Food for the Soul
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Audra Jennings

Audra Jennings is a publicist with Litfuse Publicity Group.

Posted 11/29/11 at 10:44 AM | Audra Jennings

Three Things Every Traditional Christmas Tree Must Have

By Roxanne Hughes Packham, Co-Author of the Hospitality Book: Inspired Design

For Photographs of these ideas and more for Holiday design, visit

I can remember back thirty years ago, as a little girl, getting dressed up with my sister
in our matching Christmas plaid dresses, getting ready for Christmas Eve dinner, and
posing for pictures in front of our brick fireplace in our first house. I can still remember how excited we were for Santa Claus to come and leave presents, how much fun it was to have our crazy, loud family all together for Christmas. There are so many memories of Christmases past, but mostly the beautifully set tables and decorated trees and presents are the forefront of my memories. Our family is so much fun, and there was always so much laughter, loud and often hysterical storytelling, great food, and mostly an appreciation for our blessings, not material, but the blessing of our family. FULL POST

Posted 11/18/11 at 5:07 PM | Audra Jennings

The Spirit of Texas The Astonishing Story of a Pioneer Rancher’s Family and Their Mighty State

Dallas/Fort Worth, TX–In June of 1876, a young carpenter arrived in Galveston with nothing more than a chest of tools and a desire to find work in the burgeoning seaport city. His name was William Menzies.
He was 21 years old, fiercely independent and determined to make his way in the world. Galveston was clearly not where his future would lie, however, and a combination of storms, floods, a fire and a lack of work soon drove him inland. A decade later, having broken countless horses as a horse trader to earn his keep in the interim, the young man finally found himself on the banks of the San Saba River in Menard County. It was here he decided to buy a couple of sections of land to set roots and stay.
And there on the banks of the San Saba those roots reached deep and took hold. So deep, in fact, that in 1957, some 80 years after he'd first arrived in Galveston, the Texas State Legislature recognized William as one of the state's pioneer ranchers and a leader in the area of progressive agriculture.
The Spirit of Texas: The Astonishing Story of a Pioneer Rancher's Family and Their Mighty State (Creative Publishing Company) is William's story as chronicled by his great-grandson, Winston Menzies, a pastor and writer now living in Georgia. Crafted from his own memories as well as those of friends and relatives, Menzies does not hesitate to weave local and state history, politics and culture into his family's story. In so doing, he exposes the bones of Texas' romance and lore, revealing the raw passion and determination of the men and women who went there seeking independence and reminding the reader of the indelible mark they left behind. "The Spirit of Texas is more than just the story of William Menzies; it's the story of the pioneers who first settled the land and made Texas what it is today," Winston says. "In researching for this book, I found no other book that tells the story of Texas through the stories of its people."
In telling his great-grandfather's story, the author throws open the door to the Menzies' family home and welcomes us in. It is here we meet Letha Ann, the woman who became William's wife and the matriarch of the Menzies clan. With love and care, the author introduces us to this remarkable woman who devoted her life to being William's helpmate, bearing his eight children and instilling in each the same pioneering spirit and unshakeable faith that was the hallmark of the Menzies name. A living complement to her husband, Letha Ann's own story is one of courage, faith and unflinching dedication.
Along with the Menzies' sons and daughters, neighbors and friends, we are also introduced to a host of other ordinary folk who persisted in living extraordinary lives in order to forge a place for themselves in the raw Texas landscape. Folks like Willie Roberts, the first white child born in Menard County who, even though stricken with polio while still a toddler, managed to defy unimaginable odds to live a rich, full life on his own terms. Folks like Dr. Ed Knipling who grew up on his father's Port Lavaca farm and experienced firsthand the devastation to livestock wrought by a deadly pest: the screwworm fly. It was Knipling who determined that through the release of sterilized male flies the problem might be eradicated. His ability to look past the problem to see the solution brought a successful end to the damage done by the screwworm fly and was, at the time, labeled the "greatest entomological achievement of the 20th century" by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
While The Spirit of Texas is clearly the story of William Menzies and his legacy, it is also the story of all the pioneers who settled throughout Texas, carving out their own legacies in an unforgiving land. It is a story that should be read by anyone wanting to know Texas and Texans better. It is also a story that those who already know and love the state and its people may thoroughly embrace and enjoy.

