New Book Coming May7, 2022! Why I Wrote It…

On May 7, 1991, after a miscarriage at 13 weeks, 11 years of infertility, and a miraculous full-term pregnancy, my daughter, Canaan Sommer Schweinsberg, was born sleeping or stillborn. Devastated does not even begin to cover what we felt. After the first few weeks of physical recovery, I needed to do some mental recovery. I needed to hear someone else’s story, someone who could give me encouragement and hope that at some point in the future, life would begin to feel almost normal again. I wanted them to tell me that I wouldn’t wonder anymore why the rest of the world seemed to be going on as usual while everything in my world screamed, “STOP!” I wanted them to tell me that I would stop running stop signs and red lights without realizing, because I couldn’t even think straight anymore. I wanted them to tell me that there was hope and peace in my future.

So began a journey to find a book to read. There was no Amazon or Kindle, no internet to search. I went to every library and book store near me with no success. I could hear a small voice inside me saying, “You need to write it for other mothers touched by this tragedy. Write YOUR story! Give THEM the hope and encouragement that you need so desperately!” That is when the fire started inside me. It burned with a passion to tell it all. I wanted to tell not just what happened outwardly, but my inner most thoughts, so that they would know they weren’t going crazy. Those thoughts of guilt and pain were normal.

No two stories of stillbirth are ever exactly the same. My story may be very different from others, but we all share this very unique loss in common. We all share similarities in what happened, how we felt. We belong to a club that no one else would ever want to join or become a member. Yet, we had no choice in membership. That is what we need each other. We need to use our stories for a higher purpose, to be there when someone else joins the club.

Though I wrote my story thirty years ago, I have learned a great deal since I took a stack of typed sheets to my local printer and had him bind 50 copies with my sketched picture of a teddy bear and blanket on the cover. I gave 25 copies to my doctor, per his request, to give to other mothers who experienced pregnancy loss. I gave 23 copies to family and friends and kept two copies in a safe in my home, one to never lose, and one to give out when I heard of a mother who may need some comfort. Those old tattered copies have made the rounds over the last 30 years and people I didn’t even know contacted me to tell me they had read my book, and it helped them. Many said they had given it to someone else and needed another copy. Others continually contacted me, because a family member or friend experienced stillbirth and they wanted them to read it. Sadly, I had no more copies to give.

At the continued urging of family and friends, I finally got my book published, but not before adding an epilogue to update everyone on what we are doing now. I have a son, a daughter-in-law, and two grand babies. I also added an appendix for family members, friends, pastors, pastors’ wives, and anyone else who may need information about what you can do to help someone suffering from miscarriage, infertility, or stillbirth. I have gathered information for 30 years from others and found that the things that help us all seem to be the same. We want to talk about our baby and use their names, so they are never forgotten. We want items with their name and birthdate, like Christmas ornaments, to affirm they existed, even if they never took one breath outside the womb. Those are just a few of the things I include.

I hope you will go to my website at and check it out. Please order your copy when it is released on May 7th and the store is up and running on the website. It will also be available on Amazon and Kindle. Please keep checking back fo more information.



Always very captivated by the stories behind celebrity. What makes them who they are? How did they reach this point in their lives? I want to know their backstory, and sometimes, I even get to be a part of writing them.

Watching a show early this morning about someone whose life ended tragically, they asked someone who knew her personally to describe her in one word, he said, “Lost! Just lost!”

As a Christian, that word definitely has great meaning to us. It means separated from God by their own choice.

The person went on to say, “When you reach the highest pinnacle in your life, there is no place to go but down!”

That may be true in the world’s view, but as Christians, we have hope that down is not the only way to go! There is a way to go up! Literally!

In watching the downward spiral and tragedy in the life of celebrities, I’m always reminded of this verse:

Mark 8:36

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Having a Bad Day?

A 77-year-old man working at our school made a statement to a group of teachers sitting around a table in the lounge.  He stated, “I’ve never had a bad day.”

His words were met with surprise, shock, and of course, disbelief.  Well, I’ll bite, I thought, replying, “You mean in all the years you’ve lived, you have never had a single bad day?  How is that even possible?”

The twinkle in his eye said that I had given him exactly the response he wanted.  With a grin, he told us, “I’ve had some bad moments, but I refuse to allow them to spoil my whole day!”

What wonderful words of wisdom!  How many times have I allowed just a few bad moments to ruin my whole day?

A student having some difficulties in another class came into my classroom with tears recently, making the proclamation, “I’m having a really bad day!”  I told him we were starting fresh in my room, as I’ve told him before, and we could work on turning it around.

Just as those words came out of my mouth, 77-year-old Mr. Roager came to mind.  I opened the student’s binder containing his point sheets.  I pointed out that throughout his day, he had received many 3’s, the highest points, and only two tiny zeros.  I shared with him the story of Mr. Roager.

I said, “You know what those two zeros are?  Those are a couple of bad moments.  Are you going to let them ruin your whole day?  What if we focused on all those 3’s instead?  What if your whole day isn’t bad, but only a couple of moments?”

A huge smile came on the student’s face.  “I see what you mean!  I’m not having a bad day, just a couple of bad moments!”

Since that day with Mr. Roager, the words, “I’ve had a bad day” typically do not come out of my mouth.  On those days when I’m tempted to say it, when the words are ready to roll off my tongue, I can see Mr. Roager’s face in my mind.  I’ve had some bad moments since the day he spoke his wisdom, but like Mr. Roager, I refuse to let them ruin my whole day!

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!

Accepting a Call…in an Unusual Way

I taught deaf students for many years.  Early in my teaching career in a drug prevalent, poverty stricken area, I received word that the live-in boyfriend of the mother of one of my students had tried to take his own life.  My student was in her bedroom next to him when it happened, but of course, she didn’t hear the shot or what led up to it.  She was confused and upset.  My heart was immediately drawn to be there for her support.

