s Portland rings true for locals and folks who have visited, but it is fictionalized to suit my story.

If I were to visit you, where's the first place you'd take me?

Powell’s City of Books, without hesitation. It is the best book store in the whole world. It’s also becoming a pretty popular online bookstore. (Powells.com.) We would be very Portlandy about the trip too and take the light rail.

When I was a teenager Portland had Yellow Bikes. I can’t remember what patron paid for them, but some kindly soul bought dozens of bikes, painted them yellow, and left them all over downtown for people to ride for free. Of course they were just vandalized and stolen. But for while they lasted, they were a blast. When I think of a true Portland experience bikes, mass transit, downtown, and Powell’s all come immediately to mind.

There is also a series of trails that skirts downtown, gorgeous uphill forest hiking in the middle of the city. It leads to our town’s one historically preserved mansion, the Pittock Mansion. That’s a great bit of Portland to share with visitors as well.

Okay, last thing to visit in Portland…I’d probably have to take you to the Columbia River Gorge. It’s as beautiful as anything you saw in The Lord of the Rings.

What's your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?

Curl up in a blanket with a cup of tea and a good book—even better if there is bread baking! Of course if I did that every time it rained I’d never get anything done.

How did you pick being a real estate agent for your character?

When I was brainstorming ideas for a mystery I knew I wanted three things: a theme that would hit a nerve with readers. I wrote Foreclosed in 2009 so what better than a housing crash tie in? I also wanted an amateur sleuth who had a natural reason to run into people in crisis. In this economy it seems like a for sale sign and a family crisis go hand in hand. I also wanted something that could easily develop into a series. Nothing better for a series than a job where you are constantly meeting new people.

Tell us a little about Mitzy.

She’s been criticized for being not entirely likeable, since she is rich, tall, blonde, and beautiful. But she does have faults. She has a tendency to mouth off to the wrong people at the wrong time. She’s also about a decade behind the curve style-wise, but doesn’t notice. Her real struggle comes with trying to solve her problems in her own strength rather than relying on God.

Traci, thanks for stopping by and visiting with us today.




Friday, June 8, 2012

Discoveries

Do you ever surprise yourself? For years I thought I'd like to go to Paris. It's been an underlying desire that never made it to the top of my priority list. My life is good, and if I never make it to Paris it won't be the end of the world. There are so many places in the USA that I love to visit. Boston, Savannah, and Charleston, SC are a few of my favorite places. On a recent trip to Mobile, I enjoyed walking through downtown and looking at the old homes. This started me thinking. Not always a good thing. A friend of ours recently returned from Europe, and I loved looking at his pictures. If I did go to Paris, what would I want to do? I love art and want to see the museums. But as I looked at Tom's pictures I loved seeing the different architectural styles. I enjoy seeing old buildings and homes. When I've visited Boston, Savannah, Charleston, and Mobile, I've enjoyed walking around and studying the homes. Each area has a different style, but they are all beautiful cities. So whenever I go on vacation in the future, I want to take time to roam the city streets and learn what makes the city unique.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Flag of the week

I hope you've all had a wonderful week. We've enjoyed graduation parties, spending time with friends, and warm weather. Here's the flag of the week. I hope you have an enjoyable weekend.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Living Like a College Student

Here I am with my favorite college student, Scott. He is home for summer vacation. He spends most of his time working and hanging out with friends. The first few nights he was home, the guys hung out at our house. But now they're venturing out. One night Scott and two friends drove to the next county to hang out with a friend from college who's stuck home recovering from back surgery. Scott packed up a video game system and the three friends headed out. We live in a small town surrounded by narrow, curvy roads. I always ask him to text me when he's heading home, and to come talk to me when he gets home. Then I can turn out my light and go to sleep. The night they visited their friend, I was so tired that I drifted in and out of sleep. I left my light on so I wouldn't fall too deeply asleep. You know, in case there's an accident I want to know and go look for them. Well, I fell asleep and he woke me up to tell me he was home. It was after 1:00 AM, and I had to be up by 6:00 AM to go to work. So that night the guys get together at a friend's house with a swimming pool. It's one o'clock again. But this time I'm a little more with it. When he comes in the house, I hear him and raise up on my elbows to talk to him. The third night in a row that he comes home after midnight, I'm up in the kitchen washing dishes and somewhat full of energy. Was I yawning at work? You bet I was. But I discovered it only took me three nights to learn to live like a college student.