Grace Gifts 15 to 49 [2016 Favorites]

Just a little under three hours left in 2016. Twenty sixteen was a really good year for me, more highs than lows and for that I am thankful. Especially for the knowledge that the consistency and faithfulness of my Heavenly Father never changes. He is always with me and I rejoice in the good times and trust Him in the bad times, knowing that He is ordering my steps.

I’m going to post pictures from every month of 2016 – a list of grace gifts for sure! These pictures make me so happy – they are just full of simple joys and to this simple woman it just doesn’t get any better.

JANUARY
January began with an appearance on Wheel of Fortune, America’s Game – with my friend Jan Leary for “Girlfriend Getaways!” It was a highlight of not only 2016 – but of my life! A dream come true. Team Jan WON and I wrote a post about it here on the blog. You can search and find it posted in February 2016.
FEBRUARY
A trip to the North Georgia Mountains in February with our boys and their families was delightful. We stayed in a beautiful cabin and spent quality family time together. Plans are already made for a repeat of this blessed time!My mom and sister and I enjoyed a Paint Party together as a Ladies Night Out at our church.  Luke 1:50 “His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation.”

MARCH
We celebrated my Mom’s birthday and I’m always thankful to celebrate her life! She is a gift to everyone in our family.

These are my Praise Team people! I love them. We love to sing together and we really love each other too. Most of all, we love Jesus.
Three little grandsons [Jackson, Abe, Zeke] in plaid shirts and khaki pants on Sunday morning. Little church boys. I love them!

An app on my phone to show my distance (almost 7 miles, woohoo!) and route when I ride my bike. I love riding the country roads near our home. I miss it now that the cold weather and early sunsets prevent me getting outside. Spring will be here soon!

APRIL
April marked a blessed event that has been prayed for by Pop and Gran Jan since our oldest grandson Zeke was born 8 years ago.  We witnessed our son baptize his son at Cartersville First Baptist. We are so thankful Zeke has professed faith in Jesus Christ!

We celebrated my Dad’s 82nd birthday with a big family BBQ. Here is my Dad doing what he loves best – grilling, and my three menfolk enjoying themselves and I couldn’t be prouder of them!

MAY
Our grandson Jackson graduated from Kindergarten in May and our hearts were full as we reminisced our son Jonathan’s graduation from the same Kindergarten 26 years earlier.
I spent Mother’s Day weekend with Jeremy and his family and we had a Mother-Son picture made at the church. I’m so proud of this preacher son of mine!

Two fig trees for Mother’s Day. My husband knows me well. I told him I look forward to teaching my granddaughters how to make delicious homemade fig preserves one day.
JUNE
The highlight of June was another awesome all clear cancer free report for my husband as we spent the day in Atlanta. We celebrated with lunch at Pappasitos, one of our favorite restaurants. We also celebrated 39 years of marriage on June 11th.

June is the best month for gardens here in middle Georgia. The weather is usually not yet blazing hot and my flower gardens and vegetable garden are so pretty! My grandchildren Jackson and Emery helped me plant these green beans during Spring Break. They were bountiful.
A little Father’s Day love…my husband loves his boys! And they are such good daddies too. They were raised by the best, their own Father!June was the month for the inaugural Gran Jan Camp. I had one camper this year – my oldest grandson. He had just finished first grade so he met the “requirements.” 🙂 Next year I will have 3 campers. This is Zeke during our early morning devotional time together. It was a week I shall never forget. We loved our time together.
JULY
July is the month for the Morton Family Vacation and we had a great time at Cape San Blas, Florida this year. The cousins played so hard together and that made mine and Pop’s hearts so happy! I made their matching shirts and that made my heart happy too.

My son Jonathan and his wife and children were all in a Hutto family wedding in July. It was beautiful! My daughter-in-law’s brother Jared married his beautiful bride, Deanna. Isn’t this a beautiful family? AUGUST
August brought about another awesome event for me – my first published book. I was a co-author of Tasting Grace, a book about the mentoring in the kitchen ministry that my friend Jan Hamil and I began back in 2014. This is Leah Adams, my friend and published author of several other books. The book idea was hers and I’m thankful she brought me along for the journey. It is the most fulfilling ministry for me. Thankful to my friend Beth Moore for writing the foreword for us.
SEPTEMBER
I made a “Frozen” quilt for my granddaughter Emery’s 4th birthday. It was fun to go to her party and see the JOY as she celebrated with family and friends. This is one amazing little girl!

