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God Makes Lemonade
God Makes Lemonade
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What can you say to someone who is hurting?

I’ve been on the radio a lot recently and one of the questions that came directly in the wake of the horrific bombing near the finish of the Boston Marathon is this: “What do you say to a person who is right in the middle of it, someone who was wounded, someone who witnessed the carnage or even lost someone in the bombing?” It’s a tough question, but most honest questions are, aren’t they?

We have all cringed when we hear someone—someone perhaps too quick to answer—quote Romans 8:28, “…all things work together for good…” but I find it’s very seldom that those are the words people need at that moment. You know what I believe most people need? I believe they need to know that God cares.

In the midst of pain, their own or their friends, people just want to know that God cares. In those moments of vulnerability, our enemy whispers lies in our ears, lies we wouldn’t listen to for a moment if we weren’t hurting so bad. He whispers, “God doesn’t see you, God doesn’t care, God…” And in the midst of his lies, we need hope.  Psalms 56:8 offers that hope:

PS 56: 8       You keep track of all my sorrows

                    You have collected all my tears in your bottle

                    You have recorded each one in your book

God keeps track of all of my sorrows?

He collects all of my tears in a bottle?

He writes them down in His book?

Why does God write it down—do you think He’s going to forget? I think it just might be so that someday He can tell us about it.

I believe that one day God will open the bottle of our tears and show us how He was walking through our sorrow with us.

Job says that there is courage that comes from hope and that’s what this little verse points to: hope.

Posted in Don's Reflections, Don's Thoughts, Encouragement, Lemonade Happens! | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

When God Makes Lemonade Giveaway

We are giving away five free copies of When God Makes Lemonade.  To be entered to win, all you have to do is to Tweet this post or post it to Facebook.  We will select the five winners on June 1st.

Posted in Lemonade Happens!, News, Social Media | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Exciting News from “God Makes Lemonade”!

Thomas Nelson, Inc. Acquires Project by Former Multnomah President Don Jacobson

(Nashville, Tenn.) – Thomas Nelson, Inc. announced the acquisition of the originally self-published title “God Makes Lemonade” by Don Jacobson. Slated to release May 2013, “God Makes Lemonade” will undergo editorial changes and additions before its official launch in time for Mother’s Day.

Don is the founder of D.C. Jacobson & Associates, an Oregon-based author agency, and the previous owner and president of Multnomah Publishers. “God Makes Lemonade” is a collection of inspirational, true stories in which God takes a seemingly dire circumstance and turns it into a blessing. Don and wife, Brenda, experienced this first-hand and want to share their story with others, as well as hear stories in return.

The website GodMakesLemonade.com was developed by the Jacobsons for others to share their lemon-to-lemonade stories. For the Thomas Nelson release of “God Makes Lemonade,” Don will read stories submitted via the website and consider them for publication in the book. “God Makes Lemonade” is a community effort, authored by the growing number of people who, against all odds, have found joy in the midst of their pain.

“We all have lemonade stories,” says Don, “so what would happen if we could share them with the people around the world who need them most? That’s the dream of the ‘God Makes Lemonade’ series: to publish true stories to encourage people in sour circumstances that God is at work making lemonade.”

Matt Baugher, senior vice president and publisher at Thomas Nelson, agrees: “The world seems to revolve around the power of story. Perhaps that’s why God seems to revel in changing our stories so dramatically at times. Seeing how others’ lives have been transformed, gives us hope that ours can be as well. That’s the purpose and the power of this book, and we have high hopes and big plans for ‘God Makes Lemonade.’ It’s a privilege to partner with industry veteran Don Jacobson on this work.” 

DON JACOBSON AND MATT BAUGHER ARE AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS.

TO SUBMIT A GOD MAKES LEMONADE STORY, VISIT GODMAKESLEMONADE.COM

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Thomas Nelson, Inc. is the world’s largest Christian publisher. The Company provides multiple formats of Bibles, inspirational books and digital content, with distribution of its products in more than 100 countries. Live Event Management, Inc., a Thomas Nelson company, is the nation’s leading producer of Christian live events. Thomas Nelson is headquartered in Nashville, TN. For additional information, please visit www.thomasnelsoncorporate.com.

 

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Author Interview: Tracy Healy

Have you read this week’s Featured Story? “Mommy and Me,” by Tracy Healy, is the beautiful story of a severely abused child who finds the true love of a mother. If you haven’t read it yet, you need to head over there right away—we’re sure it’ll make your day. Then come back here, since God Makes Lemonade recently had a chance to catch up with Tracy.

GML: What are you up to these days?

Tracy: I live in Simi Valley, California with my son, Brandon. I work in children’s ministry at Simi Covenant Church and volunteer at a local elementary school.

GML: What inspired you to write your lemonade story?

Tracy: One of the reasons for sharing our story was to hopefully encourage anyone who has been told “never” either about themselves or someone they love. Doctors originally said that my son would never roll over, sit up, understand anything, etc. By God’s grace and healing, he is doing those things and more. God is so much bigger than all of the “nevers” in our world, and hopefully my son’s journey can be a reminder of that for others during their own hard times.

GML: What was it like to see your story printed in the book?

Tracy: Seeing the story in print is almost surreal. It is such an honor to be included in such an amazing book. I was able to share the final draft of our story with my mom shortly before she passed away. She was so happy that it had been chosen to be part of God Makes Lemonade and that it would be shared with others. She used to say that God brought Brandon to us for her, to show her His power, love, and grace and to give her strength and courage to face her own struggles and battle with cancer. I think knowing his story would be shared with others gave her comfort and hope that others could see God through His work in her grandson’s life.

GML: Have you had a chance to read other stories in God Makes Lemonade?

Tracy: Yes. There are so many amazing stories of God’s work in the toughest of times. The stories and the hope they provide have helped me in my own life with the recent passing of my mom. The book has been a great reminder that God is there, making lemonade, even if right now all I can see is a pile of lemons.

GML: Do you have any updates on your lemonade story since it was published?

Tracy: My son turned seven a few days ago. Since the story was published, he has learned how to ride a tricycle and is starting to learn how to climb stairs.

GML: Just for fun, if you could go on vacation anywhere today, where would you go?

Tracy: I would go to Florida. A few years ago, my son was given an amazing gift through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. We got to fly to Florida to see theme parks and stay at a place called Give Kids The World Village. GKTW is one of the most INCREDIBLE places I have ever seen or experienced. They provide children facing life-threatening struggles, and their families, with an amazing week away from their daily struggles. It’s a place where they can be the center of attention in a happy and positive way, where they can relax and enjoy life together as a family. I would love to be able to go back and visit and even volunteer for a day or two so I can help others have an amazing and life-changing week like the one I was so blessed to have with my little guy.

Tracy and Brandon on the Make-a-Wish trip

Thanks for stopping by and getting to know Tracy a bit better. Come back next week—we’re already working on another interview with the author of our next featured story. Or you can pick up a copy of God Makes Lemonade, where you’ll find more than eighty inspiring stories like this one.

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Don’s Thoughts: An Unlikely Christmas Tradition

Have you read this week’s Featured Story, “An Unlikely Christmas Tradition”? Anne Forline had a great idea for a local news article. She planned to be writing the article instead of attending her family’s Christmas tradition of feeding the poor that year. After Anne discovered some discouraging news about the article, she was able to participate in her family’s Christmas tradition—which turned out to be a very sweet experience.

At this point, I’ve heard thousands of lemonade stories about very typical life circumstances that are anything but simple or easy. All Anne had to do was put on cold weather clothes and spend the day in downtown Camden, one day of the year. It was simple. Anne’s family-tradition was taken for granted, something she could easily give up for a writing gig. After a painful chain of events, Anne decided to go anyway. Anne showed up. And she received the most unexpected and beautiful gift: hope. Sometimes, just showing up can be the most powerful thing you can do.

Anne’s story challenges me think of all the small, simple things we can do on a daily basis to bring hope into other people’s lives. Attend the church’s homeless outreach that happens to fall on the same night as your favorite TV show. Follow through on that dinner invitation you casually gave the single mom and her children in your neighborhood. Connect with an elderly family member who lives alone more consistently. There are a few more scenarios I can think of in my own life. Anne’s story challenges me to be more intentional, available, and sincere with people in my life. I want to show up.

Think about how encouraged your mother might be if you surprised her with dinner and a movie one day. Think about how delighted that mom in your neighborhood might be if you offered to watch her kids for the afternoon. And think about how encouraged you would feel if you made a new friend.

I hope you’ve been staying warm this week and that you’ll stop by again for another inspiring true story next week.

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New Year’s Resolution: Write More

 

Maybe it’s a little early to be talking about New Year’s resolution doldrums. Or maybe you’re already struggling—maybe you resolved, like many others, to write more. You pour a mug of coffee in the morning and plop down at your desk. Moments later, you’re holding an empty coffee mug and staring at an empty computer screen. Soon, you find yourself at the gym, wondering how you drummed up the resolve to workout instead of write. You wonder if you could be more efficient by writing between red lights.

But before risking your health and the health of other drivers, check out this advice we compiled from some author friends about how to effectively “write more” in 2012:

1. Make writing a scheduled priority. If your Google calendar chronicles dinner menus, vet appointments and which kid to pick up where, then why isn’t writing in there? If you want to write more in 2012, then you need to put writing in your schedule and plan on it.

2. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Telling yourself to just “write more” is about as effective as saying “eat healthy.” You need to identify what healthy means—maybe you need to increase your daily word count from 300 to 800 words per day. Maybe you need to schedule smaller goals such as increasing your word count by 100 words each month. Maybe “write more” means you divide your daily hour of writing into 20 minutes of “free writing” and 40 minutes of focused craft.

3. Don’t write alone. Do you share your work with anyone but acquisitions editors? Writing groups can do wonders for you. One friend asked her writing group to review her articles and eventually, she started landing gigs like the cover page article in Neue Magazine, which inspired everyone in the group to achieve more of their goals.