In a city in another part of the county, my husband worked for a radio station as a dj and salesman for advertising.  He happened to know the mom’s boyfriend through calling on him at his business for advertising.  My husband had heard the news on the radio and called me immediately.  He told me he felt God leading him to go pray with the man at the hospital 2 hours away, where the life flight helicopter had taken him barely clinging to life.  Knowing I was 8 months pregnant and a big snow was predicted that night in late March, he didn’t ask me to accompany him.  However, I volunteered, knowing my deaf student would need someone to communicate what was happening and support her during this sad, uneasy time.

After each of us finished work that afternoon, my husband picked up his nephew, a new Christian, who was jumping at any chance for ministry, and we left for the over 2 hour drive.  We literally drove through a blizzard, praying and talking about the best way to handle the situation with a family who did not attend church and knew nothing about God.

When we arrived, the mother of my student and her family were already in the elevator as we got on.  She told us that the doctors had just told them her boyfriend was brain dead, and she had signed papers to donate his organs.  With that information came many questions in our minds of why we were there.  Why did God direct all three of us to drive so far in a snowstorm, if the man was, for all intents and purposes, gone and couldn’t talk to us or respond.  What was God’s purpose in sending us that night?

My husband told the mother we had driven there to pray for Jim and would still like to do that.  She told us that he could not hear us, but she and his family did not care if we prayed over him anyway.

As we entered his room, his bed was surrounded by family and friends who were grieving the loss, trying to find closure, and letting go.  The smell of alcohol was prevalent both in the room and had been on the elevator, too.  My husband prayed a very simple prayer at the man’s bedside with about 20 people looking on.  I don’t remember his exact words, but I know that he said something about wanting to fulfill God’s purpose to come pray as He had called us to do and if Jim could hear us at all, he could pray for God to forgive him and grant him the peace for which he was searching.

We left there that night, still unsure of why God had called us there, but feeling certain that He had.  We discussed at length the many reasons we all had to go, what the future might hold, and then, we prayed again for the remaining family to find God through this horrible situation.

Two days passed, and then our phone rang.  It was the mother of my student.  She asked for my husband, whom she really had not ever met until that night.  As my husband answered, his face looked sad and then puzzled.  He barely said a word for several minutes.  Then, I heard him say, “Yes.  O.K.  Yes, I will do it.”  As he hung up the phone with his back to the wall, he literally slid down the wall to the floor and put his head in his hands, saying, “What did I just do?”

In the next few moments, he began to share the conversation with me.  The mother had told him that neither side of the family had ever attended church.  They did not know any preachers or even anyone “religious.”  Since we were the only people they knew who attended church and had shown any interest in praying with the man or coming to the hospital, she wanted my husband to preach the funeral.

Unknown to her, my husband had been struggling with accepting the call to preach for a very long time.  The initial time God called him was as a teenager.  He not only ran from the call, but ran from God for a long time.  When he returned to God in his 20’s, life’s circumstances and a few judgmental people made him feel as if he was not worthy to preach.  Prior to the phone call, he had told me that he kept feeling God call, but too many people had told him that he couldn’t be a preacher.  I asked him, “Well, then, will you listen to people or will you listen to God?”

During the phone call, he told me his head was saying, “No!” to preaching the funeral, because he wasn’t a preacher.  However, God was prompting him, and he heard his own voice, almost like an out of body experience, say, “Yes!”  He said it was as if he had no control over his mouth.  He also felt that if not him to show them what Christ had to offer, then who would?

We were both feeling shocked at first, but then quickly moved from being stunned to making a plan.  There was no turning back.  He had accepted the call to preach, for the funeral of a man who had taken his own life, probably the hardest service for a man of God to preach.  Both of us began to pray about his message in the two days which followed.

As my husband prepared to give the message at the funeral home, they played two songs, “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille,” by Kenny Rogers, and “Purple Rain,” by Prince.  Now, you must understand that my husband and I were a part of a southern gospel group, traveling all over several states..  My husband was the emcee and very mindful of God’s leading in the service.  He was accustomed to choosing songs to lead into the message the pastor of the church was going to preach.  He did a great job of choosing a song or two before the pastor was called that brought a sweet peace, to bring the congregation to a place of reverence, ready to be touched or moved.

These two songs prior to his message caught him totally off guard.  Neither set up the message and prepared the audience  to listen.  Honestly, it was very awkward.  Who chooses those particular songs for a funeral?

My husband did a fantastic job, especially considering the circumstances, of talking about peace and hope.  Everyone listened intently.  I could feel the hush fall on the crowd in a respectful and amazing way.  I prayed for him the whole time I was interpreting for my student in sign language.  At 8 months pregnant and barely able to reach my arms around my huge stomach to make the signs that required two hands, I was struggling to give her the message.  My husband ended the message by saying he would be around after the service if there was anyone who would like to talk more about the peace and hope found in Christ.

At the end of the service, others were dismissed to take their last pass by the casket, with the family going last.  There were many tears and some heaving of shoulders as each person made their way by the casket and through the side door, which led to their cars for the ride to the cemetery.

Suddenly, a young woman with long dark hair went to the casket.  At first she only patted the hand of the man, who we later found out was her older brother.  Then, everything broke loose as she began to lay on his chest. try to pull him up, and wail so loudly, people in the neighborhood of the funeral home heard, I’m sure.  Then, she began to scream, “No! No!  Don’t go!  No!”  As she was pulled away by other family members, still in such an emotional state, I recognized her face from being at the foot of the bed in the hospital room.  Someone finally helped her out and to the car.

Though we stayed until the last family member had left the building, no one stopped to talk to my husband or me.  We made our way to the cemetery for my husband to say the customary last words before the casket was lowered into the ground.