Our Women’s Ministry and Second Baptist Church hosted the Jennifer Rothschild “Fresh Grounded Faith” Conference the weekend of September 23-24, 2016. It was life-changing for many women and our joy to serve. Nearly 2 thousand women attended.
OCTOBER
October brings the Georgia National Fair which just happens to be held not too far from our home! I braved the Ferris wheel again this year for Zeke and Madie. We had a blast!
Three of my grandkids stayed a few days with us during Fall Break and granddaughter Madie enjoyed our miniature donkeys here at the Morton Farm so much. They are named Maybelle and Moses Morton.

NOVEMBER
I love Thanksgiving so much. The simplicity of food, family, and faith – without all the trappings of other holidays appeals to me so much. This year was extra special as my parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on November 23, 2016, the day before Thanksgiving. The family gathered for a big photograph.

I enjoyed a sweet Thanksgiving school lunch with my son Jonathan and grandson Jackson at Jackson’s school the day after my birthday. I sorta think we three look alike in this picture and of course, I love that too.

I made a quilt for some sweet family friends, Laura and Hamp Jones, and they came by the house to pick it up Thanksgiving week. It was an overdue wedding gift and I hope they enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it for them.
DECEMBER
It was so sweet to see Jackson and Emery in the Children’s Christmas program at our church. Emery was “THE STAR” and Jackson portrayed Joseph. I pray the JOY of Christmas will be in their hearts as they grow older and realize just exactly what this beautiful season means.
I love this ornament…1977, our first Christmas together. This was our 40th Christmas as husband and wife. 

It was our great joy to have Keith and Krystyn Getty at our church for their “Irish Christmas” musical. Our choir sang and they sang and played. It was an amazing night of worship. Beautiful!
My five grandchildren who bring me more joy that I can adequately express!
It also brings me such joy to see my boys spending time together with their families. They got together just this week at Stone Mountain, GA for snow tubing and I know the cousins played hard.

This picture was made just a few hours ago at my mom and dad’s home next door to mine. It’s the Maloy girls. My sisters. I love them so much. we laugh easily with each other, we love our parents, and we love each others’ families. Having sisters who are also friends is a great gift I don’t take for granted.
As 2016 comes to a close and 2017 is dawning I want to just say how much I love my Lord, my family, my church, my friends, my life. God has been so good to me and it isn’t because I’m good, it’s only because He is good. All the time. I look forward to 2017 because I know Jesus Christ is already there. He goes before us and He is so faithful!

Happy New Year from the Mortons!

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Gran Jan Camp – 2016

The inaugural Gran Jan Camp was a long-awaited event for me. Before I was even a grandmother I heard Mrs. Esther Burroughs speak at a women’s retreat. She is a great mentor to many women.  She shared about her “Nana Camp,” and I decided right then I would do that one day. Well that day came last month, the week of June 20-24, 2016. I talked with a couple of other grandmas and decided the requirements for Gran Jan Camp would be completion of first grade. So this Inaugural Gran Jan Camp 2016 was one-on-one with my oldest grandson Zeke, who just finished first grade.  (The 2017 Camp will include Madie and Jackson as they are both about to enter first grade, then it will be a couple of years before Emery and Abe will join their camper cousins.)

Having this uninterrupted time with Zeke for a solid week was very special to me and to my husband Gary (Pop).  We are thankful for his parents who shared him with us for a week and for the opportunity to invest in his life without the distractions of a quick visit or a hurried schedule.  I’m going to share some pictures from our time together.

We met my son Jeremy and his family after church on Sunday afternoon June 19 (Father’s Day) in Atlanta at a family favorite restaurant, THE VARSITY, to get Zeke and bring him home with us for Camp. When I sat down next to Zeke at the table, he said, “FINALLY!” Almost as if he knew how long I had been anticipating this event myself…even before I was a grandma. We stopped for delicious peach ice cream at Lane Southern Orchards on the way home from Atlanta. We were off to a sweet and delicious beginning!Lane

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We enjoyed early morning coffee on the porch, a tradition Zeke and I began when he was a toddler (his coffee was mostly milk with a splash of coffee…still is).  We would have our journal and prayer time after breakfast, and then we just played and enjoyed the day.  My friend Mary Perdue told me to keep in mind that time together was the priority, not the theme or the plans.  She was exactly right.  Zeke told me right away he didn’t want it to be like school, he just wanted us to play and have fun!  So that’s what we did, and I have no regrets.