4. Find your inner-writer’s “happy place.” Do you write best in a café on your laptop? Or in the peace and quiet of your home office? Create a detailed description of what works best for you and make sure you’re writing in that environment. You may need to invest in some noise-canceling headphones, a babysitter, or a new desk. One author drops her kids off at school and heads straight to the library for some quality writing time.

5. Have fun. Maybe finishing your novel in 2012 is attainable for you, but the week your car breaks down and your husband comes down with the flu, that lofty 4,000-word completed chapter may not be attainable. Allow yourself time to breathe and stimulate your creativity. This may include scheduling time to walk through a museum, ride your bike, or listen to great albums. This may mean not writing every day, or scheduling time to write something completely unrelated to any of your projects. Remember, you want to write more—not suffer more!

Happy writing!

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Author Interview: Anne Forline

Have you read this week’s Featured Story? “An Unlikely Christmas Tradition” by Anne Forline is a wonderful story about a community joining together to spread Christmas cheer and bless the needy in their midst. If you haven’t read it yet, you need to head over there right away—it may not be Christmas season anymore, but there’s never a season when this kind of care and unity won’t change a community for the better!

GML: Where do you live?

Anne: I live in southern New Jersey, in Bellmawr, which is very close to Philadelphia.  I live with my husband of thirteen years, Steven, and our nine-year-old daughter, Cara.  We also have two bunnies (Patches and JoJo) and a goldfish named Jaws.

GML: Have you been able to share your story with friends and family?

Anne:   After friends and family read my story, I share its special significance to them. You see, “An Unlikely Christmas Tradition” takes place in Camden, New Jersey, a city that is sadly known for drugs, crime and poverty.  This past August, my brother, Chip, passed away due to drug-related causes in the same exact lot that my family and I had been standing only months before.

GML: Wow. This must be a very powerful story for them. What are you up to these days?

Anne:  I’ve started a blog, anneforline.blogspot.com, and I’m working on a devotional that I hope will one day be a published source of encouragement for families that have a drug-addicted family member. I enjoy writing and telling stories. I write for the Gloucester City News and other local newspapers. Patches and I appeared in the “My Pet and I” column in the November 2011 issue of All You. I’ve also contributed stories to I Love Cats and Cat Fancy. Aside from all that, this is my fifth year home-schooling Cara.  In the afternoons, I work in an after-school program in Gloucester City teaching second-graders.  Steve and I help in our church’s junior department and we also enjoy coaching Cara’s soccer, basketball and softball teams.

GML: What inspired you to write your lemonade story?

Anne: As soon as I read the writer’s guidelines for God Makes Lemonade, I knew I had to send in my story. I am so happy that things turned out the way they did.  We had so much fun on Christmas Eve and we talked about it all year long.

GML: What was it like to see your story printed in the book?

Anne:  I still look at it sometimes and say, “Is that me?” I am still so appreciative of the courtesy and respect that the entire GML editorial staff has extended to me.  They all treat me well, and dare I say it? …like a “real writer!”  It’s still a tremendous blessing to see my name and story printed in a book.

GML: Thank you for the compliment, Anne. We love the opportunities we have to make a connection with writers and storytellers like you. Have you had a chance to read other stories in God Makes Lemonade?

Anne:  Yes, I loved Sarah Feusler’s “A Laundromat Love Story” because it was set in Philadelphia and was catchy and clever.  I also related on a heart-to-heart level to “Kyle’s Legacy” by Penny Whipps.

GML: Do you have any updates on your lemonade story since it was published?

Anne:  On Black Friday this year, Steve, Cara and I went out with other volunteers from Street Ministries to go shopping for all the toys that will be distributed on Christmas Eve.  We had a great time helping again this year!

GML: And just for fun, tell us a good dating story.

Anne: My husband and I both grew up in Bellmawr, but we didn’t meet until we were in our early thirties. I visited a new church one Sunday and there he was. He waited three months to ask me out, and when he finally did, we went to see a Living Nativity and Christmas lights and then out for dinner in Philadelphia. He asked me to marry him ten days later, on Christmas Eve! We got married six months later and we’ve been married for thirteen years.

Thanks for stopping by and getting to know Anne a bit better. Come back next week—we’re already working on another interview with the author of our next featured story. Or you can pick up a copy of God Makes Lemonade, where you’ll find more than eighty inspiring stories like this one.

Forline family with Santa & their unlikely Christmas tradition

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Start Your Own Laundromat Love Story

This week’s featured story inspires us. Sarah and Al’s connection couldn’t be much more unlikely: a young college student learning the ropes of living on her own in an urban environment and a haggard, elderly homeless man. Whether you live in New York City or Altoona, Alabama, and whether you’re a homeowner in the suburbs or an urban renter, there are homeless people in your midst. On any given night, 1% of the U.S. population is homeless—but one of the most difficult things for anyone gathering data on homelessness, is the fact that many people are temporarily homeless or they’re just not documented because they’re living on friend’s couches, in cars, or they’re squatting in foreclosed homes. This Christmas, dozens of newspapers reported rising homelessness from Los Angeles to Chicago and Charleston due to the recession. So we decided to compile a list of some simple ways you can increase your awareness and share hope with the homeless around you.

1. Carry some homemade Care Kits in your car or bag. Add the following items to your next grocery list and hand them out in reusable, waterproof bags:

  • A few pairs of socks and underwear
  • Travel-size toiletries
  • Small food items such as fruit, granola bars, instant soups
  • Pre-paid phone cards and grocery gift cards
  • A small card with names and locations of local homeless shelters
  • An encouraging book—God Makes Lemonade is a great option! :)

2. Offer to buy the person a meal—you might even make a new friend this way!

3. Take down the person’s contact information (this may be a location instead of a phone number) and pass it on to a friend who might have an employment opportunity for the person.

4. Support a local organization. Food banks, shelters, after-school programs, medical services, social welfare referral programs, and soup kitchens need your support. Maybe you’re not in a place to share your financial resources, but you may be able to donate clothing, food, cars, appliances, time, or even your skills to these types of organizations. Don’t know where to start? Contact the local chapter of one of these national organizations: Salvation Army, National Coalition for the Homeless, Catholic Charities, or Habitat for Humanity.

5. Read. Gather up a few good friends or your book club to read one of these books: Under the Overpass, When Helping Hurts, Same Kinda Different As Me. You’ll be inspired by the powerful stories and tips for how you can reach out to the homeless—and imagine the power in joining up with a few of your closest friends to address homelessness in your community!

6. Keep an open heart. Live by Sarah’s example. She didn’t want her clothes smelling like old cigarettes anymore than you probably do, but if she hadn’t let her guard down just a little, she never would have had the incredible blessing of knowing Al. Sarah started with a “thank you” when Al folded her clothes—maybe you can start with a simple hello.

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Author Interview: Sarah Fuesler

Have you read this week’s Featured Story? “A Laundromat Love Story” by Sarah Fuesler, is about a woman who begins an unlikely friendship with a homeless senior citizen and discovers powerful insights about herself and the many other homeless people in her life. If you encounter homeless people on your commute, at your church’s soup kitchen, or at your Laundromat, we guarantee Sarah’s relationship with Al will strike a chord. If you haven’t read the story yet, you need to head over there right away. Then come back here, since God Makes Lemonade recently had a chance to catch up with Sarah.

GML: Where do you live?

Sarah:   I currently live in a small suburb outside of Philadelphia with my parents. I transferred to Temple University this month, so I am currently on the hunt for a new apartment, preferably without a washer/dryer as I seem to get my best stories from going to Laundromats. I have a younger brother, John, who doesn’t live with us. He’s living in New Jersey because he’s a graduate student at Princeton University. So I only see him when he needs my mom to do his laundry. Kidding, he can totally do his own laundry… I think.

GML: What are you up to these days?

Sarah:  I am a full-time student and work as a tutor at my college, helping students in economics, math, statistics, and marketing courses. Although my schedule is mostly filled with paper writing and pleading with tutees to please, please, please do their homework and get to class on time, I enjoy spending time with my cat Harley (yes, I realize this will be published and that this statement makes me an official “cat lady”), shopping, reading, and unabashedly feeding my reality-TV addiction.

GML: No shame in being a “cat lady,” we’ve got someone on staff who might be considered a crazy “dog lady.”  What inspired you to write your lemonade story?

Sarah:  I first told my story to a group of fellow students when I was asked to give an “impromptu” speech in a communications course. So, while many of my classmates talked about their favorite pet or funniest childhood memory, I decided to tell my story about Al. The professor approached me after my short speech and suggested that I turn the speech into a written story. Two years later, God Makes Lemonade served as an outlet for me to share that story with others.

GML: What was it like to see your story printed in the book?

Sarah:  For lack of more eloquent and well-articulated wording, it was: crazy. I was very excited that my story would be shared with more than a classroom full of students. After I got the news that my story was accepted, I flooded friends and family members’ inboxes with the good news. Needless to say, anyone who knows me, knows my story.  I have not gotten through the entire God Makes Lemonade book yet, but they are all so inspiring, so incredible, so moving.

GML: And just for fun, if you could go on vacation anywhere today, where would you go and why?

Sarah:  I would hands down, no questions asked, book a plane ticket to Jamaica. I love the weather, the culture, the scenery, the music, the food, the people… just about everything. And mojitos never taste as good as they do when you’re in the Caribbean. That’s a fact. Google it.

Thanks for stopping by and getting to know Sarah a bit better. Let her now how much you enjoyed her story on Facebook. Come back next week—we’re already working on another interview with the author of our next featured story. Or you can pick up a copy of God Makes Lemonade, where you’ll find more than eighty inspiring stories like this one.