On the drive home, we talked again about what was the reason God had called us to go to the hospital that horrible, snowy night.  Was it to nudge my husband to accept the call to preach in the most unusual way?  Was it a test to see if we were faithful to be obedient when God gave us a hard thing to do?  Was it as an example to my husband’s nephew, a new Christian, who needed to see dedication to ministry?  There really was no certain answer.

Fast forward to one year later…the baby I had been carrying that day had been stillborn at full term just 5 weeks later.  The pregnancy had been miraculous, since we had experienced 11 years of infertility, had done fertility therapy, medication, and had been told finally that there was no hope to have a child.  We had made it through a tiny baby’s funeral, where once again, my husband gave a message, even though he was her father.  It had been a bit of a rough year, as we served God on the road singing and Rick preached, both of us grieving tremendously.

Then, a strange phone call came one Wednesday night…

“Hello?” I said.

“Is this Teresa Schweinsberg?” the female voice asked.


“Do you still go to that church, Lakeside something, in New Boston?”


“Will you be there tonight?”


“O.K.  I will meet you there!”

No voice recognition came to mind.  There was no identification given by the caller.  She hung up before I could even ask.  We weren’t sure exactly who we were looking for, but we stood in the church foyer until the very last minute.  As our pastor started the service, we slipped into a back pew, disappointed that no one sought us out before church.  With puzzled looks at each other and shoulder shrugs, we both assumed the person changed her mind, and we may never know who was on the other end of the call.  We began to pray for that person.

Suddenly, a girl with long brown hair slid into the pew next to me.  She grabbed my hand and said, “Will you go to the altar and pray with me right now?  I can’t take this anymore!  I need to get my life straightened out and have that hope and peace your husband talked about at my brother’s funeral.”

“Are you Jim’s sister?” I asked, finally recognizing the long hair and dark eyes that had been so full of tears a year ago when we first met.


We made our way to the altar, and she explained to our pastor how we had come to her brother’s hospital bed and prayed that night, in the snow storm, and she heard the words my husband said.  She had felt something that night, and then again at the funeral, when he talked about hope and peace.  She said she had never felt peace in her life, but especially not for the last year.  She wanted peace.  She wanted to know that if she died, she would go to Heaven.  She wept and prayed as pure as I’ve ever heard a prayer from the heart.  She told God she had lived a horrible, sinful life, but if He could forgive her, she was begging for forgiveness.  She asked Him to help her find peace and hope in her life.

When we got up from the altar and hugged her, there was a radiance on her face.  When the smile broke through her tears, it was then my husband and I both knew.  God called us to the hospital that night, not for her brother, who was already gone, but for her!  She was our mission!  She was the reason my husband had to finally answer the call to preach!  That was God’s way of beginning his ministry and reaching her, though it took a whole year before we saw the results of our trip in the snowstorm.

Isaiah 55:8
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

*Names were changed to protect the family.

Boundaries and the Lasagna

The greatest thing for me with losing 110 lbs. was having a health coach. That’s why I became one after my success.  I couldn’t have done it without mine!  Here is an example of using my coach in times of stress.

I had stayed within my boundaries so perfectly for so long! However, one Sunday, after several months, I made lasagna in the crockpot during church for my family’s Sunday dinner. I carefully planned my lean and green chicken, green beans, and salad, resisting the carb-loaded pasta and cheese with flying colors. I felt so victorious!

However, the next day was Martin Luther King Day. Being a teacher, I was off, but my husband wasn’t. I was alone.  That lasagna, with it’s layers of cheese and pasta I hadn’t had since October 3rd called out to me…loudly…every time I walked into the kitchen or opened the fridge. There was a horrible battle in my mind! I imagined how it would taste a thousand times! There was no one home! Who would know? It was just ONE little cheat! How much damage could it do? I could handle it, couldn’t I?

After literally hours of mental torture, I prayed…then called my health coach…thinking he would have something profoundly motivating to say to keep me from indulging.

Instead, he said, “Go in the kitchen. Take out 2-3 bites of lasagna. Heat it in the microwave, eat it, then call me back.

What??? Was he crazy!?!? Didn’t he know just the smell of it would make me insane…send me over the edge…and I was alone! I mulled over this instruction for awhile, but knowing he was a highly trained coach and physician, I followed his direction.

“Hello?” he said. “Well, how was it?”

Honestly, I had built up its deliciousness, it’s scrumptious cheesiness, tastiness so much in my mind! I took only 2 of the 3 bites and threw the other one away. Why? Because after the second bite, I realized it didn’t taste ANYTHING like I thought. It wasn’t heaven in a bowl! It was just all right. Most of all, it wasn’t worth trading for a feeling of victory, for the months of regaining my discipline, self-esteem, and spiritual renewal of my mind. It wasn’t worth the compliments I was receiving, the happiness, sense of accomplishment I now knew instead of the depression and defeat I had felt.

“It didn’t taste anything like I had built it up in my mind, and more importantly, it just wasn’t worth it!” I responded.

No, it just was NOT WORTH IT!

I Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.


For Pete’s Sake, Tell ‘Em You Ate the Twinkie!

As I sat in the front row of a training session for the company for which I work, I heard a very skilled health coach say, “Have any of you felt like you have to be on guard all the time in public with healthy eating, because you are a health coach?”  There were nods all around the room.  She continued, “Have you ever looked around at a church homecoming to see if you should have the green beans, knowing a client was there, when you really wanted the mashed potatoes?”  Again, nods everywhere.  “Have you eaten something recently that you were glad no one saw?  If so, can I get a witness?  Raise of hands.” 