This is Zeke sitting in my chair in my quiet time place. The first day of camp was actually the Summer Solstice that included a full moon, an event that won’t be repeated in my lifetime. The longest day of the year, how much better could it get? The day with the most daylight and I got to share it with Zeke! We read from Genesis every morning about God’s creation and of course on Day 1, God said “let there be light.” The significance of all of that was not lost on me or Zeke. So we talked about His Light and the longest day of daylight. I will be honest – this was Gran Jan’s favorite time because we prayed and shared together and I was able to speak into his heart and life. We memorized Isaiah 40:8 “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of our God stands forever.”  I kept his journal and next year he will add to it. I will give the grandkids their journals when they graduate from Gran Jan Camp, which I hope is when they are about 30… 🙂GJCampOne afternoon we drove to an animal farm out in the country and bought a new miniature donkey for the Morton Farm, actually to keep our little girl donkey, Maybelle company.  Zeke named him Moses Morton and they took to each other so quickly. Moses seemed to recognize that Zeke was a little person too. Moses

We  enjoyed our time at this farm out in Eastman, Georgia. The farmer had every type of bird, duck, goose, chicken…and even peacocks! Have you ever heard a peacock? They are extremely LOUD and beautiful!Camp2

On Wednesday afternoon Zeke and Pop and I went to see the movie “Finding Dory.”  It was a great way to escape the heat and enjoy an outing.Camp1

After the movie we went shopping and Zeke told me he wanted some new pajamas with sharks on them. I was so hoping we could find some because we had also had some learning time at Camp about sharks, orcas, whales and big sea creatures…at the request of Zeke. I will admit I actually learned way more than he did because he already knew everything we studied. He is one smart boy! Guess what? Kohl’s had 2 sets of pajamas in Zeke’s size and they BOTH had sharks on them.  God is in the details, oh yes He is! CAMPfun

After shopping for pjs, we went to church and Zeke went to choir rehearsal with me. I enjoyed that so much. Then of course he wanted to play around in the inside playroom – it was way too hot to be outside and he was way too big since our last visit there, as shown in the above picture…he is growing up so fast.

Every evening we enjoyed rides around the farm in our trusty golf cart. I let Zeke drive and he did an excellent job. This was taken at dusk when we were way way out in the big 25-acre hayfield. I pray these memories will hold in both mine and Zeke’s heart. It was really a special week.Farm

We also enjoyed some time by the pond in the early evenings. Zeke and Pop did some fishing and we made s’mores by the firepit too. No big agendas, just quality uninterrupted time…two-way conversations with lots of listening on both sides, truly priceless. Time to actually hear the things on this little fella’s heart. He is mighty special!Camp22

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On our last day of Gran Jan Camp, Zeke wrote a letter to his “18-year-old-self” and we buried a time capsule. Pop picked out a great spot with room for the next 4 time capsules and a place we could find and remember. 🙂 Zeke put some items in the capsule and we decided we would dig it back up when he turned 18.  I read the letter Zeke wrote and one of the things he included was memorizing Isaiah 40:8.  He wrote, “I hope you still remember this…” I do too little buddy, I do too!Camp3

Pop-GJ-Z

We had a wonderful week and I’m already looking forward to the next year, and the next and the next…Lord willing as my Granny Maloy always said about anything she was planning for the future.

If you’re a grandmother, I hope you’ll consider doing something similar with your grandchildren. Make it your own, do whatever works for your family. But just do it! You will not regret the investment of time. And when it’s over you can take 2 Advil and enjoy a long nap…

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Appearance on Life Today with Beth Moore

LifeTodayBethI’ve had some wonderful opportunities in my lifetime – blessings straight from the Hand of God. This privilege I am sharing today actually happened back in October 2015. I was a guest on the Life Today show with my amazing friend Beth Moore. We taped on October 9 & 10, 2016 and then the episode aired December 21, 2015 and has also repeated a couple of times since then. I wanted to share this blessed opportunity on my blog to preserve the memory for my grandchildren. I know my grandmothers’ stories of faith and I want my grandchildren to know mine!

It came back to my heart again recently through a connection via “the Internets.” 🙂 A friend at church, Debbie Shepherd – told me she had seen a post on Instagram where a woman was talking about “seeing this lady on TV talking about having an Audience of One.” Debbie knew about the Life Today program and she shared the Instagram post with me. I checked it out and lo and behold it really was from the Life Today ministry program where I had shared my story. So the sweet connection in cyber space with Becky Strahle was another blessing and an answer to my prayers that the Lord would use this amazing opportunity He had given to me.  Becky makes these awesome cuff bracelets and graciously sent this one to me. You can find her at Farm Girl Paints

Audience of One

It all began when I received an email from Beth Moore’s assistant, Mrs. Kimberly McMahon. She said that the Life Today show on which Beth Moore regularly appeared as a guest was looking for someone to come on the show alongside Beth to help introduce a revised study entitled Fully Alive. She knew I could suggest some women that had been touched, blessed and encouraged by the Bible study ministry from Beth and Living Proof Ministries. As I pondered for a while some ladies came to my heart, so I asked for their permission to submit their names and contact information to the folks at Life Today.

