May 31, 2008

Megan and Joe - Part Deux

Well, it's official. They're married. Again.

Their children: Rachel (22), Cammie (20), and Daniel (almost 17)

I made her bouquet and his boutonniere. Look closely, and you'll see a charm on her bouquet I made with a photo from their first wedding in 1981. (Her dress was a gorgeous shade of purple, but the red got completely lost in the photos and made the dress look royal blue. It wasn't. It was p.u.r.p.l.e.)

They're married.

Miracles never cease....

May 30, 2008

Wedding bells... again

My sister is getting married today.


To Joe.


On May 30, 1981, they got married for the first time. Four kids and ten years later, they divorced. Today, May 30, 2008, the 27th anniversary of their first wedding, they'll get married for the last time.

Here's the way they looked in 1981.

Tomorrow I'll post a few pictures of their second wedding.

May 29, 2008

More beauty

My mother-in-law is a very thoughtful lady. She also has an appreciation for beautiful things. Here's what she presented to me and my friend, Brenda, upon our arrival last weekend.

My mother-in-law is thoughtful. My God is an amazing, creative artist.

May 28, 2008

His thumb is green

My father-in-law is an agronomist. Along with the really important stuff he did in his career (you know, stuff like helping the farmers in Mexico feed their families by developing several hybrid seeds for sorghum varieties), he also grew a really green thumb. Everything he has attempted to grow has flourished. Well... everything unless you consider the tree Sintu, the bazillion pound Alaskan Malamute, dug up to eat its roots - three times. But that's another story for another day.

When we visited this past weekend, here's what we found in the yard. (To be fair, my mother-in-law and her housekeeper of 25 years also live in the house and could possibly claim credit for some of what you will see below.)


Pink frangipani
White Frangipani


Morning glories

Pride of Barbados Tree (also known as Fire Tree)

I married his son.

May 27, 2008

I've paid my dues...

I couldn't make this stuff up, ya'll.

May 22, 2008

Beach Babies

Studly Man's family lives in South Texas. Way South Texas. In fact, Studly went to Southmost College his freshman and sophomore years. (I love that name... Southmost. The college was eventually absorbed by the University of Texas at Brownsville, but there are still signs on the campus, which is THE very last thing in Texas before one crosses the border into Mexico.)

The good part about having in laws in South Texas? See it here.

Now, I'm blessed to have pretty great inlaws, but how awesome is it that they live AT THE BEACH??? Jealous much?

We're off for a long weekend of rest, relaxation, fellowship, catchin' up, and just doin' nuthin'. We're taking our good friends, Duane and Brenda, with us. By the time you read this, I'll be jetting southward. (I love that "post options" feature that allows me to set the date and time to display a post that I've written well before!)


Happy Memorial Day! Ya'll have a good weekend now, ya hear?

May 20, 2008


You'd think when one pays a bazillion dollars to send one's child to an institution of higher learning, that institution would actually, you know, set a good example.

Alas, it ain't so.

I come from a family of folks who enjoy reading and writing and grammar and punctuation and even word games. So it should come as no surprise that several members of my family travel with red pens in their briefcases or purses on the off chance we they will find an error that is in desperate need of correction.

Imagine our surprise when several of us found a glaring error in the commencement program for the graduating seniors of the University of Texas at Austin's Cockrell School of Engineering.

It's on the page below. Can you find it? (Don't sweat it. You probably can't. You'd need more information than is given to be able to find it. Relax. I'll get there.)

When my eyes first discovered this atrocity, I gasped audibly. Thankfully it was during a loud round of applause for an accolade some degree candidate received, and no one heard me. Because I was dressed up for the occasion and was only carrying my evening bag, there was no room in said bag for the red pen.

My eyes began to twitch, and my palms got really sweaty. The room was spinning, and I needed a stiff drink red pen. Sensing my desperation, my mom whispered, "Sugar, are you okay?"

My heart skipped a beat. Mom! MOM might have a red pen in her purse!

"Do you.... um.... have.... a.... well, um..... a red... PEN?"

Her face fell in disgrace as she acknowledged she had left her red pen at home. "I couldn't imagine I'd need it," she said softly.

I have never, ever been so disappointed in another human being in all my life. And this, my own mother.

"What did you find, honey?" Mom asked.

"Can't you SEE it?????? Look! There it IS!" I pointed frantically.

And then she saw it. Horrified, she covered her mouth with her hand to conceal her utter astonishment. She began to squirm in her chair. She said she felt faint. My sister, the mother of the graduate we were there to cheer on, noticed the commotion. She leaned forward and tapped me on the shoulder from the row behind me.