Sarah Fuesler

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In Honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

Most of us wouldn’t be who we are today if one person hadn’t lived out his own incredible story of hope. Today we take a moment to remember Martin Luther King Jr., a man who changed the lives of every American by his faithfulness to a dream, and hope in the God he served. MLK defied odds. He lived courageously and inspired courage in millions of others in the midst of a time when hate crimes against African-Americans were called “God’s justice” and African-Americans were called other names because we did not consider these people truly worthy of the rights and privileges of being an American.

Here’s an excerpt from his “I Have a Dream Speech”:

I Have a Dream, Washington, D.C., 1963
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Read the whole speech and find more resources at www.thekingcenter.org.

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Our First Day on the Front Porch

Welcome to God Makes Lemonade. We’re the people who want to encourage you with lemonade stories, and be encouraged in return.

Lemonade stories are about when something goes wrong but something bigger goes right. They’re when the sour parts of life are surprisingly sweetened by encouragement and inspiration.

Lemonade stories aren’t about buzz or glitz. They’re about real people and real life. Your life.

We’re just starting out here, offering you the first of many refreshing drinks of inspiration and hope. Read our stories, share your stories, and if you like our lemonade, tell your friends.

See you soon.

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Seven Best Lemonade Movies Ever!

A few posts ago we talked about the movie Secretariat. If you haven’t seen it yet, turn off your computer right now and go watch it. Then, and only then, come back here!

Okay, now that you’ve seen it, do you agree that it’s one of the most inspirational movies ever? Of course, it has some tough competition. What about It’s a Wonderful Life? And Stand and Deliver? And Glory? The list of powerfully encouraging movies goes on and on and on.

That’s why we need your help. What’s the best Lemonade movie you’ve ever watched? Remember, a lemonade story is a story in which something goes wrong but something bigger goes right; in which the sour parts of life are surprisingly sweetened by encouragement and inspiration.

Tell us your favorite lemonade movie in a comment, and we’ll collect the results. We’re going to take the top seven and let you know what our community thinks are the seven best Lemonade movies ever!

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Lemonade Happens!

You’ve seen the bumper sticker: S#@% Happens!

It’s catchy, and although it may make us cringe, it seems to be true. That’s why we can’t keep from agreeing with it.

But something else happens in life, too. Something encouraging. Something hopeful. Something that tells the rest of the story.

That’s what we’re all about. It’s a given that unfortunate, unexpected, and unhappy stuff happens to all of us every day. But that stuff isn’t the whole story. Behind the scenes all of that stuff is an opportunity for good, or growth, or both.

We’re all about expectations.

If you go through life expecting hard stuff to happen, you’ll be prepared for the realities of life. But if that’s all you expect, you’re going to miss out on a lot! Thinking about the Lemonade of life opens you to horizons you’ll never see if you only think about the bad stuff.

Let’s celebrate a hopeful new motto, a truth that we need when the hard stuff hits us:

Lemonade Happens!

Lemonade does happen, but we have to look for it. We have to remind each other with Lemonade stories. So let’s say it loud and say it proud. Lemonade Happens!

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The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right and Best Lemonade Story We’ll Publish

We get this question pretty often as we engage with people who want to make sure they pick the “right” or “best” story name to get published in our books. Someone will write or ask something like this:

What should my title be? What are you looking for?

Or it will be a bit more pointed:

Just tell me what kind of story you’re looking for and I’ll find one and write it!

These are great inquiries! It is pretty important to find the right story, but don’t let the process of searching for the “perfect” story cause you to overlook a stupendous one!

But first, let’s recap what a Lemonade Story is:

Lem•on•ade Sto•ry

(Noun) A story in which something goes wrong but something bigger goes right; in which the sour parts of life are surprisingly sweetened by encouragement and inspiration.

Now, here are three steps to discovering your Lemonade Stories:

  1. List 50 Candidates. You know someone right now who is living a dramatic Lemonade Story that will never get told if you don’t do it. Pull out a sheet of paper and write down 50 potential stories of people you know. We promise you that before you get to 50 you’ll have two or three candidates for a wonderful story.
  2. Just Start Writing. Choose one of those, and just start telling the story as you heard it.
  3. Send It. Send it to us. We’ll review your story and let you know if it meets the criteria for a Lemonade Story.  You’ll be excited when we tell you it’s a “go.”

Questions: What’s standing between you and your Lemonade Story? Discipline? Fear? Laziness? Come on, you can do it. Lemonade is happening all around you!

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3 Key Criteria for Deciding Which Lemonade Stories to Print

We’ve already listed out a bunch of things to consider when submitting a potential lemonade story. But recently it came to our attention that we should share some of our key considerations in deciding which stories to pursue.

It’s a decision that every writer or publisher makes. Answering this question fully will make life easier for our storytellers, enhance their experience, and perhaps prevent a bit of frustration.

So let’s jump right in! Here are the top three considerations we use to provide counsel and wisdom for those submitting God Makes Lemonade stories:

1. Does It Fit Lemonade? This is the most subjective factor, but it’s something we always think about. Sometimes stories just don’t have the right blend of lemon, surprise, and lemonade.

But don’t just decide your story isn’t right; read the Lemonade FAQs carefully, and then send yours in. Some of our storytellers have been pleasantly surprised by our excitement over their piece.

2. Is It True? We all love good fiction, but that’s not what our God Makes Lemonade community is about. We’re about real-life stories. Our readers know we’re sharing stories about things that really happened to real people living real life.

3. Does It Encourage Us?  When some of these compelling stories cause you to laugh or cry, know that we are laughing or crying as we read them, too. The best way to know our readers will be touched by these stories is whether they move us.

Questions: Do these considerations make sense to you? Is there anything you want to know more about?

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“God Makes Lemonade” Officially Released

Well, the advance copies of God Makes Lemonade have arrived in our office! It’s really great to finally have the book in my hands after the months of work and thousands of hours that have collectively gone toward bringing this project to fruition. I’ve been waiting expectantly to see the final version. My wife, Brenda, commented last week after a media interview, “Don, it’s like you’re waiting for the birth of a baby!” This is the first time I’ve been on the author/creator end of the publishing process, and I can say it’s been a new and awesome experience.

We had a lemonade moment earlier this week when we learned five crates of books had been misplaced by the shipping company. Thankfully, they were found and the contributors are receiving their advance copies this week.

The ebooks are available as a Kindle download from Amazon and a Nook download from Barnes & Noble for the introductory price of $2.99. Physical copies of God Makes Lemonade will be available in stores mid-September.

I want to give a special shout-out to all the contributors of this first book in the series. Thank you for sharing your inspirational Lemonade Happens™ stories!

Gratefully,

Don Jacobson
Creator, God Makes Lemonade™

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Featured Story Interview with Paul Griffin

Have you read this week’s Featured Story? Sophie, by Paul Griffin, is a beautiful and moving account of an unexpected family reunion. If you haven’t read it yet, you need to head over there right away—we’re sure it’ll make your day. Then come back here, since God Makes Lemonade recently had a chance to catch up with Paul.

GML: Where do you live, Paul?
Paul: I live in Sandy, Oregon, which is a town about 30 miles east of Portland toward Mount Hood in the foothills.

GML: Does Sophie live with you?
Paul: No, Sophie is attending college in Cleveland. My wife and I have legal custody of our two other granddaughters and we’ve been raising them for about eight years now. Grace is 18 years old and is starting community college this fall. Emmaline is 14 years old and is a freshman in high school.

GML: What are you up to these days?
Paul: I’ve worked at Multnomah University for 30 years. I spent 29 years in senior finance and administration. I’m at retirement age, but I’m not retiring yet because I believe in this place and in what it’s doing. I’m able to keep in touch with countless people who are connected with the school and I pray with them and get them on board with special projects at Multnomah.

GML: What inspired you to write your lemonade story?
Paul: My friend Don Jacobson said to me one day, “I bet you’ve got more than one lemonade story in ya.” I didn’t seriously consider it much, but I talked with my wife and we realized Sophie belonged in that book. After we reconnected with Sophie, after we saw the impact our reunion had on our daughter and on us, I felt like our story could really help some folks. Reuniting with Sophie was an indescribable, unbelievable experience. It was one of the most exciting and joyous moments of our lives. It’s so strange that though we were only able to spend a couple hours with her as a newborn, we had this overwhelming love for Sophie. And Sophie’s younger sisters wanted to see her. My wife and I had been praying for her for 23 years, so this was a real miracle. We always hoped to see her in heaven, but now we’ve seen her on earth, too! It’s wonderful.

GML: What was it like to see your story printed in the book?
Paul: Strange. [Laughs] It was just kind of strange to see our story in a book. It was good for me to write it because it was cathartic. When miracles happen in your life, you want to share that joy, and maybe even encourage someone who reads the book.

GML: Have you been able to share your story with friends and family?
Paul: Both of my brothers read it and thought it was pretty great. My brothers and I have an annual reunion with some cousins we grew up with and we shared the book with them, too. At the time of Sophie’s birth, we didn’t have a lot of people we could reach out to—we were too broken to share it with many people. We love sharing this story now.

GML: Have you had a chance to read other stories in God Makes Lemonade?
Paul: Yes, and they have encouraged me. Some of them have just…Wow, I think, there’s God putting things together that we never could have planned. Don directed me to an incredible story that was on the website about a fellow whose daughter was born severely crippled. The impact she had on their lives was amazing. These are good stories and I hope people read them. To me, they bring hope.

GML: Do you have any updates on your lemonade story since it was published?
Paul: We continue to be in contact with Sophie on a weekly basis. She calls us or we call her. She goes on Facebook with her birth mother and our grandchildren. She’s back in college and she’s working her way through, so she asks me for input sometimes. We all just really look forward to having her come out here to join us at Thanksgiving this year.