Posted 11/18/11 at 3:14 PM | Audra Jennings

The Hidden Gifts of Helping: Do Good Things for Others This Holiday Season

Article by Stephen G. Post, Author of The Hidden Gifts of Helping, a Wall Street Journal bestseller(

Part 2: In my most recent book, The Hidden Gifts of Helping: How the Power of Giving, Compassion, and Hope Can Get Us Through Hard Times (Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint), I describe a bit of an upheaval in my own life, and how helping others got me and my family through the inevitable tough times that come everyone's way.

After all was said and done, this move worked out. My wife found a grade school where she could continue her work as a teaching assistant for especially needy children, my son Drew volunteered at the hospital and I started working with families of individuals with autism. We eventually realized that wherever we are, we are at home when we can contribute to the lives of others. We got back in touch with the things that matter most, and maybe that is what hard times are for. We helped others in ways that we felt called to, we used our strengths so as to feel effective and we shared our experiences with family, faith community and like-minded others.

Eventually, of course, everyone stumbles on hard times, and no one gets out of life alive. Today, even those who had considered themselves protected from hardship are being touched and their lives changed by volatile economic markets, job uncertainty and the increasing isolation and loneliness of modern life. FULL POST

Posted 11/17/11 at 4:13 PM | Audra Jennings

Hope Underground: The 34 Chilean Miners—A Story of Faith and Miracles

For several suspenseful hours on October 13, 2010, the attention of the entire world lay centered on a solitary spot in the Chilean desert. It was there that 33 trapped miners emerged to fresh air and freedom and the eager embrace of jubilant family and friends, after having spent ten weeks entombed one-half mile underground. Their emergence brought an end to the greatest mine rescue of all time.

As told to writers Mario Veloso and Jeanette Windle, Hope Underground: The 34 Chilean Miners—A Story of Faith and Miracles (Imago Dei Books) records the personal journey and spiritual involvement of a local, unassuming minister with the miners and their families. In a series of circumstances that would change his life forever, Pastor Carlos Parra Diaz rose to prominence as he became the influential chaplain of Camp Hope—a makeshift tent community established not far from the site of the mine collapse.

Yet Hope Underground is clearly more than just Pastor Parra's story. Rather, it is the story of all who came together at Camp Hope focused on asking God to do a mighty work on behalf of the miners and the overwhelming evidence of His response that followed. Told simply and from the heart, Pastor Parra describes not only his own involvement with the families at Camp Hope but also introduces the reader to those miners, family members and officials who extracted nuggets of hope from the situation and then used them to instill faith in others. FULL POST

Posted 11/16/11 at 10:19 AM | Audra Jennings

The Hidden Gifts of Helping: Do Good Things for Others This Holiday Season

Article by Stephen G. Post, Author of The Hidden Gifts of Helping,

a Wall Street Journal bestseller(

Part 1: Ebenezer Scrooge begins in The Christmas Carol with a "Bah humbug!" He is both miserly and miserable. As the story unfolds, he eventually discovers the "giver's glow," as I like to term it. He is dancing on the streets in the enduring joy of his newfound generosity of heart. I compare the giver's glow to a glow stick that children get at parades and fairs. These are the translucent plastic tubes containing substances that when combined make light through a chemical reaction. After the glass capsule in the plastic casing is broken, it glows. The brokenness is part of the process. Give and grow, give and glow. Scrooge discovered this before it was too late. FULL POST

Posted 11/15/11 at 5:25 PM | Audra Jennings

10 Tips for Setting a Beautiful Holiday Table

By Roxanne Hughes Packham, Co-Author of the Hospitality Book: Inspired Design In today's rough economic climate, keep in mind that although I hope to inspire you to set a beautiful Thanksgiving or Christmas table the real beauty comes from the thought and love you show your friends and family. Beautiful tables comprise equal parts from the "Inspired" & the "Design" categories.

See examples:


~ Place cards

I love to use the ceramic place cards that can be written on with a wipe-off marker. You can quickly write people's names, a favorite quote or sentiment. Friends love that you thought about them before the dinner and even something as simple as writing their names on the place cards really makes them feel remembered.

~ Welcome Sign FULL POST

Posted 11/10/11 at 11:00 AM | Audra Jennings

Target of Suicide Bomber Beats Odds and Lives to Tell About It

B.C. Fleming, combat-wounded veteran of war in Afghanistan,
transforms tragedy into stepping stone for success

"What happens to you in life isn't nearly as important as what you choose
to do with what happens to you in life. Don't hide the scars." ~ B.C. Fleming

Dallas/Ft. Worth─Military veteran, author and speaker B.C. Fleming is eager to share his story of survival and success with the world. Having been blown up in Afghanistan not once, but twice, and given a second chance at life, he is dedicated to helping others overcome their own challenges and prosper through adversity.