I turned around and saw the anguish on her face. She had seen it. The deed was done. This program, this paper memento of a monumental accomplishment, this heirloom for her eldest daughter to keep forever, was flawed.

You see, there were FOUR individuals being recognized as distinguished young former graduates. The program said "Recognition of Distinguished Young Alumnus." Alumnus! How could the
fifth largest university in the nation make such a horrid error?

Alumnus - a person who has attended or has graduated from a particular school, college, or university.

Alumni - plural of alumnus

We stopped on the way out of the auditorium and bought a red pen. The corrected copy of the program with the glaring error circled in red has now been mailed to the dean's office.

Rachel is giving back her diploma.

May 17, 2008


Lots of fun stuff to share later, but here's a picture of my favorite Texas Longhorn.

Congratulations, Rachel!! Love you. Proud of you!

May 16, 2008

May 16 - one great day

It's a great day today.

It's a great day because:

The Lord made it, and we're glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)

It's Friday.

It's payday.

My eldest niece is graduating from
college today. (Hook 'em Horns!) I'm a very proud auntie.

I get to spend the entire day with my WHOLE family.

On this day in years I can't divulge, my friends Terry and Tina were born. Happy 'day, girls.

On this day in 1954, precious Studly Man was born. Happy Birthday, my beloved. It's a great day.

May 12, 2008

Beauty from Ashes


My friend, DidiLyn, is hosting a bloggy carnival today. It is called "Tell Me Your Story." You're invited to hop on over and read how God has made a difference in the lives of others.

I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have some sort of relationship with God. My amazing Christian parents raised us in the church and in the ways of the Lord. Realizing the blessing that is, I thank God regularly for giving me such a rich spiritual heritage.

I came to Christ at age 8. It was a beautiful spring day. My mom stayed home with my older sister who was sick, and I went to church with Daddy. Something clicked in my heart that day. My former thinking of "Mom and Dad are going to Heaven, and I’ll get there on their coattails" no longer made sense. It had to be mine. Mine. And it had to be real. So I made that choice in a quiet moment, and made my faith my own. Dad mentioned it to Mom who was thrilled but rather surprised I hadn’t waited to share this monumental and life-changing moment with the WHOLE family instead of when half of the family was at home. In my own little way, I tried to explain. "It didn’t seem like a good idea to make God wait." She nodded with a knowing smile. I spent that afternoon on the swing in our backyard, marveling at God’s beautiful creation and my new place in it.

The blessing of growing up in a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church was never something I took for granted. The pastor at my home church was a wonderful teacher, and his love for God’s Word was contagious. He taught us the importance of learning the Scriptures and hiding them in our hearts. How glad I am he did that!

In my mid-20s, I found myself in the deepest, darkest depression. I’m not talking "the blues" here. I’m talking about a pit of despair that was so deep, I truly believed I’d never get out. I lost my job, my home, my desire to keep on living - everything. At 25, I moved back home with my parents and spent each morning of the next two years literally trying to find the courage to get.out.of.bed.

I couldn’t. If I could, I didn’t want to. I was paralyzed. And then the panic struck... literally. Panic disorder had become a reality in my life, and debilitating panic attacks were my constant companion. I wanted out of my own skin; I wanted to be ANYWHERE but where I was.

In spite of all I knew about God, I couldn’t "feel" Him in my life. I couldn’t sense His presence, and I couldn’t remember what it was like to walk with Him. There was no joy, no laughter, only tears. My own personal angel mom spent many nights on her knees praying over me and trying to help me just hold on. When I’d wake her at 2:00 a.m. in a panic, she would pray with me. No, she’d pray for me. I couldn’t pray. She’d say, "Whenever you face insurmountable odds or an impossible situation, say to yourself, ‘for THIS I have Jesus.’" I couldn’t. I couldn’t call His name.

She’d tell me that "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7). She reminded me to say, "When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You." (Psalm 56:3) She’d pray over me, "Perfect love casts out all fear." (1 John 4:18) She'd encourage me to recite Lamentations 3:21-24 which says, "This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, 'Therefore I have hope in Him.'" She told me nothing ever stays the same, including God's mercies - they're new every morning! Those were all truths I knew, but I just couldn’t make them real. She reminded me regularly that all the promises of God in Him are YES, and in Him AMEN, to the glory of God through us. (2 Corinthians 1:20). I told her I couldn't imagine ever being "normal" again and ever being happy again.

And then her prayers changed.

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

And there was hope. Hope. It glimmered in the distance, but it was there.

