Monthly Archives: April 2014

Fantastic Opportunity to Meet and Hear Author Jan Watson, Monday, April 28th

Those of you anywhere near Louisville, please mark your calendars for next Monday, April 28th, from 6:30-8:00 p.m.!!! You will have the opportunity to meet and greet Author Jan Watson. Call all your friends and head to Middletown United Methodist Church for an evening of fun, encouragement, and blessings.


11902 Old Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243

11902 Old Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243

If you don’t know Jan, you’ll immediately fall in love with her, her humor, sincerity and writing. She is some kind of an amazing gal.

I first met Jan (totally believing to this day the Lord orchestrated our meeting) in Lexington at a huge Book Fair. She has an only-God-could-pull-this-off kind of story.

A retired nurse, she’d always had it in her heart to write.   Jan jumped at the chance to enter a writing contest. Not just any writing contest….Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writer’s Guild Writing Contest! Without further suspense, she WON.

Jan Watson

Her winning entitled her to a publishing contract with Tyndale. She was a mere sixty years of age when her first book released. I’m even happier to report, she’s still writing and after just celebrating her seventieth birthday, book number eight is complete, due out in the Fall. Be sure to ask her about it!

Branches Book Club will be hosting Jan Monday the 28th. We’ll be discussing her seventh novel, Tattler’s Branch. Jan grips you in the beginning and takes you on many twists and turns full of surprises, moments of fun, and some tear-filled ones requiring a nearby Kleenex.

You’ll fall in love with some of her characters, and then one or two others make you want to take justice in your own hands. A gripping and visual writer, you’ll agree you’re more than ready for Jan’s next book when you finish this one!

She is also gifted at bringing in the importance of reading and applying (and memorizing!) God’s Word for future peace and comfort in trying situations. How she comes up with some of these “situations” in her books is beyond me.

Tattler's Branch

Bring your book with you and Jan will sign it for you. Be thinking of questions for her too. She loves to answer them, as well as hear comments from you, her readers.

Last fall I had the opportunity to connect Jan with Nancy Sleeth and Kelsey Ach. (For more information, click here. This post also includes the story of how Jan and I met. Crazy fun.)

Lexington authors need to know one another, don’t you think?!!! We had a ton of fun that day. I’ve spoken of Angela Correll from Stanford, KY before, too, and she and Jan met in a writer’s class years ago. Thumbs’ up to all these girls’ books:

Almost Amish Sleeth

grounded cover

Try your hardest to get to this meeting as this is the last Book Club meeting of the school year. Branches will resume in the Fall.

To RSVP for the meeting or if you have any questions, please call Kelly or Nancy at (502) 245-8839.

See you Monday, April 28th, from 6:30-8:00 p.m.!!!

Next month we’ll tackle a tough subject I keep returning to: Margin. Be ready for some R & R, fresh from God’s Word.

‘Til next time!

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Filed under Author Interviews, Book Clubs

Happy Holy Week! “He is not here…He is Rizzzen”

Happy Holy Week, Friends! I pray this finds you in great anticipation of a Blessed Easter.

The below post is a reprise from last Easter. Its’ points are worth repeating. A couple of updates are necessary for you  before you read this:

Our youngest son, Woody, is now almost twenty-two. He’s a senior at The University of Kentucky, will be graduating in May, and is getting married to his high school sweetheart, Lindsey-Taylor Thompson, in June!

Woody and LT

I also talk about my five friends who became grandmothers to granddaughters. These little angels have now had their first birthdays and are even more precious than when I wrote about their births. One of them will become a big sister (!!!) in October!

And let’s not forget my dear friend, Liz Curtis Higgs, whose blog you’ll see I quoted from last year on the Women of Easter.  This year she’s blogging on many different Proverbs, all of which will bless your socks off.  (

I pray you’re able to sip a cup of coffee or tea while you read this and take time to savor our Savior and what He did for each and every one of us…Here we go!

“He is not here…He is Rizzzen…”

Don’t tell me children don’t learn a LOT at an early age! And watch out, THEY are watching YOU! And horror of all horrors: THEY will imitate you!!!

Our third-born son, named Woodford, a/k/a Woody, is a blast. He makes me laugh every time we’re together.


One Easter weekend, when Woody was two years old, we’d just returned home from church. Scurrying to get a meal on the table, we asked our oldest son to entertain the younger two boys. Thankfully this wasn’t the year before, which nearly did us in…

That particular year before, John and I chose to take two cars to church since the Easter Bunny’s arrival was postponed ‘til after church. (Don’t ask me how we explained that one.) “The Plan” was that I would hurry home, ahead of John, hide the eggs, and be ready for the boys.