Fast forward a couple of days, and I myself received a phone call from a producer at Life Today, Mr. Steve Baldwin. He interviewed me and several other women and then later that day called and actually offered ME the opportunity to fly to Dallas to appear on the program with Beth! I was a bit shocked and also very excited, all at the same time. Arrangements were made quickly and before I knew it, I was headed to the Atlanta Airport for a whirlwind trip. I pulled out of my driveway on Friday morning October 9th in the wee hours of dawn and returned home the next evening on Saturday about 9:30 PM, about 38 hours of fast-paced delight! Every detail came together with no effort. I was even off work on that Friday so there was nothing but open doors for the wonderful privilege to share my story with Beth on Life Today – of how I discovered the JOY of Living Free. Freedom through salvation in Jesus Christ!

I’ve shared my testimony of coming to know Christ here on my blog before.  Last summer, July 7, 2015 actually marked the 30th anniversary of the day He Called My Name.  So as Beth so clearly stated in our time on the Life Today program, my story wasn’t as messy as hers, but we both desperately needed His Saving Grace.  The link below, “More Than a Good Girl,” is the entire program from that wonderful day:

MORE THAN A GOOD GIRL

Here is also a promotional video that capsules the program:

I am so thankful thankful thankful for God opening these doors and I pray that He will continue to use our stories of salvation in Christ, our testimonies of saving grace – to point people to Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, the Life! Know your story, be willing to share and as the Word of God says in I Peter 3:15 says – be ready.

1 Peter 3:15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts,
and always be ready to give a defense
to everyone who asks you
a reason for the hope that is in you,
with meekness and fear;

John 14:6
Jesus told him,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No one can come to the Father
except through me.

Jan-Beth

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Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe!

Cookie

Like many Southern women, I love to cook with cast iron and have a nice collection in my kitchen. I have two cherished skillets that were given to me 30 years ago by an elderly woman at our church back in Athens, Georgia. They are very old and very special to me…seasoned to perfection. I love old cast iron and that just confirms I’m Southern to my bones.

Most of the time I use my cast iron pans and skillets for cornbread and biscuits. This deep-dish cookie recipe is sweet and good and I just had to share. When my boys were growing up, we rarely had birthday cakes for them. Instead we always ordered giant chocolate chip cookies from the Cookie Store at our local mall. The boys just preferred those cookies and we did too. They were delicious!  The Cookie Store closed and I’ve tried without success to duplicate the recipe…until now!  I hope y’all enjoy this Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie as much as we did when I made it last week! [I used my stand mixer.]

No, grandson Abe had not just eaten Gran Jan’s chocolate chip skillet cookie, but the sweet chocolate smile on his face made me so happy. I will make one for him the next time he comes to visit!FullSizeRender

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • vanilla ice cream, to serve (optional but not optional)
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and sift/whisk together, set aside.
  2. Place the softened butter and both white and brown sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix butter and sugars together on medium-high speed until they’re light and fluffy.
  3. Scrape down the paddle and the sides and bottom of the bowl, then add the egg and vanilla extract. Now mix again until the egg is fully incorporated into the butter. [Using an egg that is the same temperature as the other ingredients really speeds this process along, which is why so many baking recipes call for “room temperature eggs.”]
  4. When the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla are mixed together, you’ll have a lovely fluffy, mixture.
  5. Add the dry ingredients you set aside earlier, and turn the mixer to low speed. Mix it just until the flour disappears into the batter. Stop the mixer as soon as you get to this point so the cookie won’t be tough.
  6. Add the chocolate chips and stir them in by hand. Give the sides and bottom of the bowl a good scrape to get all that delicious dough!
  7. I rubbed a very thin layer of butter into my cast iron skillet, then scraped the cookie dough into the pan and smoothed it out to an even layer.
  8. Bake the skillet cookie at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until it is golden, and the edges have nicely browned. I always look to see if it has started to pull away from the sides like in my picture. It is better to undercook a wee bit than overcook!
  9. Let the skillet cookie cool until it’s warm to the touch, not hot. Use a knife to cut it into wedges or squares like I did with this square skillet.
  10. Serve with ice cream!