Sitting on the front row, I didn’t dare turn to look for other hands raised behind me. However, the leader saw my hand reluctantly go up less than halfway, the embarrassment on my face, and yes, she cued in on me.  She stared straight at me, almosteresabeforeaftercollaget through me.  Then, she said, “C’mon!  Spill it!  What did you eat?”

The emotions welling up inside me wanted to spill over and pour down my face.  You see, the perfectionist in me wanted to hide the fact I had messed up.  Old habits die hard!  I had been on plan for 3 solid months on my way to eventually losing 110 lbs.  without ever eating anything unhealthy.  I had been faithful on the program.  I had followed it passionately, even carrying around a bottle of balsamic vinegarette dressing in my purse to restaurants, just in case they didn’t have it, and I had no options but carb-loaded choices. 

I was still under the impression that to succeed on a weight loss program, you had to be perfect, and if you messed up…well, that was when you gave up.  I mean, everyone knows that if you “fall off the wagon,” you can’t turn back.  It’s over!  You blew it!  Done deal!  Back to old habits and old unhealthy eating.  Or, I guess you could start again Monday.  Yes, that’s what my plan had always been.  Just keep starting over every week until one Monday turned into a year of Monday’s, and it clicked.  Wasn’t that what my mind told me just might work one of these days?  Well, that plan, though used by so many, hadn’t!  My weight had reached a scary 299.8 lbs., just 0.2 lbs. shy of 300 lbs. before I found a program that worked for me after 25 years of pretty much trying and failing at all of them.

Now here I was, a certified health coach, sitting in a room full of other health coaches, who encourage others every day in their weight struggles.  We are the cheerleaders, because we have been there, with someone cheering us on before.  We know what to say and do, right?  We know how to help someone believe in themselves, to believe that this time will be different, to get them over the slump or hump or bad meal or bad day, and to go on to achieve success.  How could I admit that I had messed up myself, that I was not following the program exactly?  That I was not…er…uh…perfect! 

Slowly, the words trickled out of my mouth.  “I…ate…a…(gulp!)…Twinkie!”  Immediately the room erupted in laughter and applause.  Why?  Surely they weren’t encouraging me to eat more Twinkies, and go back to the extremely morbidly obese person I was 110 lbs. before? 

The leader looked at me in a piercing stare, and asked, “Did you tell any of your clients you ate a Twinkie?” 

“Uh, well…no!  I was afraid…they…,” I said, shaking with the confession of what I had done.

“Well, for Pete’s sake, tell ’em you ate the Twinkie!” she interupted.

What?  Did my ears deceive me?  Was she telling me to share my “sin,” my imperfection, with my clients?  No, surely not!  What would happen then?  My perfect armour of defending the evils of unhealthy eating for them would crack!  What if I sent someone over the deep end?  What if I gave someone a license to eat that whole triple-layer chocolate cake they had been craving?  What if I was the cause of a client losing their way and never being able to stop on the mountain of fried onion rings?  What if I sent someone, heaven forbid, to get a Big Mac at McDonald’s???  No, I couldn’t!  I just couldn’t tell them I ate a Twinkie!

“So, you are saying it’s all right to tell them?  What if…”

“Of course!” she interupted again.  “You just made yourself 100% more relatable!  You made yourself REAL!  We all mess up!  They do, too!  First of all, if you have been giving them the impression you are perfect, then you’ve probably also been giving them some  judgemental coaching.  If you’ve never messed up, then how could they mess up, you’re thinking!  How can they ever share their ‘mess up’s’ with a perfect coach who never does, when they need you then more than ever?”

Then, she gave me an assignment.  On the way home, she wanted me to call 5 clients and tell them I ate a Twinkie.  Could I do it?  Could I expose the crack in my armour?  Could I actually be real and transparent with them?  This was going to be hard!

doveawardsEven worse than my inability to share that I had eaten a Twinkie with my health coaching clients, don’t we all do harm sometimes to other Christians, and to the world, by not being transparent about our faults?  Don’t we outwardly show a perfect life, perfect family, problem free journey?  Do we hide that chink in our armour, you know, the one that makes us real?  We shield others from seeing that the life of a Christian is not always perfect.  We mess up, too.  We all stumble.  Sometimes we fall down.  Sometimes, we eat mashed potatoes, when we should have chosen the healthier green beans.  And yes, sometimes, we even eat the Twinkie!  But God, in his love, grace,  and mercy, picks us back up, brushes us off, and sends us on our way, many times much stronger than we were before.   No, he doesn’t give us a license to sin, but He knows we are anything but perfect.  That’s why He had to send us someone Who was, remember?

Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  If you never tell someone you messed up and need their help or prayer, how can they feel all right to share their burdens with you?  It’s O.K.  not to always be perfect.  There…I said it.  I ate a Twinkie!

For Pete’s sake, tell ’em you ate the Twinkie, too!




Why I Can’t Just Look Away?

Are you a reader?  I am.  As a teacher, I am frequently a part of coursework or professional development where we are asked to list 3 books we have read recently.  I guess if we ask our students to be good readers and develop their fluency and vocabulary by practice, our own teachers are asking us to be conscious of reading as well.  I used to be embarrassed to have nothing to list, because I made little time for reading.  I finally had to find something that piqued my interest enough to make time.

As the only female in my home, my husband and son frequently have made fun of the books and magazines I choose to read.  They are both involved in the Christian music industry, and their choice reading consists mostly of musician magazines.  They cannot understand my fascination with biographies and autobiographies of historical figures, criminals, politicians, and celebrities.  I cannot understand their questioning of this.  It’s a woman thing, right?

Of course, I also began to read the professional books that make me a better instructional leader, like Good to Great by Jim Collins,  Outliers by Malcolm Gladstone, or the Christian women’s standards, like So Long, Insecurity by Beth Moore, or Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst.  I also try to stay current with what some of the kids are reading, like the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

Along with encouraging me to be conscious of a need to read more and choose wisely, I also learned something else about myself in these professional development experiences and coursework.  I have often been told during training I am a little too empathetic.  I started to feel that empathy was a bad thing and wanted to hide that part of me.  I began to wonder why I have this characteristic to a much greater extent than many others.