GML: Just for fun, we hear you have a funny date story. Want to share it?
Paul: [Laughs] Oh my, well I think it’s a pretty funny story anyway. My wife and I met on a blind date. My college roommate and his girlfriend set up a double date with us. On our first date, I was blown away by how beautiful she was. Afterward, I told my roommate that I was going to marry that girl someday. I didn’t know at the time that my wife actually told her mom that she thought she was going to marry me, too! Our next date was a formal dance. So she kept me waiting about 15 minutes and I had to talk to her folks while we waited. When she came into the room, I was blown away again by her beauty and I said these very romantic words, “You are so beautiful it must have taken you all day to get ready.” Immediately I added, “Uh-oh, I didn’t mean it that way!” We’ve had a lot of laughs about that one over the years.

Thanks for stopping by and getting to know Paul a bit better. Come back next week—we’re already working on another interview with the author of our next featured story. Or you can pick up a copy of God Makes Lemonade, where you’ll find more than eighty inspiring stories like this one.

Paul Griffin

Paul Griffin

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Needle in a Haystack

Have you read this week’s Featured Story, Sophie? The author, Paul Griffin, is a good friend of mine and I am so glad we can share his incredible story with you. When I think about Paul’s story, I experience just what he talked about in his interview: hope.

I’ve heard lots of stories about adopted children who search for their birth parents when they reach adulthood. For some, this can be a painful process as they learn difficult truths about their history. And finding parents internationally can be a logistics nightmare akin to finding a needle in a haystack.

A friend of one of my colleagues has a caseworker searching for her biological family in South Korea. On three separate occasions so far, her caseworker has provided her with a file of information on families certain to be her biological parents, only to discover the family is not actually her biological match weeks later. Each time, she has had a few weeks to grow attached to the idea the family in her file is hers. Her friends grieve with her each time she discovers she still does not know her biological family.

After many years of longing for Sophie to be part of his family and wondering if he would ever see her again, it truly is a miracle that Paul was able to meet his granddaughter. I wish I could meet Sophie. I wonder how long she looked for Paul and his family. I wonder how many nights she lay in bed praying she could meet her biological family while Paul was praying for her at the same time.

Maybe you are adopted or seeking to adopt a child. Maybe you just miss someone deeply. You may pray late at night, or someone may be praying for you. You could find that person you’ve been missing tomorrow. Lemonade really does happen, and it happens every day. I know I need to be reminded of that. Do you?

Later this week, I hope you’ll stop by again for another inspiring true story.


Don Jacobson

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Featured Story Interview with Veta Shepherd

Have you read this week’s Featured Story? “Timing is Everything,” by Veta Shepherd, is an uplifting story about a single mother finding the right job at the right time. If you haven’t read it yet, you need to head over there right away—we’re sure it’ll make your day. Then come back here, since God Makes Lemonade recently had a chance to catch up with Veta.

GML: Where do you live, Veta?

Veta: I live in the South Shore neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, really close to Lake Michigan. I live with my second husband, Lawrence. We have four adult daughters who live in New York, Florida, and two of them live in California.

GML: What are you up to these days?

Veta: Believe it or not, I’m still working at that non-profit I began working for in the story. I’m the administrative assistant and outreach worker in the children’s division at Human Resource Development Institute. HRDI works to prevent and resolve substance abuse, mental illness, teen pregnancy, and underage drinking through community programs for adults, teens, and children. Our office works mainly in neighborhoods on the Southside of Chicago.

Outside of work, I’m a volunteer secretary at my church and I’m in charge of the drama at church, so I coordinate that and help the pastor with a program to mentor youth in music and art. I also fill in for characters in the drama with a character I’ve created named Ms. Jenkins. She’s a comedic church lady who was saved later in life and doesn’t have all the church rules right.

Oh, and my job got me started volunteering for some outreach organizations that help girls in the neighborhood with self-esteem issues and attitude problems and I just keep volunteering with them.

GML: What inspired you to write your lemonade story?

Veta: A while ago, I wanted to know what else I should do with my writing talent and prayed about it. Two days later, by accident, I came across an online ad for submitting lemonade stories. I thought I should give it a try—I had written my story about how my lemons have been turned into lemonade in my journal. It was the perfect lemonade story because I remember feeling squeezed or wrung out by all these tragedies that were hitting me at the same time. When I got a response back from you guys so quickly, I was surprised! My friends and I laugh about how I became a “professional writer” overnight. I’m published now.

GML: What was it like to see your story printed in the book?

Veta: It made my family so proud. It was an answer to my prayer to get me started on my writing journey again.

GML: Have you been able to share your story with friends and family?

Veta: Yes and I’ve been told that my story is inspiring. Friends said that my story inspired them to hold out for what they believe in. I am so satisfied knowing my story has been used in that way.

GML: Have you had a chance to read other stories in God Makes Lemonade?

Veta: Oh my goodness, those other stories are so inspirational! They have made a huge impact on my life. The stories come to mind all the time when I need something to share to lift someone up or when I just need some encouragement. I’ve been touting it to everyone I meet, and telling them they better bring their box of tissues when they read.

GML: Do you have any updates on your lemonade story since it was published?

Veta: I had a second chance at love and married a wonderful man I met at church. My daughter from the story is very successful and living in Florida. And now I have three new daughters from my husband, with three sons-in-law and seven grandchildren. God has truly turned my lemons into lemonade.

GML: How did you find your second chance at love?

Veta: Oh, [smile] that was through the drama program at my church. We were both working on a play about God showing my character how to trust in Him and believe in herself. My now-husband was cast as God, so we had a lot of lines back and forth. A friend suggested that we get together to run lines. I was really not into that because I was newly divorced and really protective of my daughter. She was pretty protective of me too, so we didn’t have any male figures coming around the house at the time. But I said, “Ok, we’ll just run lines.” And from there, we’d always end up talking about each other’s lives. There wasn’t any romantic interest there until one day I forgot that my daughter would be home when he was coming over to run lines. I thought, “Oh no, she’s going to freak out.” Instead, when she saw him at the door, she ran over to him and gave him a huge hug. I couldn’t believe it. Come to find out, he was the nice man at church who would hand out candy to the Sunday school kids when their class was over. She thought of him as the Candy Man. Shortly after that, we thought maybe we should look at each other more romantically because there was something special there. It was a process, but we wound up getting married and blending our families.

Thanks for stopping by and getting to know Veta a bit better. Come back next week—we’re already working on another interview with the author of our next featured story. Or you can pick up a copy of God Makes Lemonade, where you’ll find more than eighty inspiring stories like this one.

Veta Shepherd

Story Contributor, Veta Shepherd

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Don’s Reflections: Today’s Widows & Orphans

Have you read this week’s Featured Story, Timing is Everything? Veta Shepherd was in an impossible situation: unemployed and the newly divorced single mother of a five-year-old daughter. Each day of searching for a job was another day closer to her last unemployment check, and Veta didn’t know what she was going to do after the checks stopped coming. Then, right in the nick of time, Veta found the perfect job.

When Lemonade Books began, my wife, Brenda, and I decided we wanted to give all of the royalties from God Makes Lemonade to a worthy cause. Nothing resonated with us as much as caring for the widows and orphans of our day: single moms and their children. We have a number of personal friends who are single moms, including my sister. (You can actually read her story, “Kyle’s Legacy,” in the book.) In fact, we discovered there are upwards of 10 million single mothers in the U.S. and no nationwide organization solely dedicated to increasing quality of life for single mothers and their children. Moms wake up every day in the same situation Veta once found herself: single, hurting from a broken relationship, unemployed, scared and grasping for hope.

As I thought about Veta’s story this week, I remembered times when Brenda went on quick trips while our kids were young and left me alone with the kids for a couple days. Without her there, I couldn’t believe all the work left to do. She’d return and I’d say, “Well, now that I’ve had the kids for two days by myself, I need a two-month vacation to recover!” What single moms have to do is almost incomprehensible to me. Single moms don’t just bring home the bread—they earn the bread, buy it, bake it, and clean up after the meal. Moms who are facing unemployment, as Veta was, face something I’m not sure I could handle.

Isn’t it incredible that in the midst of such difficulty, lemonade happens? People like Veta’s landlord step in and help carry these women’s burdens—and then the perfect job crops up. I’m so encouraged by stories like this and I hope you’ll join me in supporting incredible women like Veta.

Stop by later this week for another inspiring true story.

 

 

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Interview with Kasey Van Norman

Have you read this week’s Featured Story? “Forever Changed,” by Kasey Van Norman, is beautiful, powerful story about a rape victim who found hope and healing in her darkest hour and is now able to share her story to help others. If you haven’t read it yet, you need to head over there right away—we’re sure it’ll make your day. Then come back here, since God Makes Lemonade recently had a chance to catch up with Kasey.

GML: Tell us about your family.

Kasey: Well, I am married to my best friend and college sweetheart, Justin Van Norman. We are both from Nagodoches, Texas, and currently live in College Station, Texas, near Texas A&M University. We have two children, Emma Grace who is six, and Lake who is three.


GML: What do you do?


Kasey: First and foremost, I am a full-time wife and a mother. On the side, I am the president and founder of my own teaching ministry, Kasey Van Norman Ministries. I teach and write for women all over the country who are searching for truth and healing. When I’m not doing that, I’m a certified counselor and I’m working on a master’s of biblical studies at Liberty University. And I sing on the worship team at church!


GML: What inspired you to write your lemonade story?

Kasey: I am continually inspired by the many women I counsel and come in contact with who desperately need to be encouraged and healed following sexual abuse. As I have had the honor of counseling sexual abuse victims over the years, I have learned that just as each story is unique, so is the way in which individuals heal from abuse. Many people, like myself, hide hurts deep inside and mask their pain with an “everything is fine” attitude. Others take out their hurt on those closest to them. Some run away from their pain, cover over it, give into it, or even blame themselves for the deep-seeded hurt and doubt they are experiencing. I want my lemonade story to speak hope and truth to sexual abuse victims because I have personally learned that when someone hurts us, we have only two choices: we forgive our abuser or we get bitter. Bitterness can make us into a poisonous person. I desperately long for all women who have been hurt in this way to come face to face with this truth: If we do not choose to forgive and let go, we will inevitably find that we are the ones being held captive by what happened, not our offender.