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Zeke’s Baptism & Family Blessings

The Good Lord has been especially near to me lately. He is always near, even those times when I’m not where I need to be to hear Him, and for that I am thankful. But lately His goodness has been evident in many ways, more than I ever deserve. This past weekend we enjoyed one of the most blessed days in the life of a family of faith. We witnessed and celebrated the baptism of our oldest grandchild, Zeke, for whom this blog was begun almost 8 years ago now.  I wrote my very first post back in July 2008 about waiting for his birth. So much living has gone on since then. My name changed to Gran Jan and nothing is the same now, and it’s wonderful! This picture is from Sunday when my oldest son Jeremy baptized his oldest son Zeke. It was a precious visible picture of our spiritual legacy continuing to the next generation. Blog18

These are my four oldest grandchildren together at Cartersville First Baptist this past Sunday [April 24, 2016] for Zeke’s baptism. Sweet cousins holding hands. I love everything about this picture! Zeke was so happy and isn’t his plaid jacket the greatest?  I love even more that he and cousin Jackson were sporting their plaidness together. Our sweet granddaughters are bookends in this picture, Jackson’s sister, Emery is on the left and Zeke’s sister, sweet Madie is on the right. Little Abraham was in the church nursery.
Blog10After we had a delicious lunch prepared by our daughter-in-love Carrie, Zeke’s mom, Sunday after church, Pop and my mom and I drove back to our home church because Jackson had a solo with our Preschool Church Choir. He is a singer like his Pop. Jackson throws his head back and sings! We loved hearing him singing “You Are God Alone.” He is in the orange shirt below at the microphone. He did so well – we are so proud of him, and he knew every word!Blog8

Here is my husband, Gary. The grandkids call him Pop.  They love him and so do I!  The top picture is from a recent opportunity he had to participate in a Worship Symposium at Liberty University. I was so proud of him as he was able to share his knowledge and experiences as a worship leader for over 40 years! The next picture is the famous RACE that the grandkids love. They are always bantering back and forth about beating him in a foot race. He told me that sweet Jackson will sometimes “slow down” and let him appear to win…love that sweet boy.Blog17

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Here is the Maloy patriarch, my father Tom Maloy, also from this past weekend. My dad will be 82 years old this Friday, April 29th. He hosted a family reunion and I saw cousins I haven’t seen in years! He is the only child still living from his family of origin that included 11 children. He was ninth in birth order, there were  8 girls and 3 boys. Here he is in his element – cooking! He smoked a whole hog and made his famous Brunswick stew and my mom and sisters made cole slaw, potato salad and baked beans, and there were lots of desserts. It was a great day for the Maloys. My three men are in the picture below Dad, enjoying the delicious meal. Blog2

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The next pictures are all from the past several weeks, just random family times and fun with the grandkids. I love every picture and the LOVE it represents in our hearts and home.  Here are the 3 grandboys at our church one Sunday. Jackson, Abe, and Zeke, all sporting their plaid shirts!Blog14Here is sweet Emery Caroline. My daughter-in-law captured this picture from Emery’s preschool at church as the kids were saying the blessing. This picture is already one of my all-time favorites. I don’t think words can describe the sweetness here. I said a blessing of thanks for the privilege to have her as a granddaughter. Blog15

Here is a picture of Jackson and Emery from Spring Break back the last week of March (2016). They spent the day with me at the Morton Farm. We planted green beans and squash, had fun with the animals and enjoyed the beautiful day.  I can’t wait for them to see the vegetables they planted – they are growing well!Blog12

This is sweet grandgirl Madie Ruth on a Daddy-Daughter Date with Jeremy.  She is as sweet as sugar, a little shy, and I believe she’s going to be a good athlete!Madie

Here is another athlete! Basketball is Jackson’s main game, but he’s doing well with T-Ball too! We love watching him at whatever sport he is playing at the time. Jonathan sends us videos on our phones of him playing with kids in the neighborhood who are older. Jackson holds his own and normally outplays them.  Hashtag Proud GranJan. Blog1

Abe loves to eat. He’s a Morton all the way with this trait 🙂 and reminds me of his daddy so very much. I captured this picture from my son’s Instagram account of Abe at a recent church dinner. I’d say it appears he enjoyed his chocolate brownie!FullSizeRenderI made a quilt as a gift for my youngest sister Jo’s 50th birthday on April 8th. She has told me several times how much she loves it and I can say I loved making it for her. I hope it brings her years of joy, just as she has brought to me.Blog11I discovered a nest of redbirds (my favorite) last weekend while doing some weeding in my garden. They are in a yellow rosebush. I saw the mama bird fly away so I know they are Cardinals. I can’t wait to see them fledge. Granddaughter Madie loves the outdoors with me too.  She already knows the names of flowers and loves to see the birds too.  Gran Jan’s JOY!Blog4