The definition of empathy at is “the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.”  Being a special education teacher, this characteristic has served me well over the last 35 years, understanding disabilities such as deafness, autism, dyslexia, and other language impairments, and the effects on the students who bear these “burdens.”  As a health coach to others struggling with weight issues after losing 110 lbs. myself, empathy has also been helpful.  As a woman who has experienced miscarriage, infertility, and stillbirth, empathy is also a much needed gift to assist others going through these experiences.

Being a reader, I often put myself in the place of the character or person about whom I am reading.  I also become very involved in movies, to the point of being very emotional and needing tissues, another point of teasing from my family.  Has anyone else ever cried over Hallmark or AT&T’s former “Reach Out and Touch Someone” commercials?  A heart-wrenching song or music video gets me every time.  How about you?

So what does all this have to do with what I read?  When I see the recent stories of Bruce/Caitlin Jenner, I just cannot look away.  Why?  Why do I continually read about my college crush, the muscular, brightly smiling Olympic athlete, who somehow feels better in a size 13 high heel with pink nail polish on his still manly looking hands and feet?  As a Christian is it appropriate to be so interested and want to read more?  What am I looking for as I read?

The answer to these questions is this:  I am looking for the why… a situation, possibly a traumatic experience, something, just something, in the life of an 8-year-old boy that suddenly made him feel like putting on his sister’s dress and hiding in a closet, rather than being comfortable in his own skin and jeans.  I am looking for answers to what changed his life from a happy, seemingly well-adjusted child to a very changed young boy, who was no longer comfortable with who he was, one who began hiding a deep, dark secret.  Did someone in a position to guide and supervise his life miss something that traumatically changed him?  My empathy wants me to probe deeper for a story not being told.  Maybe after 36 years of teaching, with over a thousand students passing through my classroom and hearing their stories, I am relating some of my students’ sad stories to an 8-year-old Bruce. 

Bruce Jenner has had some experience with God and the church.  It is well documented that he was exposed to church as a child and attended regularly as an adult.  Was he seeking a Savior to right the wrongs of his childhood, those experiences that changed his life?  I read to find answers.  I read to know how to pray.  No, I am not trying to sound super spiritually pious or set myself up as a psychologist or psychiatrist.  I just want to understand.  I want to pray for God to turn this seeker back to seeking Him.

In our small group on Sunday, someone pointed out that in the Bible, Jesus only showed anger to, called out, judged, or rebuked the religious people of his day, the Pharisees, and those judging and condemning others.  He showed love, ate with, accepted and did not condemn those who were in sin, unlovable, and unaccepted by society.  This is shown in stories, such as the woman at the well (John 4:1-40) and the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53-8:11).  In these examples, Jesus was not accepting the sin or saying it was right.  He was telling those around him not to judge, because we “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  He was showing by example how we should be treating those in similar situations.  He was showing us to bring them to Him, so He, now through the Holy Spirit, can convict them of their sin and draw them into a relationship with Him.

The most important book I read each year?  My Bible.  Upon entering Free Will Baptist Bible College (now known as Welch College in Nashville, Tennessee) after high school, we had two required courses over two semesters for the entire freshman class, Old Testament Survey and New Testament Survey.  The textbook for both these courses was the Bible.  We were assigned books and chapters to read during the courses to complete the entire Bible in that first 9 months of school.  If you are going to spend 4 years at a Bible college, they want you to know the book on which all courses and beliefs are based right up front, from cover to cover.  It was probably one of the best parts of my college experience, my first time to read the Bible completely through, and something I have continued each year since. 

I have no 9-month schedule to finish the entire Bible now.  My practice is as soon as I finish one testament, I delve right into the next.  I may not finish in 9 months or even a year.  Though, I no longer put myself on a schedule, I do try to read at least 1-4 chapters in my quiet time each morning to start my day.  There is so much information contained there, I cannot take it all in or remember everything.  However, it is the most powerful and important book I read all year.

Now, when asked what are the 3 most recent books I have read, I readily put the Bible at the top.  It is a “lamp unto my feet” (Psalm 119:105) that lights the way to seeing things as Jesus would see them.  I am guilty of not always doing that, of judging others, of condemning at times.  However, I am no longer ashamed of being empathetic, because reading His Word helps me to think about what He thinks and feels about others.  I want to love like He loves.  I want to feel like He feels.  Reading His story and being empathetic toward His example helps me to practice and hopefully become better at this each year.  I believe Jesus was empathetic to the needs of others, without condoning the sin.  To be more like Him, we have to have empathy.  It will make us look at Bruce/Caitlin Jenner differently, with empathy and be moved to pray.

If you don’t spend time in God’s Word, I hope you will start today.  If you become bogged down in a certain translation that is difficult for you to understand, find one you do understand, like the English Standard or New International Version without the Old English language that can sometimes limit understanding.  Put the Bible at the top of your summer reading list.  I promise, it will change your life forever!

Are You Bucket Filler or a Bucket Dipper?

In a book by psychologists Donald O. Clifton and Tom Rath called “How Full Is Your Bucket?,” they use an analogy of positive and negative experiences in our day to day lives.  The analogy is that all of us have a bucket inside us, awaiting each day to be filled with experiences.  They propose that when we are positive to one another with recognition, compliments, or praise, our buckets become filled.  However, when we treat others negatively, we use a dipper to deplete others’ positive outlook, just as it does when someone is negative toward us.  When we “build up” rather than “tear down,” it not only fills their bucket, but also fills ours.