All too familiar with the daily sacrifices of the soldier, Fleming knows as well the trials of the veteran at home. He also understands firsthand the complexities of war, the ugliness of hatred and the power of forgiveness. Because Fleming speaks from experience—not theory—he has carved a place for himself as a valuable media resource, addressing audiences with genuineness and enthusiasm on such subjects as patriotism, leadership, freedom and, of course, his own harrowing encounter with a suicide bomber.

A recipient of the Purple Heart, Fleming jokingly calls the medal "the most unwanted award in the military" and often refers to it as "the enemy marksmanship badge." To receive it, he explains, "It pretty much means that you have been either shot up, blown up, physically injured or killed serving your country. That's not really what you hope for when you go off to war, but sometimes it happens that way." And that is exactly what would happen to Fleming. FULL POST

Posted 11/10/11 at 10:42 AM | Audra Jennings

Inspired Design

Creating a Beautiful Home for the Holidays by Embracing Family, Traditions and Love

Drawing from a rich family history and her own collection of acclaimed designs, California-based interior designer Roxanne Packham has joined with her teenage daughter Hannah to create Inspired Design (Inspired Design Publications, 2010), an idea-provoking book filled with stunning photographs, treasured family traditions and a plethora of truly inspirational tips for creating a warm and welcoming home, not just throughout the holiday season, but every day to follow.

Whether seeking unique ways to entertain for the upcoming holidays, celebrate with friends, begin new family traditions or showcase the family history, talents and passions in the home's interior design, the Packhams have shown the way. In doing so, they have utilized the beautifully structured pages of Inspired Design to reveal the classic truth that any home is made more beautiful when it is filled with love, joy and the determination to make those who enter it feel welcomed. FULL POST

Posted 11/9/11 at 2:35 PM | Audra Jennings

Conquering Seasonal Depression

The seasons are changing. We can all feel the warmth and light of the summer months giving way to a bite in the air, later sunrises and earlier sunsets. As our minds and bodies adjust to the darker, colder days, many of us fall into a bit of a winter "funk." We might feel some pervasive sadness and anxiety. Many of us gain some weight, and our sleep cycles may even be affected.

Of course, as we are all trying to keep our spirits up during the dwindling daylight hours, we are also beginning to deal with the stress of the holidays. Christmas shopping, planning for Thanksgiving, and even decorating our houses for the holidays can add to our stress levels significantly.

These all describe what is now known as seasonal depression. While most of us only experience mild symptoms, there is a whole range of severity that we can experience. For most of us, though, managing seasonal depression can be as simple as making some lifestyle changes:

1. Get outside! As the days get shorter, many of us spend entire days never seeing the sun. Try to spend a few minutes outside each day. The sunlight can help to lift your mood.
2. Watch what you eat. Most of us begin craving carbohydrates and fatty foods as the winter months set in. Try making vegetable-heavy soups and stews instead of fatty meat-based meals.
3. Get moving! Even getting 15 minutes of exercise a day can help to raise your heart rate and will give you more energy throughout the day. Try to get some exercise during the daytime – especially first thing in the morning.
4. Spend time with your family and friends. Being with people you care about and who care about you can really help to lift your spirits. Try going for a walk with a friend, or gather your family to cook a healthy meal.
5. Take care of yourself! The season for this seasonal depression overlaps with cold and flu season. Try to avoid getting sick by washing hands frequently and eating lots of Vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits. Also make sure that you get plenty of rest when you need it, and take some time for yourself to decompress when you begin feeling overly tired or stressed. FULL POST

Posted 11/9/11 at 12:53 PM | Audra Jennings

What’s going on with your teenager? Is it just the ups and downs of adolescence, or is it something more?

He's in his room for days at a time and barely responds when I talk to him....

She's teary every day, one minute demanding I tend to her needs and the next minute demanding I leave her alone....
Depression has the ability to derail a teenager's progress toward healthy adulthood—and confuse and frustrate parents. Dr. Gregg Jantz answers the hardest questions about this critical season of life in his latest book When Your Teenager Becomes... The Stranger in Your House.

Is this "just a phase," or is it clinical depression?
How do hormones affect my teen's behavior—and what can I do about it?
How can I get help when I see the warning signs of suicidal thoughts?
Why does my teenager seem to need me some days and hate me other days?
How can I be a source of peace in my child's life, especially when I feel stormy too?

This book will help parents see beyond the closed-room years of adolescence and open the door to hope. FULL POST

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