This last picture is of the Resurrection Ferns on the pecan tree near our driveway. They are dormant most of the time, but when it rains and they are refreshed they come out and make me so happy! Thank you Lord for times of refreshing. Blog13

Acts 3:19
Repent therefore and be converted,
that your sins may be blotted out,
so that times of refreshing may come
from the presence of the Lord

The pictures I’ve shared today have all refreshed my heart in some way. The Good Lord has blessed this Gran Jan beyond what I ever deserve. His grace is so real to me, His mercy so tender. I pray for times of refreshing in your life today.

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TEAM JAN, Our Wheel of Fortune Adventure!

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I CAN’T BELIEVE I AM GETTING TO WRITE THIS POST!  I don’t have a Bucket List, but I may create one just so I can check off appearing as a contestant on The Wheel of Fortune! I am so blessed because one million people each year apply to be on “America’s Show,” the WHEEL OF FORTUNE! Only 10,000 of those folks get auditions, and then less than 600 people actually make it on the show as contestants! I am a blessed woman because I am one of the million who made it through, by God’s great grace!  Just last month, on Friday, January 8th my friend Jan Leary and I were in Culver City, California at the fabulous Sony Studios to appear as contestants for a Girlfriend Getaways themed week on the Wheel.  So technically, we are two in a million! Below is our “official photo” on the set of Wheel of Fortune! Meet TEAM JAN! JAN SQUARED!

WOF_OfficialPhotoJan82016

TEAMJAN-OnWheelI have a daily prayer calendar on my desk that I have owned for many years. It never grows old to me. One of my favorite authors, Elisabeth Elliot, compiled it. It is called KEEP A QUIET HEART On the morning of our taping, this was the thought for the day…FullSizeRenderI shared it with my friend Jan. “It is His providence that has put us where we are.” Of course that’s true every day as we know the Good Lord orders our steps. But it was a comfort to read and press in as we were heading to California! Our individual journeys began years ago as we both applied to be on the show, way before we even knew each other. On a beautiful June day in Atlanta in 2013, Jan invited me to accompany her for a Wheel of Fortune contestant audition when she discovered they were looking for “teams.” My getting on the show was ALL grace, Jan received the official invitation. I am forever thankful she picked me to be her teammate! Woohoo! TEAM JAN was formed that day. We did really well and made it through to the final cuts. We had to play several mock games and then take a written test. Even us being there was part of God’s plan as my husband Gary had an appointment in Atlanta a few blocks from where the taping was. He literally dropped me off and came back to pick me up! After each round of auditions, they would “weed out” people, and Jan and I would hold our breaths! We made it down to the final few left standing out of a large group of over 100 contestants, so we already felt like winners! Several months later we got an email asking us to fly to California for a taping! WE WERE ECSTATIC! We made our reservations and then the snowstorm of Atlanta in January 2014 hit. It was a mess! Our flights cancelled and our trip to spin the wheel was postponed. Jan was on her way to the airport and became stranded on the interstate. She had a very scary experience, she now calls it Wheel of Fortune PTSD. It was rough. Talk about hope deferred. The wonderful Wheel contestant producer who kept in touch with us, Ms. Shannon Bobillo, assured us she would get us back on one day. Now almost to the day two years later, January 8, 2016, our dream was realized. This is the picture from June 2013 when we made it through the Atlanta auditions. WOFI wanted to journal my adventure story, as much for myself as anyone. One day I can come back and re-live the absolute BLAST Jan and I had appearing on America’s Game. So here goes! A memory from my earliest school days resurfaced a couple of weeks ago. I started first grade as a 5-year-old and fell in love with books and reading. I just had a wee problem. During times when we took turns reading aloud if a classmate hesitated or stumbled while sounding out a word…I would blurt it out. The teacher would scold me and if I did it again, she would draw a circle on the blackboard with chalk (yes it was 1963) and I would have to put my nose in the circle as punishment. Well, it was liberating to yell out letters and words during my time on the show! And believe you me, I didn’t yell out any answers if someone stumbled. I had learned my lesson and was in this for the win! I love the show and have been a Wheel-Watching fan for over 30 years. In fact, when my son Jonathan, now 31, was not even 2 years old, I realized he knew all his letters. I had no idea! One day while standing near a bulletin board at our church, he started pointing his chubby little finger and correctly calling out the letters. He was a Wheel-Watcher from his playpen and I didn’t even realize! A family tradition had begun.