Problem is, my husband tends to drive a tad speedier than yours truly, so I was barely ahead of them. Hurrying in heels isn’t a gift of mine either, so I was literally hurling eggs thru’ the air in the back yard. To top it off, my heels were sticking in the grass, and well, it’s a good thing none of our neighbors were within earshot.

Darned if John and the boys didn’t arrive while the eggs were flying thru’ the air. Our oldest son, John Jr., more astute than anyone needs to be, said, “Look Daddy! It’s raining Easter eggs!” Well, let’s just ADD to that big web of lies we’d already woven, throwing in one more far-fetched explanation.


Now while I know there’s not really a “time out chair” in Heaven, I still envision myself spending time there for some of these antics…So sorry, Lord. (Don’t you know He thinks we’re completely crazy sometimes?)

So back to the year Woody was two: The boys were playing upstairs and I ran up to get something. Woody was marching back and forth across the hall, while holding a big plastic telephone, just-a-chatterin’ away. (I’ve been known to walk thru’ the house while talking on the phone….hmmmm.)


Woody was shaking his head, back and forth, emphatically saying, “NO!”… pause, pause….”He is not here!” …LONGER pause….”He is RIZZZEN!”, prolonging the ‘s’ into buzzing ‘z’s!

That spectacular Easter Sunday, the Sunday school teachers were teaching the precious children about Jesus’ resurrection. As Liz Curtis Higgs said in her blog last week about the resurrection, “This truth changes EVERYTHING! His heavenly Father ‘has raised him to life’ (CEV). Hallelujah! God be praised! He who was dead is now alive forever!”… And even two year olds can begin absorbing this.

450x150 for The Women of Easter

This Easter week, let’s celebrate TWO important points:

First, and foremost, let’s celebrate that the tomb is EMPTY! Christ indeed has risen!


An angel of the Lord announces to Mary Magdelene, Mary the Mother of James, and to Salome in Mark 16:6 “Don’t be alarmed…You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here…” (See also Matthew 28:6, Luke 24:6 and John 20:11-18.)

BLOG Three Marys

The Life Application Bible points out the importance of the resurrection by calling it “the KEY to the Christian faith.” Let’s look at 5 reasons WHY the resurrection is “vitally important.”

1 – “Jesus kept his promise to rise from the dead, so we can believe he will keep all his other promises.

2 – The resurrection ensures that the ruler of God’s eternal kingdom will be the living Christ, not just an idea, hope, or dream.

3 – Christ’s resurrection gives us the assurance that we also will be resurrected.

4 – The power of God that brought Christ’s body back from the dead is available to us to bring our morally and spiritually dead selves back to life so that we can change and grow.

5 – The resurrection provides the substance of the church’s witness to the world. We do not merely tell lessons from the life of a good teacher, we proclaim the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Don’t miss these truths held within the verbs in each of the above five points: we CAN BELIEVE…; we are ENSURED ; we are GIVEN THE ASSURANCE ; Resurrection power IS AVAILABLE to us; it PROVIDES THE SUBSTANCE so that we can PROCLAIM THE REALITY OF THE RESURRECTION….

Let’s take time this week, with Good Friday approaching and Easter Sunday on the horizon , to be still, to reflect on this resurrection power available to us, and perhaps pray about a friend or neighbor who needs to hear this GOOD NEWS.

Country Church

Which brings me to the second point: Let’s all be ever watchful for ways to teach our children, or our grandchildren, or nieces and nephews, or neighbors, about the Lord and His powerful Word.

Remember, Woody was just two years old at Easter time that year, and he clearly “caught” the Scripture being taught. We mustn’t forget what little sponges these children are.

You won’t believe this, but in the past four months, I have five, yes FIVE, close friends (two of which are my sister-in-laws!) who have just been blessed with granddaughters! (Think pink! ) These are all strong-in-the-faith Christian women and I can hardly wait to see what these little angels will learn about God from their grandmothers.

Look at their beautiful names and please say a prayer for them and their families: Caroline, Maria, Lucie, Emmeline and Emerson. I suspect you, too, may know of a newborn to pray for! Pray for them and their parents to raise them up knowing the Lord.

grandmother with baby

One of my many sins over the years in attempting to raise these boys is I tend to compartmentalize my faith. I need this Scripture forever in the forefront of my mind: Deuteronomy 11:18-21 says,

“FIX these words of mine in your hearts and minds;

TIE them as symbols on your hands and

BIND them on your foreheads.

TEACH them to your children,


when you SIT AT HOME and

when you WALK along the road,

when you LIE DOWN

… and when you GET UP.