Slowly but surely, the balm of His peace soothed my broken spirit. And He sent a song. Wayne Watson wrote it and sang it right to my wounded heart. Wayne had experienced a journey similar to mine, and God gave him a song. My song.

After a concert at my church several years later, I had the privilege of sharing my story with Wayne. Our tears comingled on the tops of our hands as we prayed together in thanksgiving for new life, new joy, new hope. Jesus met us both where we were - again and anew - and He healed our secret scars. He is the Friend of a wounded heart.

In the decade following the emergence from that pit, the Lord taught me so much. Sure, I made mistakes and wrong choices, but I didn't ever wander further than His reach. My longing for a godly husband grew deeper with each passing year, and I began to wonder if I'd ever know the joy of being married or remain single for the rest of my life. I began to study contentment and what God had to say about that. I began to reside in 1 Timothy 6, especially verse 6. "But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment." If God said it in His Word, it was and is true. The focus of my pursuit changed. I began to pursue godliness. (I'm still not there, but the journey is worth it.)

What came next can only be described as miraculous.

I never had an older brother, though I always wanted one. God sent Ben into my life. Ben "became" that brother I never had. A deep and abiding friendship was born, and to this day, I count Ben as one of my very dearest friends. He has a love for evangelism and working in the most unlikely places to share the hope of the Gospel. He got involved in prison ministry. "How nice for him," I thought. NOT my thing. Then he began working with a ministry focusing on juveniles in incarceration. Teenagers in prison? Really? 'Cuz that sounds scary!

After months of his gentle nudging and encouragement, I finally agreed to go on a prison ministry weekend event with him. I was Remember that little girl who was paralyzed with panic? Where do you suppose would be the most frightening place on earth for someone with panic disorder? PRISON! You want to take me into a cold, sterile, concrete building surrounded by razor wire, and through multiple locking gates and doors, and then you're gonna leave me in there? Are you new here? I have panic attacks. I can't do that.

"When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You." "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." "I can do ALL things through Christ Who strengthens me." It all came flooding back. I inhaled and exhaled. I whispered a prayer. And then another. And then.... I walked into the prison, turned around to face the slamming metal gate and hear it lock. I inhaled and exhaled and realized for the first time that's God's promises are, in fact, yes and amen. HE had enabled me to do it. And so the day began. What an amazing day it was. I had a front row seat to watch the miracles of God unfold.

Ben never had to ask me again. Any time a prison ministry event was happening, I was the first to sign up. I LOVED it! I loved it because I was reminded every single time that I am a living, breathing, walking, talking testimony of God's power. Only He could enable a panic-stricken girl to thrive inside prison walls. I loved it because He was using the darkest days of my life to encourage others. I loved it because I could say with conviction, "I am here because God has made a difference in my life."

Ben had a frequent roommate on those weekend events, and Ben introduced me to him on my first trip. For several years, I thought he was a nice guy with a huge heart for the Lord. He was cute, too, and he had that awesome dog. (Dog lovers are easily attracted to other dog lovers.) For years, we visited on prison ministry trips and worked on occasional projects together. I realized my respect for him was growing with each passing day as I watched him branch out and a form a ministry of his own using his dog to demonstrate the relationship we can have with our Master by using the relationship he had with his extraordinary dog. On June 24, 2000 on the campus of the juvenile prison in Beaumont, Texas, something quickened in my spirit. And I knew. I knew. He was God's promise to me. He would become my beloved, my gift from God, my husband.

God had consoled me in my mourning and given me beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. He had made Himself known in every part of my life, even in my deepest pain.

Les and I have been married for six years. Ben stood as our best man on the day we wed. Now under the umbrella of the ministry God has given us, Les and I lead teams of volunteers - including precious Ben - into juvenile prisons to be living, breathing testimonies of just how God can give beauty among the ashes.

What do YOU call it?

I'm taking a little survey. What do you call it?
It seems every household has a name for the infamous remote control. I've heard "flinker" and "do-er" and "switcher" and many more. So leave me a comment and tell me what YOU call it at your house.

May 7, 2008


So it appears the "Growing Up Jenny" story won in the poll. That's fine with me, because once you read some of the silliness of my childhood, you're more likely to understand some of the silliness of my teen years and how my exploits as a Pluperfect Parallel Parking Planoette came to be. Chronological order does have its benefits. I do, however, hope you will consider yourselves lucky to have read these insights and not abuse the privilege by calling me

So without further ado, here is the first installment of Jennyness.

It was a dark and stormy night.

