During the holiday excitement and a new book release, I plum ran out of time to share the online sources that featured Dress Shop Miracles. I hope you take the time to check out these wonderful sites, my book, and the others listed.:
Shirley Corder, author and reviewer, gave Dress Shop Miracles a lovely thumbs up at Write to Inspire. Check it out now!
Terri Lynn Flowers at Character Café(founded by Amy Walsh) interviewed my protagonist, Molly, in Dress Shop Miracles. It’s a fun read as Terri and Molly chat over apple cider tea and nutmeg ginger apple snaps. There’s even a recipe for ginger snaps!
Walking on Mustard Seeds (founded my Michele Marie Weisman) held an e-book giveaway for Dress Shop Miracles. How cool is that? Although the drawing is closed, please take a moment to check out this website.
FEATURED THIS MONTH:
Kiss Under the Lemon Tree is now featured in Your Author Huboffering articles, devotionals, resources, and, of course, books! The genre list includes nonfiction, inspirational, fiction (where you’ll find Kiss Under the Lemon Tree), kid’s books, journals, and planners.
Thank youfor the gift of reading my e-books and allowing me to get to know you on my social media pages. If you wrote an Amazon review, my heart is deeply touched more than you could possible know.If you haven’t read them yet, I hope you’ll dash over to Amazon to get your copy now.
Much love to you and yours.
I hope your New Year is filled with wonder, health, laughter, and adventure. If you haven’t already, please join me and the fun conversations on my social media pages here.
Northern Hearts (Heroes of the Tundra Book 2) is my Christmas novella set in the real-life town of Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. It’s called the Polar Bear Capitol of the World. I set my entire series there, and my husband and I flew up in 2019 so that I could do proper research on the town and its polar bear research facilities.
I set this story during the Christmas in between Northern Deception (Book 1) and Northern Protector (Book 3). The inspiration for the story came to me out of the blue—I love it when my brain and creativity strikes like that—because I was thinking about family situations and secrets.
I had the vision of a rich young woman with every advantage she could have in her life, but still yearning for more. And her family held a long, dark secret in the past. She’s about to find out about a family member she had never known existed before, and how that person had been following her life from afar.
The hero is the opposite. He’s grown up without a proper family in the foster care system and the unknown family member of the heroine has been a stand-in mother figure for him. When the hero and heroine meet and are forced to work together for thirty days to meet the legal requirements of the family member’s will, they have to examine what their relationships mean to them and learn to work together.
Being a romance, they will fall in love, but I include some real-life festivities that take place in Churchill, and some traditions that I wish I’d done myself over the years. I believe that family traditions keep memories alive and serve the purpose of keeping families intact, especially when children are young and growing up. Once they’re grown up, some traditions need to change to facilitate the changes in the family make-up, for example, adult children marrying and the “family” enlarging.
Like the Sabbath being made for man, not man for the Sabbath, as Jesus taught us, I think that family traditions like every person being present at Christmas dinner when that may not be feasible, need to be looked at in the light of love and common sense. Christmas dinners may need to be done rotationally. Traditions may need to grow and change as the years go by.
That doesn’t mean that our Christmas excitement and celebrations of our one true King shouldn’t take place or be enjoyed. They just may look different from year to year, and that’s all right. The true meaning of Christmas is that Jesus is the Light of the World and our Saviour. I wish you all a blessed Christmas!
As a child, each Sunday we could count on roast beef for dinner. If we’d lost all calendars and had no idea what day it was, seeing roast beef on the table would give us a clue it was at least Sunday. Honestly, because it was so predictable, I made fun of it.
Until I moved to a dorm and my family Sunday dinner was whatever I found in the dining hall.
It was then I started to understand the importance of traditions. As a young adult I no longer complained about a Christmas Eve present, a tradition, and knew it was going to be pajamas. Once I married, we’d add attending Christmas Eve service before opening that present. On Christmas morning we’d read Luke 2 before opening presents. Christmas dinner would be at my childhood home, where there would be a ham dinner. Once I got pregnant and violently ill thanks to the spiral ham, the tradition forward was turkey.
Fast forward and our two children are young adults. One is married and about to experience his first Christmas away from home and with his new traditions. Both my parents and my in-laws are gone. The moments I reflect on those past Christmas seasons I realize it is the traditions I hold close.