WRITE them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.” (NIV)

Now you can see what I’m emphasizing above….again the verbs: fix, tie, bind, teach, talk about when you sit, walk, lie down, get up, and write. Don’t miss the fact that IF we do these things there’s a promise”so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land…”

I pray you and your families have a most blessed Easter and Spring (even tho’ it’s snowing as I type). May we all rejoice that “He is not here, He is risen!”

‘Til next time!

(This post is dedicated to our youngest whipper- snapper-son, Woodford Lee Hoagland.  John and I are also forever grateful to the ministry of Campus Outreach on UK’s campus which has discipled Woody to focus on Christ, rather than chaos which we all know can come with college experiences. Checkout for more information. I love Campus Outreach’s mission statement: “Glorifying God by Building Laborers on the Campus for the Lost World.” Amen. Happy Easter everyone!)

Eliz and Woody


Filed under Family, Friends, Holidays, Life Lessons

Let’s Learn More about Heaven and Angels…(To Heaven and Back by Mary C. Neal, MD will fascinate you and give you hope!) -Part 2 of 2-

Welcome back! If you were with us last week, we discussed wild white-water rafting, including Dr. Mary Neal’s frightening kayak accident. It includes an astonishing trip to Heaven and back, a faith journey you do not want to miss. (See Part One…)

Her book? To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story. (You’ll also see, at the end of this post, more fascinating books on Heaven, one of which is being made into a movie!)


This week we’ll wrap up with a peek into Mary’s encounters and conversations with Angels. They are all full of hope!

Mary realized “Angels often expose us to, or push us into, a situation that will force our redirection…The acceptance that change rarely comes without difficulty and challenge can truly free a person to ‘rejoice always.’ It also allows us to live daily with a grateful heart and ‘give thanks in all circumstances.”

One favorite point Mary makes is three-fold:

“No matter what the circumstances, we can be grateful that:

1 – God fulfills His promises,

2 – That our Faith is sufficient to sustain us, and

3 – That our eternal life is assured.” More hope!


Ten years following Mary’s recovery, unbelievably, her family suffered another tragedy. Mary and Bill’s oldest son, Willie, was killed in a skiing accident. The Scripture Mary uses in the beginning of the Chapter, “The Longest Day of the Year”, (Willie died on June 21st) is Matthew 28:20 “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” 

Mary and her family’s source of comfort and strength came from the Lord and His presence. Willie’s legacy, by God’s grace, lives on. (You can learn more about Willie from Mary’s website: or from Willie’s website: )

Willie Neal

Mary tells us while writing this book, she was “freshly filled with the remembrance and acknowledgement of God’s continuing and active presence in my life, His absolute grace, His pure love, and His promises for the future.” MORE precious hope!


Future Ahead Concept

When her family was filled with despair over Willie, Mary said, “I did believe that God, if asked, would not only carry us, but also would protect our souls during this emotionally vulnerable time.”

Mary’s conclusions in the book about her accident and Willie’s death are beautiful. Especially if you’ve lost loved ones, you don’t want to miss the divinely appointed details.

The last Scripture Mary gifts us with is: Hebrews 11:1 – “Faith is being sure of what we hoped for and certain of what we do not see.” Martin Luther King, Jr. “translated this into the world of action when he stated: ‘Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.’”


Mary adds, “It is this faith that sets us free. It allows us to fully embrace life, dissolves fear, and replaces worry with hope. Faith allows us to confidently walk with God into a future filled with joy; one that can become an extraordinary and amazing adventure.”

Mary’s closing words are words to live by:

God created us, knows us, loves us, and guides us. With love and grace, He commands us to:

–         Rejoice in this knowledge always.

–         Live a life of prayer, giving glory to God and continually listening for His guidance.

–         Life a life of gratitude, giving thanks in all circumstances.”

A helpful resource for these commands is Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

One Thousand Gifts

Let’s pray we all embrace our next adventure awaiting us….

Keep the hope!

‘Til next time!

Footnote: If you’re intrigued by books on Heaven as many of us are, two others will broaden your perspective.

90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life by Don Piper

90 minutes in heaven

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Bumpo

Heaven is for real

All three of these are page-turners.


Fun fact: Heaven is for Real is being made into a movie and is due to be released right before Easter, on April 16th, 2014. Watch this trailer and watch the hair on the back of your neck stand up!!!




Filed under Book Reviews, Life Lessons

Let’s Learn More about Heaven and Angels…(To Heaven and Back by Mary C. Neal, MD will fascinate you and give you hope!) -Part 1 of 2-

Any of you adventure-lovers out there???

Anybody love to go white-water rafting?