GML: What was it like to see your story printed in the book?

Kasey: Truly humbling. I was overwhelmed with a deep sense of gratitude and awe. Seeing my story in the book represents another beautiful piece of healing in my life. I am a prime example of how God can transform a life.

GML: What have others said about your story when they’ve read it—or you told it?

Kasey: I have received a few emails from women who have also been raped; they felt God spoke hope to them through reading my story. I am continually blown away by the power of sharing our stories. Wow!

GML: Do you have any updates on your lemonade story since it was published?

Kasey: My story will also be included in the Named by God book, study, and video series to be released by Tyndale Publishers in May 2012. Like everyone, my life has been a roller coaster of joyful triumph and heartbreaking disasters. Not only is my story about one who was hurt, but I also have been the one who has hurt others—including those closest to me. My lemonade story is only one piece of my journey to having a greater understanding of finding myself. I’m a Christian and for the majority of my life, I just didn’t get the fullness of life God was offering to me. Becoming an individual who lives life as one intimately named by God is no easy task. In my work, and in my soon-to-be released book, I take my audience deeper into the beautiful and wretched details of my personal story, while equipping my audience with the Biblical concepts and parallel stories of living daily in redemption and surrender. I challenge my audience to peel away layers of their pasts, wrestle with their faith in the present, and finally, step into the promises of God for a more thrilling, purpose-filled future. You can find more information about my work at my website, blog, or via Twitter.

GML: Thanks for sharing such a hopeful story with us, Kasey. Just for fun, will you tell us one more thing: if you could go on vacation anywhere today, where would you go and why?

Kasey: Although I have never been, my dream vacation is anywhere in South Africa. I am obsessed with the place. If the Lord willed it, my man and I would hop a plane headed straight there today! I often stalk South Africa via Internet in my free time. From what I have seen and heard about South Africa, the scenery is beyond captivating there, too. I can only imagine the sights, smells, food, and people would be more than my “small-town Texas gal” senses could handle!

Thanks for stopping by and getting to know Kasey a bit better. Come back next week—we’re already working on another interview with the author of our next featured story. Or you can pick up a copy of God Makes Lemonade, where you’ll find more than eighty inspiring stories like this one.

"Forever Changed" Author Kasey Van Norman

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Family Talk Features God Makes Lemonade for Two Days

Don’t forget to tune in! Don Jacobson and his wife, Brenda, will be featured on Family Talk with Dr. James Dobson for two episodes, Monday and Tuesday, October 3 & 4. Tune in to hear some amazing stories and their conversation about what God Makes Lemonade is all about. You can listen to the broadcast on your local station as well as stream or download the program.

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Don’s Thoughts: Forever Changed

Have you read this week’s Featured Story, Forever Changed? When one of my colleagues began working on Kasey Van Norman’s book project, I knew we had to include her story in God Makes Lemonade. Kasey was a sweet fifteen-year-old girl with her whole life in front of her…until she was date-raped. Absolutely horrible. But I’m touched every time I read her story because one day, Kasey realized she didn’t have to let the pain control the rest of her life. She could be cherished and loved as she deserves. Now, every day of her life, Kasey uses what she’s learned from that experience to comfort and encourage other hurting women all over the country.

According to a newly released FBI report, there were nearly 100,000 sexual assaults in the U.S. in 2010, and experts say this is only a fraction of the actual number since so many sexual assaults go unreported. Before she experienced healing, Kasey’s life was sinking into the desperate self-destructive trend among an increasing number of teen girls: self-harm, substance abuse, promiscuity, and eating disorders. More and more teens are believing the lie that they will never be able to recover their innocence. I grieve whenever I hear these precious girls’ stories.

But despair never has to have the last word, and that’s why I love the second chance in Kasey’s story. The peace and love she experienced on that trip to New Mexico so many years ago changed the trajectory of her life. “Forever changed” is the perfect title, isn’t it? Never again will she be trapped in the darkness of despair. Now Kasey helps thousands of women discover the same healing peace and love in their lives. She is a living example of how sour circumstances can become surprisingly sweet.

Later this week, I hope you’ll stop by again for another inspiring true story.

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Listener Giveaway on Family Talk

Want to encourage a single mom in your life? Tell her about Dr. Dobson’s inspiring Family Talk interview with Don Jacobson and his wife Brenda about their story and God Makes Lemonade on Monday and Tuesday Oct. 3-4.

Dr. Dobson is giving away a free gift for single moms during the show tomorrow! You’ll have to listen to the broadcast for details!

Click here if you want to stream either episode or want to find a local station that will broadcast tomorrow’s inspiring show!


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Interview with Author Andy Axtell

Have you read this week’s Featured Story? “The Man without a Face,” by Andy Axtell, is a startling story about a young man ravaged by Hodgkin’s lymphoma who discovers hope when he meets another man whose medical condition has cost him his face. If you haven’t read it yet, you need to head over there right away—we’re sure it’ll touch your heart. Then come back here, since God Makes Lemonade recently had a chance to catch up with Andy.

GML: What are you up to these days?

Andy: I have an apartment in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but I’m on the road 3-5 weeks at a time driving a truck for Tyson Foods. I’ve been with Tyson for about 6 years. I’m ready to get off the road soon, though, because my fiancée is in mainland China. I met her online and just visited her this last summer to ask for her hand in marriage. [Chuckles] I had to ask a couple people what the Chinese customs were for me to ask her to marry me first. We’re set to marry as soon as we work out the international paperwork. I might end up teaching in China. I’m also looking to go back to school. I’m throwing it into the Lord’s hands and looking to Him to show me what to do.

I’m divorced, and I have an older step-daughter and two younger daughters that were adopted from China.

GML: What inspired you to write your lemonade story?

Andy: I never thought I’d ever do anything like this, to be honest with you. I’ve been carrying these stories for many years and I never thought anyone would want to read about my experience. I had written several stories about my time in the hospital. When I was going through some tough experiences last spring, I heard Don Jacobson talking about lemonade stories on the radio. At the time, a friend had been encouraging me to let go of some things in the past and suggested I submit some of my stories as part of that. That got me thinking, and I told my friend that I didn’t know if it was a sign or what, but when I heard that guy talking on the radio, I just knew I needed to share my story in God Makes Lemonade.

GML: What was it like to see your story printed in the book?

Andy: This was my first attempt at writing. It was a thrill to see it in print and to think that people might be interested in hearing what I went through. My future sister-in-law has even been talking about helping me get more of my stories published in my own book.

GML: Have you had a chance to read other stories in the book? How have the other stories impacted you?

Andy: I think it is safe to say we have all had our lives turned around in unexpected ways. I’ve read all of those stories. One of the main things I got out of God Makes Lemonade is that when trouble starts and you start asking why this or that had to happen, eventually you’ll realize that life can cause you to end up in places you wouldn’t believe so that your life can have more meaning. I had to write this story before I felt capable of tackling the next one in my life. At this point, I look back and I think that if I could change things, I wouldn’t. As rough as it’s been, I’ve learned a lot from my experiences.

There’s another story that I’d like to tell you. The hospital gave me a book about some of the meds I was on during my Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment. There was a merchant marine ship after WWII that sunk while it was transporting mustard gas. Basically, the States violated the Geneva Convention by sailing the ship and not telling anyone—not even the people on the ship—about the dangerous gases onboard. So the ship sank off the coast of Italy and it became clear what kind of cargo the ship had been carrying when doctors started running autopsies and treating survivors in the area. Those doctors were able to set the foundation for powerful drugs derived from mustard gas, and that was how they developed the medicine that saved my life. I became a military history buff recently and I’ve read that story a hundred times because it’s so amazing to me.

GML: Do you have any updates on your lemonade story since it was published?

Andy: Still cancer free after 34 years!

GML: And just for fun, if you could “do it over” what would be your dream job and why?

Andy: I would like to be a good enough figure painter to make a living at it. I’m part of the Historical Miniatures Society of Northeastern Oklahoma, which showcases at a number of big shows.

Thanks for stopping by and getting to know Andy a bit better. Come back next week—we’re already working on another interview with the author of our next featured story. Or you can pick up a copy of God Makes Lemonade, where you’ll find more than eighty inspiring stories like this one.

Author Andy Axtell

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Don’s Thoughts: The Man without a Face

Have you read this week’s Featured Story, The Man without a Face? Andy Axtell was a teenage boy facing a horrible disease: Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Cancer had already taken many of those milestones of youth such as prom and football from Andy’s life, and he was sure it would eventually take everything he had. Amidst the difficulty of intense cancer treatment, Andy saw another man’s battle with cancer in his same hospital ward, and he realized how much he really did have to live for.

Cancer has taken too many lives. Many around the world are mourning the loss of Steve Jobs. I’ve been thinking about some of his incredible accomplishments lately myself. One quote of his from a Stanford commencement address really stands out: “Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.” Isn’t that the truth? I’ve been sharing and hearing lemonade stories for quite a long time, and the difficulties never get any easier. It’s easy to lose faith and forget what we have going for us when times get tough.

This September, everyone on staff at Lemonade Books was shocked when our editor, and my friend, Steffany Woolsey, was diagnosed with stage IV glioblastoma multiforme in her brain. Watching her walk into the unknown of radiation and chemotherapy has been painful for all of us, but also inspirational as she continues to live with hope.

On her Facebook page, Steffy recently quoted a pastor who also endured brain cancer: “Everyone is mortal, but we’re not really aware of it (most of the time, anyway). The gift God has given me is that I get to be aware of it.” She followed the quote with, “This realization, as it falls upon me, really is a gift!”

I’m amazed at Steffy’s strength and hope, and find myself so encouraged by stories about people like her and Andy. Perhaps you or people you know are battling cancer. Take heart.

Later this week, I hope you’ll stop by again for another inspiring true story.

 

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Announcing: 1st Ever Lemon Drop Contest!