I have used a similar object lesson with my students and Sunday School classes over the years.  I hold a giant balloon, then I ask students to read comments on pieces of paper to each other.  If the comment is positive, I blow a bit of air into the balloon.  If it is negative, I let air out of the balloon.  At the end of the activity, we talk about how we feel pumped up when someone says something positive and how we feel let down when negative comments are made.

Ephesians 4:29-32 says, ” Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

The Nobel Prize winning scientist Daniel Kahneman stated that each day we experience approximately 20,000 moments.  He defined a moment as a few seconds in which our brain records an experience, either positive or negative.  He wrote that the quality of our days is determined by how our brains recognize and categorize our moments.  These positive and negative moments or experiences contribute to our overall mood for the day.

I once sat in an educational training with a 76 year old white-haired man named Mr. Roager.  Mr. Roager was a former CEO of a large company and had retired to become an educational assistant in a special needs classroom at minimum wage.  He became the assistant, not out of financial need, but because he felt that he had missed his original calling to work in an educational career.  Early in life, he had chosen a better income to feed his family over his true passion.

Mr. Roager made this statement to a group of young teachers sitting with me that day:  “I have never had a bad day.”  I am certain his pause was more about the stunned looks on all of our faces than what he had to say next.  My mind was racing, as I’m sure others’ were, too, processing the thoughts of… Is he for real? Could this elderly man of 76 years really never have had a bad day…or is he truly senile?  After the initial shock, he followed up with, “I’ve had some bad moments, but I refused to let them ruin my whole day!”  I have never forgotten Mr. Roager or his comments.  What an impact he made on that group of young teachers!

In Daniel Kahneman’s study, along with many other scientists, research has shown the impact of the positive to negative interaction ratio in our lives.  Psychologist John Gottman innovated “the magic ratio” or 5:1…5 positive comments for every 1 negative comment, in predicting outcomes of marriages and relationships with 94% accuracy as to whether the marriage/relationship would last.  This was done simply by listening to a 15 minute conversation and recording the ratio of positives and negatives between the two people.

Our words impact others, either positively or negatively.  We can build up, or we can tear down.  The choice is ours.  We can focus on encouraging others or discouraging others.  It is up to us.

Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

I’ve had some bad moments today, due to some unkind words, but I refuse to let it ruin my whole day.  I am also praying for God to remind me, when unkind words are ready to spill out of my mouth, that I am dipping out of someone else’s bucket and deflating their balloon.  I want to be a bucket filler.  How about you?



My Weight Loss Story and Battle with Diet Coke


My Story (Click here for the “In a Nutshell” version)

The following blog post is in response to a friend about how I stopped drinking diet drinks (pop, soda, Coke…whatever you may call it).  It turned into a blog about my 110 lb. weight loss…so far.  Many have asked about how I did it.  Well, here is the answer…


Hi, Friend!

I had to laugh when I saw that you had called Diet Coke your “poison.”  It started me thinking about why I stopped drinking it.  It all began with an article I read truly calling diet pop “poison.”  The more I read, the more it scared me. 

I have never been a very disciplined person when it comes to health, not with eating or with exercise.  It’s weird, because I am a perfectionist with my career, made it through 9 years of college and two degrees plus with great grades, am a little OCD with organization at home and school, but when it comes to me personally, I lack any organization or discipline.  I think I just get tired of trying so hard to be perfect at everything else, falling short many times,  and have to not care completely in one area.  Isn’t it sad that for years, it was me, where I let everything go?

With getting older and having more health problems after 50, something happened to me.  One day I thought, maybe I can start with just one thing and work on doing one healthy thing for myself.  So, after reading all the warnings about pop, especially diet pop, and its effects on health, I decided to drink water only, and see if I could do it for any length of time. 

I have to admit, it was really hard at first.  I started with buying the flavor packets and pouring them into bottled water and  at restaurants when I ate.  I missed the sweet taste of the pop with my meals, so the packets gave me that.  I had never been a water drinker.  I slowly began to ween myself off of the packets a little at a time as well.  I would say, “I’m going to drink 2 waters with and 2 waters without today (four 16 oz. bottles a day equals the recommended 64 oz.).  Then, eventually, I could do all 4 a day with no packets.  What happens is your body starts to crave the water, and you can’t live without drinking a lot each day.  I felt so much better, there was no denying that the pop was really bad for me! 

I had had acid reflux every night of my life since age 15.  It was so bad, I would wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air, and feeling like I had drunk Drano, vomiting up the most acidy, horrible stuff imaginable, if I could even get my breath enough to get a free airway by doing that.  It was awful!  I dreaded laying down at night, because I knew what I was in for.  I could not eat cucumbers, tomatoes, or anything with tomato sauce like spaghetti, lasagna, pizza, etc., or any Mexican or spicy food.  I would never have eaten jalapenos, or anything hot.

Suddenly, I realized after the first week of drinking water only, I had not had acid reflux one time.  I still haven’t had it!  I quit drinking pop on July 15, 2012.  I have not had acid reflux one time since that day, though I eat everything above and love it!  I don’t avoid anything because of the effects of acid reflux now, because it just doesn’t happen.

I have had friends and family members develop esophogeal cancer from acid reflux.  That honestly scared me, because it is a horrible way to suffer and die.  If the result of giving up pop was not having acid reflux only, it was worth everything to me!  It made me realize the devastating effects of Diet Coke and other pop on health, especially stomach health.  It is definitely full of acid that destroys your stomach and esophagus through acid reflux!