Nestled in a cozy corner of the Blue Ridge's gorgeous Shenandoah Valley, a handsome young lad named Johnnie lived with his grandparents while his father was serving in Europe during WWII. One sunny afternoon, Johnnie went with his teammates to the gym at Lee Junior High where they were to take on their rivals in a game of hoops. From across the crowded gym, he saw her for the first time. She was a cheerleader for the opposing team, and she was lovely. Though he didn't speak to her or even know her name, Johnnie told his grandmother that evening he had seen the girl he was going to marry.

A few years later, their paths crossed again. By then Fay had blossomed into a beautiful young woman. They had many common friends and often found themselves at the same group activities. Their friendship began to grow, and they both accepted invitations to join
Jefferson High School's spring formal committee. Johnnie was eager to spend time with Fay, and this project afforded him great opportunity.

The night before the big dance, the committee worked late into the evening decorating the gymnasium. (Cue: "
Enchantment Under the Sea" dance from Back to the Future. Hey, it was the 50s!) Just before leaving, Fay asked Johnnie if he had a date for the dance. "No, I don't," he said. "Would you like to have a date for the dance?" she asked. His heart skipped a beat. A date! With Fay! To the dance!

"Well, I'd love to," he said with a smile. "Great!" said Fay with a grin. "My friend, Sally, doesn't have a date either, and I think you two would have a grand time together."

Um... WHAT? What just happened here? Johnnie was stunned, but saw no way out that would leave his dignity in tact. Fay hurriedly gave him Sally's phone number and waved over her shoulder as she left the gym. Always the gentleman, he thanked Fay as she left.

He did escort Sally to the dance, and it was their first and last date. Fay's date wasn't a keeper either, and Johnnie and Fay soon found themselves making plans for their own first date.
And the rest, as they say, is history...

After high school, Johnnie attended the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a naval ROTC scholarship. He graduated in May 1953 with a degree in journalism, and he married Fay on June 12 of that year at historic First Baptist Church of Roanoke. (In a few weeks, they're gonna celebrate their 55th anniversary, ya'll!)
Johnnie then served his three year commitment in the US Navy. During that time, the newlyweds lived in the armpit fine city of Bayonne, New Jersey while he went through training and were eventually stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. Johnnie was aboard the USS New, a supply ship, toward the end of the Korean Conflict. Fay had a civilian job on the base at Naval Station Norfolk during most of their time there.

When Johnnie was finally discharged, the young couple decided to return to Roanoke and start a family....

May 5, 2008

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I love Louie Giglio. His passion for Christ, his great love for students, and his desire to communicate simple truth have inspired me for a long time. I wish the kids Studly Man and I work with in juvenile prisons could hear him speak. It would rock their worlds.

Yesterday, I ran across this video. It's a small portion of an amazing message he delivered. The simplicity and complexity are astounding. I won't soon forget...

Be blessed.

May 3, 2008

If my dishwasher ever breaks.....

I won't need to buy a new one.






Is she smiling??

Don't forget to vote in the poll. Just a few days left!

May 1, 2008

"Poll" position

The first ever Casa de Castro poll has arrived! I’ve been debating in my head which "series" to begin first, so I thought I’d let you decide. Eventually both series will probably be written, but I thought I’d see what seems most interesting to you.

Do you want to read about "Growing Up Jenny" which would involve things like drawing blood from my sister’s nose with my teeth, causing an explosion of red hair dye, being held hostage in the scary home of my evil aunt, or the reason why I detest being called Jenny?

That's me on the right. Laugh if you must.

Would you rather read about being a "Pluperfect Parallel-Parking Planoette" (a name I aptly earned) which would include stories about being on the drill team in high school? That could be fun since my skirt once fell to my ankles while I stood at attention in "victory line" at the pregame goal post, shortly after I learned about my "personality height," and the explanation behind why my hair is really short in some pictures and really long in others.

My junior year:
Both series would be accompanied by embarrassing enlightening photographic evidence. Neither will do much to elevate your opinion of me. Some information could even be blackmail-worthy.

Vote in the poll at the right, just below the blog header. I'll leave it up for a few days. This could be fun. Lotsa fun. Fun for YOU, maybe.

At the request of several folks, I've added a subscription option in the sidebar on the right. If you sign up, a confirmation email will be sent to you requiring you to um, gee, confirm you really want a subscription. Be sure to check your spam folder for that if you don't see it in your regular mail in an hour or so. After you've confirmed and been added to the list, you'll receive an email each time there's a new post from me. However, I will tell you now... the testing of this option hasn't gone well, so the tweaks are coming.