God Makes Lemonade was created to share hope, but the book isn’t the only way to do that. We can tell stories here on the website too. That’s why we’re excited to announce our monthly Lemon Drop Contest.

We’ll post a prompt every month or so, and we’d like to invite you to pull up a chair at our back porch and share a lemon drop with us—a short, true story about hope. We’ll choose one especially sweet lemon drop from each prompt to feature on our website, and Don will send the author a free copy of God Makes Lemonade. He’ll also send a special gift to a friend of the winner who needs encouragement!

Our First Lemon Drop Contest Prompt:
Now that school buses are mixing into the morning commute and apple trees are bursting with color, we keep finding things that remind us of our school days and some of those amazing teachers and mentors who helped us through. Tell us about a teacher who changed your life.

To enter, simply:
Send your name, a brief description of where you live and what you do, a brief description of a friend you’d like to encourage with a copy of God Makes Lemonade, and answer the prompt in 200 words or less in the body of an email to contest@godmakeslemonade.com

Deadline: Friday, November 4.

 

 

 

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Author Interview: Carol Statton

Have you read this week’s Featured Story? “Lunches with Mike,” by Carol Statton, is a touching story about a woman who used lessons from her abusive childhood to reach out to a child facing similar circumstances. If you haven’t read it yet, head over there right away—we’re sure it’ll make your day. Then come back here, since God Makes Lemonade recently had a chance to catch up with Carol.

GML: Where do you live?

Carol:  I am blessed to live in the beautiful mountain town of Sisters, Oregon.  My husband Randy and I share our home with two beloved dogs, Jessie and Bailey, and are fortunate that our two children, son-in-law, and three grandchildren all live in Sisters as well.

GML: What are you up to these days?

Carol: I have an immensely satisfying career as an office manager for a local, privately owned physical therapy clinic.  Working with people I admire and love to share life with in an environment that not only allows but encourages me to deeply connect with patients is the perfect place for me.  I always look forward to each new day.  I know I am one of the very blessed who can say that I don’t spend the week looking forward to Friday because every day is fulfilling and meaningful.

I am also a writer. Actually, the same week that God Makes Lemonade was released, another project also come to fruition for me: four other women and I published the “Horsewomen of Sisters, Oregon” calendar.  We created the calendar project to feature the many different horsewomen from our local community in a format that would also promote Sisters, Oregon, and raise funds for local animal rescue organizations.

The recession has taken a particularly hard toll on our region, placing an overwhelming burden on many local rescues.  We decided that all profits from this project should be dedicated to this important community need.  We had forty horsewomen involved in the project, and I was able to conduct written and oral interviews for each of the ladies, as well as a longer feature piece on one of our local icons. I am excited to see my passion for writing come to life in such incredible realms, and I feel blessed to be able to participate in these two very special projects. It is wonderful to be included in GML, and incredible to see my first published story in book form.

GML: What inspired you to write your lemonade story?

Carol: My dear friend Penny Whipps (whose story “Kyle’s Legacy,” was also published in God Makes Lemonade) encouraged me to write a story and submit it to the book project.  I sat down at my computer and realized that I had to write about the most significant point in my life—the moment I could thank God for the tough things I had endured as a child/young adult.  Those lunches with Mike—the opportunities to listen to him, care for him, accept him, and most importantly, understand him because I had been equipped to—showed me that God can redeem anything.  When Mike said “thank you” that day in the car, my heart almost stopped. I realized then that my past had made me a vessel for hope and healing.  I have spoken to many youth and adults about my painful childhood and how I was able to forgive my parents, love them, and experience a very different outcome than what might be expected because of my faith, hope and belief in possibility.  That is what I hope people see and read in my story.



GML: Have you been able to share your story with friends and family?

Carol: Yes. Many of them had already heard me share this story, but being able to give my family and friends copies of the book made me feel a whole new level of purpose in the continuing legacy of the story.




GML: Have you had a chance to read other stories in God Makes Lemonade?

Carol:  Yes and I am inspired by all of them.  It is amazing to see the resiliency of the human spirit and as we share those stories, I believe it ignites hope and determination.



GML: Do you have any updates on your lemonade story since it was published?

Carol:  I am ever hopeful that somehow, some day, Mike will have this book in his hands and read this story and realize that it is about him… and be determined to find us again. We lost touch with him approximately 10 years ago, and the last phone conversation with him was very hard.  His life was falling apart. After being forced to move to Texas to be with his mom, he found himself “lost” in a high school of 7,000 students, and seeking refuge through drug use.  I listened to him as he cried and confessed that he was totally messing up, and my heart was breaking because I couldn’t “save” him.  I asked him to write down my phone number so he could call me if he needed me to come out there, and I never heard from him again.  I have been hoping, every day since that phone conversation that Mike would somehow find me again so that I could know that he is okay.  That is the update I am hoping will come one day.

Thanks for stopping by and getting to know Carol a bit better. Come back next week—we’re already working on another interview with the author of our next featured story. Or you can pick up a copy of God Makes Lemonade, where you’ll find more than eighty inspiring stories like this one.

Author Carol Statton

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Don’s Thoughts: Lunches with Mike

Have you read this week’s Featured Story, “Lunches with Mike?” Author Carol Statton is a good friend of my sister, Penny Whipps, who wrote “Kyle’s Legacy” in God Makes Lemonade. When Penny told me about Carol’s story, I knew it belonged in the book. As a parent, Carol was given the powerful gift of being able to reach out to a child living in an abusive home similar to the one she grew up in. The child, her daughter’s friend Mike, thanked her for helping him. Since then they’ve lost touch, however, and she can only hope his life is now on the right track.

I’m amazed by Carol’s ability to live beyond the pain of her childhood. Child abuse is horribly wounding and leaves an indelible mark on children that many carry through adulthood. According to Childhelp, abused children are 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile and 28% more likely to be arrested as an adult. About 80% of abused children will meet criteria of at least one psychological disorder by age 21, and 30% of abused children will go on to abuse their own children. Approximately six million children are reportedly abused every year.

We can’t know for sure if our best efforts or intentions will make a difference in sour circumstances, but there’s always hope. That’s what I love about Carol’s story. She couldn’t have expected to meet Mike, but their encounter is incredibly sweet. Carol mentioned in her interview on our blog that since she’s lost touch with Mike, she hopes he’ll see a copy of God Makes Lemonade and be able to see how important their lunches were to her. I’m so glad we can share this story with you—and Mike, let us know if you read this!

Stop by again later this week for another inspiring true story.

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Author Interview: Mariane Holbrook

Have you read this week’s Featured Story? “Heavenly Harvest” by Mariane Holbrook, is an inspiring story about a Depression-era family whose small house garden miraculously produced enough to fill their table and the neighbor’s just when they were at the risk of going hungry. If you haven’t read “Heavenly Harvest” yet, you need to head over to our featured story page right away—we’re sure it’ll make your day, especially if you’ve been touched by economic hardship in recent years. Then come back here, since God Makes Lemonade recently had a chance to catch up with Mariane.

GML:  What are you up to these days, Mariane?

Mariane: Well, I live on the beach in North Carolina with my husband, John. We’re both retired. He used to teach junior and senior high science and I taught fourth grade.
About five or six years ago, we built our house on the beach. At the time, we decided to add an apartment for our children (two sons) and grandchildren to come visit. Good thing we did because one of my sons recently lost his job so he and his wife and two little boys (ages six and ten) are staying with us now. We love having them here. They are just delightful. We know it won’t last forever because they’ll move when their dad gets a job, but we love it for now. Our other son lives in Raleigh and runs his own business. He and his wife have four daughters.

Other than that, I love to write and have self-published two books: “Humor Me” and “Prisms of the Heart,” collections of my poetry and short stories, written over a thirty- year period. I love music and play the organ/piano for my own pleasure, and I am an amateur artist, concentrating on folk art wooden eggs for “fun and profit,” as the expression goes. I usually end up giving away far more than I sell, though [smile]. My website has more information on what I do:  www.marianholbrook.com

GML: What inspired you to write  your lemonade  story?

Mariane:  I wrote “Heavenly Harvest” as a tribute to my father, the most honorable man I’ve ever known. I was born during the Great Depression, the sixth of seven children. The story of my father’s garden is true and though I was too young to remember it, it became so well-known that relatives and friends still talk about it. We lived through the Depression. He was within $500 of paying off his house and he lost it. He went to my uncle to ask him for financial help, but because of personal differences, my uncle refused. I never saw my parents waver or lose faith, and that was a lifelong lesson for all of us kids. My parents just held on. That garden turned out so strangely. It showed all the neighbors and everyone in that tiny town hope. We had more in our cellar than we had ever had before. We had food coming out of our ears. That garden was a lesson in faith that I’ve treasured all my life.

GML: What was it like to see your story printed in the book?

Mariane: I was thrilled to be part of the inaugural edition. I foresee this project becoming as popular as the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series. The generous payment for each story, as well as ten free copies of the book, is definitely a plus!

GML: Have you had a chance to read other stories in God Makes Lemonade?

Mariane: Yes.  I liked the first two very much. I like to skip around to read them. I’ve read almost all of it now, and I’ve just loved it. It’s such a good variety. We’re all so different. Some people are so courageous, dealing with illness and death. I’m high on that strength in those stories. I come from a family of missionaries and pastors so those things are important to me.

GML: And just for fun, since you already live where some people dream of vacationing, where would you go on vacation today and why?

Mariane: Hawaii or Alaska because of how extremely different they both seem. I grew up in New York State and now live in North Carolina. Alaska and Hawaii seem so different. My son went to Alaska and said there’s no way to describe it. He said it was like another country. I can’t really travel anymore, but I wish I could have gone when I was younger so I could appreciate their unique beauty and flora and fauna. And I’ve also always wanted to take a tour of the cathedrals in Europe, they look so gorgeous and worshipful.

Thanks for stopping by and getting to know Mariane a bit better. Come back next week—we’re already working on another interview with the author of our next featured story. Or you can pick up a copy of God Makes Lemonade, where you’ll find more than eighty inspiring stories like this one.