Some traditions might seem silly like the one my sister, a teacher, created “reindeer food” outside Christmas Eve with my kids. When her son came along, we added him to the process. I still remember his glee when he’d go outside and find the glittery concoction had been touched. Even at 23 and 19, last year my kids headed out to help spread the food. It’s a fond memory for both of them.
There are also traditions that probably only our family invested in. My parents worked hard, but like most families in the 70’s and 80’s, from paycheck to paycheck. Mom did a lot of her shopping after Christmas because it was affordable. One gift she stumbled upon was a vendor at the mall who created a “blue ice village.” Each year I would receive a piece. I was excited to showcase each piece under the tree. To this day, that village goes under my tree. Mom etched each piece with the year she gave it to me. That village means the world to me not for the unique look, but because it came from my mom.
Last year was our first Christmas without a parent. Our boxes were surrounded by memories and traditions I now see I took for granted. I assumed those things would always be there, just like my parents would. The reality is they are gone, and if I don’t pick up the traditions, they die too.
We decided to keep mom’s traditions but added one. Instead of opening a Christmas Eve present, we chose something with a humorous side to help us through our grief. We drew names among the kids, my sister, and myself and chose a white elephant gift. Once unwrapped our tokens included a large glittery rubber duck to a calendar of dogs doing their business. If we keep that game up, it will be a fun tradition that I’ll cherish as one that got us through a rather bleak time.
If you’re facing a Christmas full of traditions that don’t make sense to you, or seems too costly in time or finances, ask God to help you see the interaction as He does. For me, a lot of what I thought was boring and predictable when I was younger was in reality tangible moments with my family I’ll never get back. Those traditions became precious memories, and that’s what I’m left with. There’s nothing in a store that could equal the value of those Christmas times.
What are some of your Christmas traditions? What do you think of them?
Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to find freedom in Christ by surrendering the good, the bad, and—maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of the new contemporary romance series SURRENDERING HEARTS (Anchored Hearts, Repairing Hearts, +four more.) Her other romance series is SURRENDERING TIME (Entrusted, Entangled, Engaged.) She also co-wrote a YA series with her daughter, SURRENDERING STINKIN’ THINKIN’ (You’re Beautiful, You’re Amazing, You’re Brilliant.) Her stand-alone romances include MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN and RESTORING CHRISTMAS. Julie maintains a blog at juliearduini.com and participates in the team blog Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and daughter. Learn more by visiting her at http://linktr.ee/JulieArduini. Her newest release can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Anchored-Hearts-Surrendering-Book-ebook/dp/B09XH1KVXD
In 1975, I accepted Jesus Christ’s work on the cross for my salvation, and a few months later, my parents sold my childhood home. We moved into a new community for people over 55. Because of my parents’ ages, they allowed me in. The promise of the clubhouse pool helped sell me on the idea and get excited.
The day we unpacked the moving truck, a friendly neighbor approached from across the street, and introduced us to another neighbor, Bea. She had a son my age. As we stood in our driveway, Bea told us there were four teens now, and she was happy to meet me. She invited me to her church, the youth group, and was the first Christian woman I met. Bea discipled me before I’d heard what it was. She also has the gifts of mercy and evangelism. It’s always Christmas in her heart.
Bea is 100 years old now, and my “second Mom.” She and her family adopted me by welcoming me as a sister. Her two youngest sons were my close friends. One had the travel bug and urged me to come over to Israel and work on the kibbutz for the summer where he lived, then work for the winter in Germany. I did.
It was 1981, and I fulfilled my dream of overseas travel after listening to his stories of working seasonal jobs and traveling for several years. The thought of going to Bible story locations burned within my soul. Experience where Jesus lived and see where He died? Yes. Not only enjoy gorgeous posters of castles on my walls, but to go inside them? I must.
I purchased a one-way ticket to Israel, worked on the kibbutz for the summer, traveled, then flew to Germany to work for the winter. Visiting 14 countries gave me the experiences I wrote about in my short stories, and how God gave me the unexpected encounters with Him as I traveled.