The reality of the event set in for me the day the FED-EX package arrived with all the paperwork! Lots of paperwork! There were rules to learn, contracts to sign, puzzle categories to study, suggestions for what to wear, what NOT to wear, airline tickets to purchase to Los Angeles, hotel recommendations for Culver City, CA, and a really encouraging letter from Pat Sajak. I am such a Pat Sajak fan and loved meeting him! To me, he makes the show. I love his quick wit (totally unscripted)! For years I’ve watched him help contestants out of embarrassing moments by saying just the right thing at the right time. Meeting him just confirmed what I had watched on TV all these years. He is truly kind and very funny, two great qualities. Vanna is as gracious and beautiful in person as she is on TV, very genuine. She spent some time talking to the audience and they loved her too!

When we boarded our flight in Atlanta on Thursday morning, January 7 and got seated, this “WINNER TAKES ALL” picture was on the back on the seats in front of us! Jan and I both decided it was a definite YES and purposed to be WINNERS all the way. We decided NOT to share that we were going to Wheel of Fortune until we were on the way home. We each had several close friends praying, but did not want anything out on social media. My friend Beth was sent me a fun yet inspirational voice message. She said she was calling it the “Wheel of Favor” because we are “Women of Faith.” I loved it! That thought resonated in our hearts and Jan and I carried it the entire weekend. We wanted to savor this trip and then exhale when it was over! No more hope deferred! We had great flights to Los Angeles and stayed at a nice hotel in Culver City, California, not far from SONY STUDIOS where the Wheel of Fortune tapes. DeltaSeatWe were within walking distance of a nice mall and several restaurants, so we headed out to eat supper and take a long walk. It felt so good to walk after that five-hour flight from Atlanta. The weather was a bit cooler than normal, but it felt great to us! As we were walking to the restaurant, I stopped to take a picture of the “Culver City, California” sign. We were finally there and it was such a relief. We were on our way!  CulverCityCAThe time difference made for a long day, so we went to bed early because the Sony Studios shuttle would arrive at 6:30 AM the next morning . Woo-hoo! It was fun to see all the women there in the lobby the next morning for the Girlfriend Getaways themed week. We talked to some women from North Carolina, Texas, Illinois, Hawaii and Washington. When we arrived at Sony Studios for our actual taping, contestant producers Shannon, Gary, Alex and Jackie made sure everyone was prepared. They are the best at what they do  – very organized at keeping everything moving along; building in our confidence during a very long, exciting day. We met in the Jeopardy studio all morning for our training and going over the legal contracts prior to walking over to the Wheel of Fortune Studio 11 for practice rounds and more Wheel of Fortune School!  JeopardyEveryone signed their legal paperwork, got their makeup tweaked a bit, practiced our “Pat Chats” introductions, and then we were finally ready to walk over to the Wheel of Fortune studio, Stage 11. With all the technology of the puzzle board, we actually went old school with two things: determining which show we would tape, and where we would stand. A representative from each group of six women reached in a bag and drew out a golf ball. Jan drew out #3 which meant we would be the third show and it stood for Wednesday. I then drew a marble out of a sack to determine where we would stand. I drew out #3 and that meant the third position at the Wheel, the far right.  It was exactly where I wanted to be! This old fashioned way to do this actually gave me comfort that it was all above board.  All 30 contestants could see it going on in front of us! So fun! I could hardly wait to see that WHEEL! Some fun trivia we were told is that the actual studio where Wheel of Fortune is taped is the same studio the famous tornado scene from the Wizard of Oz was filmed some 70 years ago. It was actually the Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer studio then. Here is TEAM JAN outside the studio with the big puzzle board painted on the wall!  We saw a Porsche parked there as we were leaving later on that day and the tag said “BONUSRD,” which I’m quite sure stands for Bonus Round. How fun! Wonder if it was Pat’s or Vanna’s vehicle? WOF_TeamJANI quickly learned that being a contestant on the show is way harder than playing from my sofa at home. I owe an apology to every player I’ve yelled at from my sofa for buying vowels, spinning again, calling a letter already called, or otherwise just messing up. So much happens simultaneously when it’s your turn: watching the used letter board, trying to solve the puzzle, having only 3 seconds to either spin, solve, or buy a vowel. What a rush! Helpful advice I have for future contestants is to pay close attention to the specific puzzle category while you are playing. Practice, pray and prepare to play [Same Letter Puzzle]! After a little flub or two, Jan and I quickly got ourselves in sync. Jan kept me calm (or she tried to) most of the entire time we were at the studio that day! She was an excellent wheel spinner and I watched the used letter board and whispered letters in her ear to call and helped her work on solving the puzzles. The Wheel weighs 2,400 pounds and I really had difficulty spinning it. We made such a great team. The puzzle board is really big. There are 52 spaces on the board, 4 rows of 12, 14, 14, and 12 spaces respectively.  Another thing to remember is unlike viewing from home, you can see the board the entire time. So you can work on the puzzle even when it’s not your turn. That was a bonus as well – even though it seemed our turn came around pretty quickly each spin!BlankWheel_WOFWe met some really nice girls from Hawaii and enjoyed playing the game with them too. They were actually on our episode. We took a picture with them and with the Pat and Vanna cardboard cutouts before we left.  WOF_TeammatesFullSizeRenderMy oldest son Jeremy gave me some great advice before I left home. He said “remember it’s a game, Mom, and just have fun, enjoy yourself.” I heeded his advice and Jan and I made some special memories. It was also a blessing and a special gift to be there with my awesome husband of 38 years, Gary! He was our biggest supporter the entire time. I didn’t want to miss a moment. I love this quote, “Wherever you are, be all there!” Remember me mentioning the author Elisabeth Elliot above? That quote is attributed to her husband, Jim Elliot, Christian missionary and martyr. I was there! Woo-hoo! A contestant on the Wheel of Fortune, America’s game! And the added grace to come out on top and win the Bonus Round? It just doesn’t get any better. And to spend the day with a wonderful friend named Jan? More grace!