Author Mariane Holbrook

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Don’s Thoughts: Heavenly Harvest

Have you read this week’s Featured Story, “Heavenly Harvest?” Mariane Holbrook actually has two stories published in God Makes Lemonade. I’ve had the chance to hear a few sweet and inspiring stories from Mariane’s years as a writer, family historian, teacher, and mom. “Heavenly Harvest” is one of her most poignant lemonade stories. Just when her family thought the Great Depression might take everything they had left, the garden they planted produced an abundance they couldn’t have imagined. Her story is incredible and I am so glad we can share it with you.

These days, abundance is hard for many of us to imagine. Do you cringe whenever newscasters start talking about the economy? For many of us, the recession of recent years means more than just Wall Street protests, scandals, and constantly fluctuating markets. It signifies personal losses. I know people, as I’m sure you do, who’ve experienced terrible financial losses which have led to even greater losses in other areas of their lives: unemployment, insurmountable debt, foreclosure, even medical issues such as depression and anxiety.

When times are tough, it can certainly be difficult to stay encouraged and keep tending the garden, so to speak. That’s why I love lemonade stories like this one—you never know when something sweet will spring up out of nowhere. Not only did Mariane’s family have enough produce to keep their table full, but they had enough to give away to the neighbors. Lemonade does happen.

You may remember my post a couple weeks back about Vera Shepherd’s story, “Timing is Everything.” I wrote about why my wife and I are giving all of the royalties for God Makes Lemonade to single moms. We believe these stories can inspire and encourage you and we also believe that together, we can all encourage single moms and their kids through the Lemonaid Foundation. It happened for Mariane’s neighbors, and I believe it will happen for ours.

Later this week, I hope you’ll stop by again for another inspiring true story.

 

 

 

 

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Author Interview: Penny Whipps

Have you read this week’s Featured Story? “Kyle’s Legacy,” by Penny Whipps, is the emotional story about how Penny was able to create an organization that reaches out to at-risk youth in the wake of her own son’s painful death. If you haven’t read it yet, you need to head over there right away—we’re sure it’ll touch your heart. Then come back here, since God Makes Lemonade recently had a chance to catch up with Penny.

GML: Where do you live?

Penny: Right now, I’m living in Bend, Oregon, with my brother Don and sister in-law before moving back to Sisters, Oregon, only a few miles away. I have a son and lovely daughter in-law who live in Portland and a daughter who lives in Central Oregon.

GML: What are you up to these days?

Penny: I’ve been working in publishing for many years now and I’m working on some books right now for authors I represent. I also run my own nonprofit, Just1x. I’m currently adding speaking engagements to my 2012 schedule. I’ve been speaking in public and private high schools across the country—Oregon, Minnesota, and Georgia are coming up pretty soon.

Just1x speaks at schools, youth groups and other student-organizations to challenge teens to break the code of silence on behalf of their friends and seek help for them. When kids get involved in dangerous activity, someone needs to step up. Just1x defines dangerous living as “anything you or your friends are doing that puts your life or theirs in jeopardy.” Just1x speaks to the student living dangerously now, the student who isn’t but is thinking about it, and the student who has no intention of living dangerously but knows someone who is and is keeping it secret.

I started Just1x after meeting some of the boys who were with my son, Kyle, the night he died. I was shocked to realize those boys knew Kyle wasn’t acting normally and something wasn’t quite right, but they were afraid to talk to Kyle. No one said anything. That’s what pushed me into action. Kids have got to have the courage to break the code of silence when this sort of thing happens. They have to decide whether their own popularity, comfort, or reputation is worth more than their friend’s safety, and maybe even their life. This has become a calling in my life and not something I would have chosen. But after I spoke five times within the first five weeks of Kyle’s death, I realized that if I’m willing to move past my own discomfort and pain, we may be able to save some kids along the way. If one student is saved or makes better life choices because he heard Kyle’s story then it’s been worth it.

GML: What inspired you to write your lemonade story?

Penny: Well, I really wanted people to know that you can survive the death of a child. Through faith, you can continue on with love and compassion for the people you do life with. Also, I wanted readers to hear Kyle’s story in hopes that they will be inspired to help someone they know who is living dangerously and seek help for them.

GML: What was it like to see your story printed in the book?

Penny: It’s exciting to see my story in writing and know that it may bring encouragement to someone who has lost a child. I also love that my story is among so many other stories that will give hope and encouragement. There is something really special here. I hope my story encourages people with the fact that even if the worst thing happens to you, like losing a child, there are ways that something good can come out of it.

Obviously, I’m also very excited to be a part of a project that gives aid to single moms. I was a single mom for 15 years. I had a community and family that came around me and helped me, but when I travel, I often meet single moms who don’t have any form of encouragement or help. I don’t know how they make it. Single moms struggle with feeling alone and feeling forgotten in a community. Not only do many of them deal with the shame of being divorced or feeling like they don’t fit in any more, but when tough things come, such as financial difficulty, illness, loss of job, death, you just feel devastated. This book brings communities together to bring support to these women. That is pretty cool.

I know there were times when I felt very alone—I was doing everything as a mom and a dad. We single moms are tired. Honestly, if I hadn’t had the support of the people around me during that time, I don’t know how I would have made it through. Even with the support that I had, especially in tough times like when Kyle died, you feel very alone as a single mom. I feel like sharing my story at GML is a small way for me to bring encouragement to other single moms.

GML: Have you had a chance to read other stories in God Makes Lemonade?

Penny: Yes, I read through the book and some stories had me laughing and some crying. Mostly, it’s just encouraging to read other people’s stories of how something so painful turns around and becomes something so beautiful and useful.

GML: And just for fun, can you tell us one of your funniest family memories growing up with Don Jacobson?

Penny: The story that is told at almost every family gathering is about the time when my big brother got in trouble for shocking me with an electric fence. I was very little… probably four and Don was maybe six-years-old. Or maybe he was eight and I was six. Who knows? We were at my grandparents’ farm and Don kept telling me to go touch the electric fence (because he wanted to see me get shocked). I must not have been very keen on the idea, but he coaxed me with, “Don’t worry, I’ll turn off the fence. You won’t get shocked.” Somehow, Don convinced me the fence was turned off, so I touched it and sure enough, got shocked and went running to the house crying. At that point, my grandpa was watching from a distance and saw the whole thing happen.

He came out and told Don the fence was turned off. My grandpa didn’t actually turn it off though. He upped the voltage to teach Don a lesson. Trusting my grandpa’s words, Don went out there and touched the fence. He got one of the biggest shocks in his life! One of the best parts was that after it happened, he looked up at my grandpa and said, “Grandpa, Jesus isn’t going to like you very much.” He didn’t realize he had been caught. And he got it big time. Hahaha. Really though, Don has always been my protector. We goofed around a lot as kids, but he has always watched out for me.

Thanks for stopping by and getting to know Penny a bit better. Come back next week—we’re already working on another interview with the author of our next featured story. Or you can pick up a copy of God Makes Lemonade, where you’ll find more than eighty inspiring stories like this one.

Author Penny Whipps

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’s Thoughts: Kyle’s Legacy

Have you read this week’s Featured Story, “Kyle’s Legacy?” This is a particularly emotional story for me, as it was written by my sister, Penny Whipps. Her story is powerful. Kyle, Penny’s son and my nephew, died because of an accidental drug overdose. Our whole family grieves his death. He was amazingly gifted, with so much life ahead of him. We loved him and miss him so much.

Amid this horrible tragedy, something beautiful has happened. My sister sensed a calling on her life that she never expected. After talking with Kyle’s friends about his death and hearing their regret over not speaking out and getting Kyle help, Penny realized that there are many other kids out there who have friends like Kyle and they are afraid to break what she calls their “code of silence.” So she started an organization called Just1x that reaches out to those kids and helps them muster up the courage to help their friends who are living dangerously. I’m so proud of my sister.

Penny mentions in her interview that she has been a single mom for 15 years. Seeing her live through single motherhood for so many years—especially amid great tragedy—is part of the reason why we decided to give all royalties from God Makes Lemonade toward helping single moms and their children. I’ve seen first-hand what an incredible role single moms have with their children and they deserve our support and care.

Penny also mentions that I tried to electrocute her in her interview. Hmm. Well, that might be true but she definitely didn’t remember exactly what I said to my grandpa after he nailed me with the same electric fence. While shaking my finger at him in righteous indignation, what I actually said was, “Grandpa, Jesus ain’t going to love you.” It was actually my first lesson on the pains of hypocrisy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Announcing: GML Blog Tour

GML is on tour!

We’ve packed our bags & hit the road for the blogosphere. During the month of November, dozens of bloggers will be posting guest interviews, book reviews, and book giveaway contests for GML. For example, check out these blogs that have already participated:

Check our Twitter for more updates about where we’re headed next, and for goodness’ sake, catch up on your Google Reader. You won’t want to miss this chance to discover some great blogs or to participate in a free book giveaway.

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Author Interview: Christina Newell

Christina and Adalayde Newell

Have you read this week’s Featured Story? “The Magic of a Sister,” by Christina Newell, is the powerful story of her sister’s eleven-year struggle and eventual death due to neonatal leukodystrophy. Despite grief and fear, Christina held onto hope for her own children. She is now the proud mom to Adalayde and she just discovered that she is pregnant with a second child! This is a story about hope against the odds. If you need some inspiration today, you’ve come to the right place. Also, if you haven’t read Christina’s story yet, you need to head over there right away—we’re sure it’ll make your day. Then come back here, since God Makes Lemonade recently had a chance to catch up with Christina.

GML: What have you been up to lately, Christina?

Christina: Well, I live in Aurora, Colo. with my husband, Matthew, our daughter, Adalayde, and our two dogs. I am lucky enough to be able to stay at home with our daughter. When I have a free moment, I love to bake, sew, or craft. I also blog about our adventures and create one-of-a-kind belly castings for soon-to-be mommas.