You asked about the effects on my weight loss.  From my experience, the experience of my clients, and the real expert research I have read, I have definitely come to the conclusion that diet pop increases weight, instead of the opposite, its purpose.  I have done my own informal research through observation with my thin husband and I, as well as friends, and just random people in restaurants whom I frequently observe.  It is ALWAYS the heavy, unhealthy person ordering the diet drink, and the thin, healthy person ordering the regular drink.  This is not peer-reviewed, or labratory, university supported research, but what do you think?  Are we succeeding in using diet drinks to lose weight, or are they contributing to making us want to eat more, fooling us into thinking we are saving calories, and making us fatter?  I really don’t know, but obviously, they are NOT helping us lose weight…or all those heavy people ordering them continually would be skinny!  Just my observation…don’t take this to a legal expert. 

Now, about the effects of giving up diet pop on my 110 lb. weight loss:   It taught me discipline.  After a year of drinking water only and not touching diet or regular pop of any kind, seeing the results and effects positively on my health and some weight loss, too, I began to think, “If I can be disciplined enough to do this, what else could I do?” 

It was a baby step, but it was huge.  I accomplished not drinking pop for a year, so I started watching my calories the next year by putting them into the myfitnesspal app.  I didn’t lose weight quickly, but I DID lose.  I wasn’t necessarily eating healthy, just NOT going over my calorie recommendation per day.  Once I had accomplished that for awhile, I started to notice how much of my food intake was carbohydrates.  It was 80-98% of my diet.  According to myfitnesspal, my goal should have been no more than 55% carbs, with 30% fat, and 20% protein.  I was going way over in carbs with very little protein daily.  I was eating way too much bread, pasta, and potatoes, making up the majority of my diet. 

I began to look for ways to change what I was eating and was introduced to the Take Shape for Life 5 & 1 Plan.  Not only did they have “easy to grab and go” food that was high protein/low carb and convenient to help me not have to plan my diet or shop for healthier foods, I had a coach to support me 24/7.  My coach helped me focus on the positive, healthy choices I was making and didn’t judge me, like I judged and emotionally beat myself up mentally when I messed up and fell off the plan.  My coach also helped me with some ideas for stress relief that didn’t involve food.  One way recommended was exercise, raising the endorfins in the brain and ridding myself of stress.

Next, another baby step, I added exercise to my weight loss.  As you can see, I didn’t start the first day of my plan by taking away pop, exercising like crazy, changing my whole diet, etc.  Too much pressure!  That was what I did for 25 years and failed miserably!  It was too much to try all at once…overwhelming!  I would do well for a week or two, see some weight loss, be excited, go. off program and mess up, beat myself up emotionally telling myself I was a failure, and then completely GIVE UP!  That was my 25 year pattern that kept me extremely morbidly obese at 299.8 lbs., kept me emotionally defeated and feeling like a failure, and maintained my unhealthy lifestyle.  Exercising became a way I could get rid of frustration and stress, as well as kicking up my weight loss a notch. 

When I first started exercising, I was too heavy to walk on land or move on land.  I was so heavy, my weight pounded on joints.  I was in so much pain, it wasn’t worth it to me.  When I had hip replacement, they introduced me to the therapy pool.  All I did was walk in the pool, where I couldn’t feel my body weight due to the bouyancy of the water.  I felt light again and would walk my troubles away.  Before I knew it, my weight loss was increasing. 

After accomplishing the loss of 110 lbs. and seeing a “1” on the scales in front of my weight for the first time in over 25 years, I became a health coach for Take Shape for Life,  to help others accomplish their goals.  What I tell them daily is start with a baby step.  Don’t try to do it all at once.  Start with a plan like Take Shape for Life, which will help you focus on healthy eating.  Ween yourself away from the diet pop gradually by cutting back to 2 a day and replacing the others with water, using packets if needed.  Take Shape for Life has flavor infusers that also boost metabolism and taste great!  Later add exercise to the plan they are on with our program.  The health and physical results are amazing!  What a blessing to go to doctor appointments, and instead of being strongly “encouraged” to diet and work on my health, being praised for my healthy lab work and results on the scales.  My whole life has changed…all by starting with taking diet pop out of my life!

I hope this answers your questions.  For more information, contact me for weight loss help and a whole new healthy you!

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Four Kids and Big Dreams

I remember the day well in early 2000.  Two years earlier, our southern gospel group disbanded after 23 years traveling several states spreading the gospel in song and testimony.  Now, three of our kids had asked to have a meeting with my husband and I.  Our son Micah was barely 18, seemed confident, but still a little nervous.  Michelle, our keyboard player’s daughter was 23, and shy.  I could tell as she twirled her red curls that, though she had shared her desires with Micah, she would let him do the talking.  The youngest, Seth, son of our guitar player, was barely 13, guitar in hand, fidgeting.  They had some big questions and some big burdens.  Jared, our bass and alto singers’ son would come on to play bass a little later.

The boys had come from their hospital birth directly to our tour bus the next weekend or two in their infant seats.  They knew the bus as their second home and were devastated when we disbanded and sold it.  Michelle’s dad had joined our group when she was about 5, but these 4 youngsters had grown up as siblings in those small bus quarters and had gleaned from the musical experience.  Each of them picked up several instruments and played naturally, heard harmony parts vocally, and hopped on stage not much beyond learning to walk.

Skillet: Seth Morrison, Guitar;  John Cooper, Bass Guitar, Vocals; Jen Ledger, Drums, Vocals; Corey Cooper, Keyboards, Guitars, Vocals.

Skillet: Seth Morrison, Guitar; John Cooper, Bass Guitar, Vocals; Jen Ledger, Drums, Vocals; Corey Cooper, Keyboards, Guitars, Vocals.

Now here they were, something big on their minds…

Micah Schweinsberg on tour

Micah Schweinsberg on tour with Diamond Rio

Micah started the conversation, “You know that we love what you all do!  We grew up loving southern gospel music and still do.  We have seen what you did, and it was a great experience to grow up in this music.”  There were nods from the others as he continued,

Micah Schweinsberg, Michelle Kelly, Seth Morrison

Micah Schweinsberg, Michelle Kelly, Seth Morrison

“We want to do something for God, too, in music.  It’s just that…well…we never see anyone our age at your concerts.  We feel like we are not reaching our generation.  We all feel like we have to do something about it.”  At this point, Michelle and Seth came alive, sat up, and enthusiastically lended their support.