Jan agreed for me to spin the little wheel for the Bonus Round since she was the big wheel champion spinner during the game. I spun and the flapper landed on the “C.” Jan Leary then handed Pat Sajak the envelope which contained our unknown prize. [This is an overhead picture of the Bonus Round Wheel below.] We found out within seconds that our puzzle would be a “phrase.” Three words popped up on the board: the first had two letters, the second had four letters, and the third had seven. Contestants are given the customary R-S-T-L-N-E  and only two N’s filled in…not much help! Jan Leary leaned over to me and whispered, “call out the letters.” She later told me that the Lord told her to do that so she did. I believe her because I had no idea what letters we needed. So I asked for D, M, P, and then chose O as the vowel. Pat Sajak said, “well the good news is all those letters are in the puzzle!” When the letters began to fill in, I started jumping up and down! We knew immediately the answer was “IN GOOD COMPANY” and so we shouted it out. And yes I was in good company! So thankful that Jesus is ALWAYS with me every moment, my fabulous friend Jan, my wonderful husband Gary in the audience, and much support from home! I repeated the verse from 2 Timothy 1:7 all weekend…”For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” He gave me peace without fear, power to play, love to share with others, and a sound mind to solve puzzles!                     BonusRound_WOFThis experience will definitely be in my mind and on my heart for a long time. I had so much FUN! Thank you for taking time to read my great Wheel of Fortune Adventure. I hope wherever your next adventure takes you that you will “BE ALL THERE!” In fact, be all there wherever you are – around the table for a good meal with your family, in the quietness of your home, shopping at the grocery store, worshipping with your church family, riding a ferris wheel with your grandchildren, or taking a walk through the woods. All of life is a great adventure! I’m so thankful I had the privilege to be a Wheel player, it was a great adventure for this old gal!

GRANJAN

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First Days of School Days – 2015

All my grandchildren have returned to school. The two littlest ones are actually going to pre-school, but all five of them are in “school.” I am writing this post for the sheer JOY of having these pictures all in one spot so that I may look back on them one day. This blog is all about these great and wonderful blessings called grandchildren, Gran Jan’s JOY. They make me smile from the inside out. Just thinking about them can stir my heart.

My prayer for them this school year is that God will:

  • guard their hearts,
  • protect them from bullies,
  • keep them safe and well,
  • help them stand strong,
  • help them be kind to everyone,
  • help them have friends and be friends,
  • help them be a blessing to their teachers and…
  • instill in them the character of Christ and that the plans He has for them will begin to take shape.

ZEKE1-Zeke

MADIE1-Madie

JACKSON1-Jackson

EMERY1-Emery

ABE1-Abe

Amen and amen, in the Mighty Name of Jesus!

GranJan-BlogSignature

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