GML: What are belly-castings?

Christina: [Smiles] I plaster-cast pregnant bellies to create a sculpture of an expectant mom’s baby bump. Then, I decorate the sculpture with fabric and whatever else seems appropriate and unique for the mom. It’s nice. I think it’s a good way to capture the beauty of pregnancy and that special time, and belly-casts aren’t too weird to hang in your home.

GML: What inspired you to write your lemonade story?

Christina: A friend shared a link to the GML website with me. I took a look at the site, and I thought, “I have definitely had some sour moments in my life.” But I feel like I have a blessed life too. I thought, “Maybe someone else can be inspired by this chapter in my life when a lemon turned into lemonade.” I felt like I barely met the format requirements, and I didn’t tell anyone I was submitting my store to you until I got the final draft back. It just wasn’t real to me. It’s still kind of surreal to me that my story has been published. It’s good to re-share something I’ve been pretty open about, though. Most of my friends already know the story, and some of my friends even knew Meagan. It was right after I graduated from college that she passed away. I was able to reconnect with a lot of those friends.

When I met my husband, I was in my 30s so we immediately started thinking about family. Meagan’s story resurfaced for me. The possibility that I could have children with neo-natal leukodystrophy is really scary. But that’s part of our story. We have one child, Adalayde, and she is perfectly healthy and wonderful.

GML: What was it like to see your story printed in the book?

Christina: I couldn’t believe that my story was picked! When the book came in the mail, I was still in shock. In fact, I still can’t believe it. When I was in high school, we had an assignment to write a bucket list of 100 things we wanted to do before we died. Getting something I had written published is something I’m proud that I can cross off that list.

GML: Have you been able to share your story with friends and family?

Christina:  I’m not really one to boast about things, but my husband has told everyone we know. He’s so proud of me. I have shared the book with a few close friends that were excited and wanted to read the story, and because this story is about my sister, I shared it with my mom and my stepdad (Meagan’s dad). They were deeply touched.

GML: Do you have any updates on your lemonade story since it was published? 

Christina: Hmm… We give thanks each and every day for Adalayde. We hope that we will continue to be blessed as a family. It’s very emotional for me. I feel like choosing to have Adalayde makes Meagan’s story her story too. Hopefully, Meagan’s story will be a source of courage for her. I guess that when you have kids, it’s something you hope you’re giving them—tools to be strong and to be confident who they are.

Probably our biggest update is that we’re going in for a 12-week ultrasound for our second child this week! We have the same hope for a healthy baby and are trusting this path that we’re on. It’s really exciting.

GML: Just for fun, If you could go on vacation anywhere today, where would you go and why?

Christina: Definitely Europe. My husband keeps telling me about how beautiful Europe is and how much I will love it. We are still a few years away from being able to run off on that adventure, but I can’t wait!

Thanks for stopping by and getting to know Christina a bit better. Come back next week—we’re already working on another interview with the author of our next featured story. Or you can pick up a copy of God Makes Lemonade, where you’ll find more than eighty inspiring stories like this one.

 

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Interview with Author “Santa Rick”

Rick & Kim Wages

Have you read this week’s Featured Story? “One Saturday Morning,” by Rick Wages, is a very sweet story about a father’s love at a tender time in his son’s life. If you haven’t read it yet, you need to head over there right away. We’re sure it’ll touch your heart—especially as you all prepare to spend some quality time with the family over the holidays! Then come back here, since God Makes Lemonade recently had a chance to catch up with Rick. Spoiler alert: Rick is also known as Santa Rick during the winter months and he shared some Christmas cheer with us.

GML: Where do you live?

Rick: I live in Loganville, Georgia, a small suburb of Atlanta . I live with my wife of 38 years, Kim; our daughter, Karen (she’s finishing up her last year of college to become a teacher); and four Schnauzers: Rudy, Max, Lady and Bella. I have three other married children: Kam married to Jason, a pastor, and they have our three grandchildren (Kennedy, Sidney, Joel); Keith is married to Mattie (he is a children’s pastor and they are expecting their first child); and Kevin is married to Deanna, he is a teacher and she a hair stylist.

GML: What are you up to these days?

Rick: I have built over 200 homes, but in this economy, business is nil. I have been working with my brother selling home improvements, roofing, replacement windows and doors and gutters. I am a real Santa as well, so the months of November and December are booked with personal visits to homes, parties, family gatherings, day cares, elementary schools, churches and community events. I will have over 3,000 children and adults in my lap or on my knee before the season is over. Ho ho ho! I am a blessed old fat man and though not rich with money, have literally hundreds of friends.

GML: What inspired you to write your lemonade story?

Rick:  I love to write, and have recently finished writing a Bible study with devotions that prompted me to look back at my life and see the times when God blessed me and times when He has made good out of the tough times I’ve put in His hands.

GML: What was it like to see your story printed in the book?

Rick:  It was a blessing to have my first piece in printed form. Though, I have had many stories and devotions published on the Internet in order to encourage as many people as possible. I read the book and found it to be a wonderful encouragement. Several folks had some amazing stories.

GML: Do you have any updates on your lemonade story since it was published?

Rick: A few family members have expressed how bad they felt for me at the time—though they may not have expressed it when I was younger. I have also received letters from others who understand what I was going through, and it has helped them with their own children today.

GML: Alright Santa Rick, we know you’ve been busy this month. Will you share one of your cheeriest Santa memories with us?

Rick: I was sitting as Santa at a public photo event earlier this week and a little girl came up to me carrying a picture. When she got up to my seat, the girl asked me to stand up, face away from her, and bend over. I thought I might have something on my suit pants, so I did so and asked our Photographer Elf to look too. The little girl looked studiously at the picture she carried and then back at my backside with intensity. A few moments later, she said I could sit down again. I did, and she hopped up onto my knee.  I asked what she was looking at and she showed me her picture, which portrayed Santa’s backside as he bent over in the process of spreading out gifts on a couch. Her mother had taken the picture and gave it to her as proof that there was indeed a Santa, and that I was he. She just wanted to be sure I was the “Real Santa” before she wasted any time telling me things she wanted for Christmas. I have never laughed so hard and so deep as I did that day. Ho ho ho!

Thanks for stopping by and getting to know Rick a bit better. Come back next week—we’re already working on another interview with the author of our next featured story. Or you can pick up a copy of God Makes Lemonade, where you’ll find more than eighty inspiring stories like this one. The book might be the perfect last-minute gift for someone in your life, too!

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Author Interview: Sharie Robbins

Have you read this week’s Featured Story? “Marked by Love,” by Sharie Robbins, is a story about incredible sacrifice for her husband. When Sharie’s husband discovered that he and his brother had a genetic disorder that would lead to kidney failure, she decided to prepare for surgery and donate one of her own kidneys to her husband. If you haven’t read it yet, you need to head over there right away. Then come back here, since God Makes Lemonade recently had a chance to catch up with Sharie.

GML: Where do you live?

Sharie: I live in La Canada, CA in the house my grandparents built close to 60 years ago, with my husband Quinn, and my youngest daughter Justine, who is a hairstylist in our home town. My daughter Ashley and son-in-law Michael live just a few blocks away and were married in September of 2011. My son Anthony is graduating from Verdugo Fire Academy in January and will be moving to Northern California to pursue his firefighting career.

GML: What are you up to these days?

Sharie: I have been on staff at Montrose Church for the past 18 years. I started as the director of children’s ministry as a volunteer, then began helping with administration in the office. Now I am the executive assistant to the pastors on staff. I am blessed to work with great people who have become my family. Much like family, sometimes they make me a bit crazy… but I love them anyway.

I am an avid exerciser and love my weekly Pilates classes. My husband and I are still kids at heart so we purchased Disneyland passes and we go at least once per month to “get our wigglies out.”

GML: What inspired you to write your lemonade story?

Sharie: When God does a miracle in your life, you feel compelled to share it. I believe that God allows us to go through difficult times so that we can use those stories to show His faithfulness. My hope is that my story will help other people who are going through difficult situations to look for God in the midst of those hard times and see the amazing things that He does out of love for us.

GML: What was it like to see your story printed in the book?

Sharie: Sometimes we get so busy with our everyday lives that we forget the faithfulness that God has shown us. Seeing my story in print is a personal reminder of God’s faithfulness and how I need to remember all the things He has done for me—every day. I wrote a book called Some Assembly Required in 2004 that combined stories of how God worked in my life over the course of two years. It is amazing to see how many prayers God answered during just those two years. It humbles me to think that so much of my daily life is spent worrying about things that are so small, when I can go back and read how faithful God has been to me and to my family. I think it is a good discipline for everyone to journal about the things God has done and the answers to prayer in our lives, so that they can go back and read about it… and be reminded of how much God loves us on days that are full of joy as well as when life seems a little dark.

GML: Have you been able to share your story with friends and family?

Sharie:  I have shared my testimony at our church several times and with our women’s group. I try to take the opportunity to share it with whoever will listen. Even 16 years later, it is a story worth sharing.

GML: And just for fun: if you could “do it over,” what would be your dream job?

Sharie: While I do not regret starting my family young, being a stay-at-home mom, and later, having a job with great flexibility to raise my kids, I do regret not going to college. From elementary school through high school, my dream job was to work with animals. More specifically, I wanted to be a trainer at Sea World or work with elephants at the zoo. To this day, when I go to Sea World and watch the shows, I get a little teary because it was such a big dream that I never pursued. I have a lot of “what if” moments for not pursuing that dream, but I know that God placed me in the job that I have for a purpose. So I guess I have Purpose instead of Porpoise… ha ha.

Thanks for stopping by and getting to know Sharie a bit better. Come back next week—we’re already working on another interview with the author of our next featured story. Or you can pick up a copy of God Makes Lemonade, where you’ll find more than eighty inspiring stories like this one.

Sharie and Quinn Robbins

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