My first and ultra-frightening experience with white-water rapids occurred while attending tennis camp. (Makes perfect sense…) My roomie and I were canoe partners and the counselors advised, “Now there are three sets of rapids on this river. Be on the lookout…”

Wonderful. No instruction. No advice. Nothing. (Never mind we campers were wee campers too!)

Sport oars

We successfully went thru’ the first set of rapids…Backwards. Somehow we managed to finish in one piece, without capsizing, famished for lunch (perish the thought we miss a meal), and off we went to tackle another tennis lesson, unscathed. God was gracious.

I do recall making a mental note to not pursue any more rapids in a canoe. Even a calm creek flipped me out years later with hubby John and two of our three boys. Somehow I managed to get us stuck in the middle of five huge boulders. Hello?

Onward!!! After receiving several recommendations to read To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story by Mary C. Neal, MD, I snatched it up and began reading.


Mary has a knack for building and maintaining suspense while increasing the reader’s heartbeat! Oh, and right back to white-water rapids we go….only this time, Mary is the captain, solo, in a kayak. “While cascading down a waterfall, her kayak became pinned at the bottom and she was immediately and completely submerged.”


To complicate matters, this didn’t happen in the United States. Mary and her husband Bill, were with friends who are experienced guides, on the Los Rios River in southern Chile. (Keep in mind they are both orthopaedic surgeons!!!)


Once the group realized Mary was missing, one of the gals timed how long it took to find her. (Some say anywhere from 15-30 minutes, underwater, with no oxygen.).

Frightened and in a panic, her friends were able to bring her out of the river, onto the beach. Mary’s body was blue and she was not breathing. Tom, Kenneth and Chad Long immediately began the resuscitation process.

Some in their group tried to dissuade the rescue attempt, claiming Mary would be a vegetable, having gone so long without oxygen. But Mary was the Long’s friend, thus they doggedly prayed and begged Mary to breathe.

Meanwhile, Mary tells us after her body was pulled by the current out of her boat, all the while under water, both of her knee bones broke. Even more astonishing, she said she felt no pain and felt her soul leave her body.

Mary said, “I rose up and out of the river, and when my soul broke thru’ the surface of the water, I encountered a group of fifteen to twenty souls (human spirits sent by God) who greeted me with the most overwhelming joy I’ve ever experienced and could ever imagine…Their brilliance was both blinding and invigorating.

dark sky with sun and beautiful clouds

As she’s seeing what seemed to be Heaven, she could still hear the Longs calling for her, yelling at her to breathe. She returned to her body three different times to take a breath.

However, she didn’t want to leave the love, joy, and peace of Heaven and being with Jesus. She said, “I knew with absolute certainty that I was being held and comforted by Jesus.” What hope!

Finally, one of the spirits or angels tells her it is not yet her time and she must return to earth. Upon her return, you cannot begin to fathom Mary and Bill’s arduous trip back to the States, the reunion with their four young children, and her long road to recovery. Don’t miss these details!


A couple more hope-filled tidbits: while still in the hospital, Mary realized her vision wasn’t quite right. Yet with blurred vision, she pressed on to read a Bible in her room. She “proceeded to look for verses about gaining strength, looking to the Psalms.”

Three favorites are journal worthy:

Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (NIV)

Psalm 91:15 “When you call to me, I will answer you. I will be with you when you are in trouble. I will save you and honor you.” (God’s Word)

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (NRS)

One verse in particular was crystal clear to her: I Thessalonians 5:16 – “Rejoice always.” (ESV)

Mary believes this was “a directive from God.” She said, “I thought about the fact that a joyful heart and a joyful spirit are important to God…Joy is clearly different than happiness. It is not based on circumstances. Joy is a state of mind and a state of being. It reflects a conscious choice to believe in the promises of the Bible.”

peace, love and joy word abstract - a collage of isolated text i

The next verse, later that day, became clear to Mary’s vision:  I Thessalonians 5:17 – “Pray without ceasing.” (ESV) She adds, “It instructs us that we should live a life of prayer, continuously offering silent prayers with every breath we take, and listening for God’s leading.”

The last verse she was able to see was: I Thessalonians 5:18 – “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (ESV)

As God would orchestrate, these three verses in I Thessalonians 5 were all Mary was able to read. Everything and everyone else was blurry. She read and re-read these verses over and over.


If you think her time in Heaven is interesting, wait ‘til you read about her encounters with Angels! She shares about several eye-opening and thought-provoking discussions. (You’ll want to share these with your loved ones.)

Next week, we’ll finish up Part Two and briefly discuss more incredible books about Heaven!

Enjoy one of many interviews with Dr. Mary Neal: (For more, checkout her website: )

‘Til next time!


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