“We need to do something that will reach them, and we think that is music.  We just need to do it in a style they will listen to.”

Rick and I understood.  They were right.  We didn’t see young people in our services either.  We saw these kids’ hearts and knew that they meant it.  They were carrying a burden.  They wanted to see souls saved and do something big for Christ.  Their musical talent was evident.  The passion was burning within them, and they had to do something about it.

Their question shouldn’t have been so hard to ask, but for some reason it was.  “We were wondering…if we do this, will you guys book and manage us?  We don’t know how to do that part.  Can you support, book, and manage a Christian rock band?”

The question was hard for them, but the answer was easy for us.  We both said a resounding, “Yes!  We would love to be a part of your ministry!”  Our lives took a drastic turn that day from what we had known for the last 23 years.  However, it was the most amazingly fun journey.  We were passing a torch, a burden for lost souls, a ministry, to the next generation, and we loved every minute of it.

Seth, being the youngest, really did not have the stage experience of Michelle and Micah, as they had played with another local band in the last two years.  For Seth’s first date booked, we drove about an hour south to a church in Kentucky.  We had been booked by a youth group for a Saturday night youth rally.  When we arrived a couple of hours early, there were some teenage boys there to help us load in.  Fairly introverted and a lot nervous, Seth did not say much as he carried in his amps and guitar.  We didn’t know if he would have too much anxiety to even play that night, his first concert.

Rick and I noticed a pastor with a crew cut, suit, and tie, watching us carry in the equipment and set up.  The teen boys that knew about 3PO and had been instrumental in getting the band there were standing in the front, hands raised in the air, as the band played their first song.  We saw the pastor, arms folded, looking displeased.  The next song started, and he looked even more disgruntled.  Soon, the third song started and the pastor walked up front, obviously angry with the boys who had brought in the band.  The boys looked uncomfortable, instead of happy and enjoying the concert, as they had been a few minutes before.

Rick decided to end their humiliation and worry.  He pulled the plug right in the middle of the third song.  He said, “Pastor, would you like 3PO to pack up?”

The pastor immediately and sternly said, “Yes!”  So, we started grabbing equipment as quickly as we could and tore down lightning fast to get everything into our borrowed van.  I hurriedly packed up their merch table.  No one said a word.  We just loaded up and got in the van as quickly as possible.

When we were all buckled into our seats and headed down the road, Seth could not contain his excitement any longer.  From the backseat, I heard his 13-year-old yells of enthusiasm, while he pounded on seats, grinning from ear to ear.

“That was incredible!  Wow!  I can’t wait to play again!  That was the best concert ever!”

We all looked at each other, stunned, but laughing.  I bravely spoke up, “Seth, you do realize we just got kicked out of a church, because you play Christian rock, right?”

WHAT?!?!  You’re kidding, right?”

“No, we really did!”

Seth was so happy to be doing something for God and finally using the talents he had been honing for so long, he hadn’t even realized what happened.

After that initial concert with the three of them, over the next two years, we saw them tie for first place in talent contests in Nashville and at Festival Candidos, open at several Youthfest concerts for promoter Nikki Thomas in KY and WV, opening for TobyMac and Kirk Franklin, Kutless, Jaci Valesquez, Rachel Lampa, Audio Adrenalin, Switchfoot, Relient K, and many others.  They visited radio stations and did interviews.  Nashville labels came calling, pursuing them to be the next big thing in Christian rock music.

Most importantly, they saw over 1000 teens come to Christ, because they never failed to give an invitation to come and pray.  We saw young girls with eating disorders line up for 2 hours to talk to Michelle after the show when she shared her testimony of bulimia and God’s love even for imperfection. They  never lost sight of why they were doing what they did.

Then, Michelle, who had an autoimmune disorder which warranted two liver transplants, was unable to travel and fulfill bookings.  During her illness, Micah and Seth toured Europe with Ardent recording artists Justifide.  Then, other opportunities arose, and God took the dreams of those 4 young kids and blessed them beyond what they ever thought possible.  Their dedication to play Christian music in a genre that would reach their generation for Christ did not go unnoticed.  Their original 3PO songs are still requested today by youth leaders and others trying to find them on the internet.

So where are they now?  Michelle received the greatest reward for her service ever as she entered her eternal home in Heaven, totally healed.  Micah lives in Nashville, where he has been privileged to play for Jason Crabb, the Crabb Family, and Crabb Revival, in his southern gospel roots for many years.  He plays on recording sessions, produces other bands, writes songs, does graphic design, shoots and produces music videos, and takes professional photos of some of his greatest musical heroes.  He is now on the road with a group of fellow believers as the drummer for Diamond Rio, where he gets to minister to all those around him in the country music realm. Seth no longer gets nervous on stage, as he has literally played all over the world with the biggest Christian rock band in the world, Skillet.  Jared joined Seth and John Cooper for a venture that broke off of Skillet as the drummer for Fight the Fury, and plays for recording sessions in his local area, also doing graphic design for bands like Skillet.

God honors dreams, when they involve serving Him with your talents.  I stand amazed at His goodness and blessings on 4 young dreamers from a small town in southern Ohio.

We get to watch Micah fulfill his dreams daily wherever he is playing.  On this Sunday, we will sit in the family section of Bridgestone Arena here to watch Seth play with Skillet at Winter Jam.  As we watch, we will reminisce of that day so long ago when some young kids came to us with their big dreams, and we will thank God for His blessings in fulfilling them in every way.