I’d never been so far away from home until that 1981 Christmas and never dreamed of celebrating it in the magnificent setting of the German Alps. It remains my most fantastic memory of Christmas, and I wrote a short story about it for Grace Publishing’s Celebrating Christmas anthology. My hope is it will resonate with your heart.
Author E.V. Sparrow ministered through short-term missions, worship team, prayer teams, and led small groups in Single’s and Divorce Care ministries. Sparrow’s stories surprise readers when they encounter God’s unexpected presence. She recently signed a contract for three books, with Celebrate Lit. Watch for her first release in December 2023. You can connect with her here: https://linktr.ee/ev.sparrow
I love the holiday season. It’s not just Christmas—it’s the love, anticipation, grace, and thankfulness that fills our house every November, December, and January. I start decorating the first weekend of November, and I have to pace myself when it comes to wrapping presents, donating gifts, and baking (and baking and baking) so I don’t do it all in one week.
While I’m doing all of those things, I always have a Christmas movie playing in the background.
Though I enjoy Hallmark holiday movies, I can’t watch them while I work—it’s too easy to get sucked into the plot and stop working! Instead, I have my Must-Watch List of traditional and nontraditional movies. They’re perfect for the season without being too distracting (because I’ve seen each one a dozen times!).
Christmas movies became a staple in my life when I was single because I often felt lonely in my apartment by myself. Even though I’m married now, we’re a childless couple. We spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with my family, but the other holiday is spent at home with each other. I love my husband, but our small family lacks the craziness I grew up with having two sisters with less than four years between all of us. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but now I crave the familiar coziness of it all.
Though I’d rather be with family, these holiday movies set the mood, and because I’ve seen them so many times, it makes it feel like the house is full of friends. I can’t wait to watch them again this year!
Here’s my list of Must-Watch holiday flicks.
White Christmas The Santa Clause (1, 2, and 3) The Holiday Elf Holiday Inn The Man Who Invented Christmas
Little Women (1994) Die Hard (1 & 2) While You Were Sleeping
I’ll also usually watch Home Alone and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but those are really for my husband, not so much for me.
What about you—are you a fan of Christmas movies? Which is your favorite?
Author of hopeful fiction with a healthy dose of romance, Karin Beery also owns Write Now Editing, helping authors turn good manuscripts into great books. She lives in northern Michigan with her husband and pets. They drink too much (decaf) coffee, put up their Christmas tree the first weekend in November, and do their best to live every day for the Lord.
Thanks to Caesar Augustus’s demand for a census, which Mary didn’t mind, since it rescued her from Nazareth, Mary and Joseph trod the same crowded road Mary had six months ago.
The donkey plodded along, and she recalled arranging her clothing to mask her expanding abdomen when she’d walked back into Nazareth after her visit with Elizabeth.
Mary planned to circle around Joseph’s house, but as she was about to, there he stood. Smiling.
“You know that angel?”
“I met him in a dream. He told me this incredible story’s true. The hundreds of years we’ve waited for our Messiah have ended. Right here, in Nazareth. And just so you know, it doesn’t surprise me one single jot that Yahweh picked you. I’m so sorry I didn’t believe you before. Forgive me?”
“Oh Joseph.” She’d run into his arms.
She’d begged to go with Joseph, though a wife could stay at home if she wanted. Only, she couldn’t stand the staring eyes and wagging tongues of Nazareth, or her parents’ shame, one more moment. Now the sunset as Joseph led their donkey into Bethlehem.
Ouch! What was that? Wait, was it the beginning of birth pains? They grew stronger as the couple came to each door where another innkeeper rebuffed Joseph.
Finally, an innkeeper who also claimed no rooms, seeing her endure a strong contraction, pointed to a stable behind his inn. “You can take her there.”
The Son of the Most High would be born in a stable? Not a palace? Not even a house? Yahweh, what are You doing?
You are rich in something more than gold and silver, Mary. I draw attention to what matters by where you birth My Son.
Joseph piled up clean straw for her, and when she’d accomplished Jesus’s birth, she gazed down into His eyes– His deep eyes held eternity, and love. God had done what He said He would do. Joseph took Him from her and laid Him in a manger where he’d arranged more clean straw. How could she mother God’s Son? How can I, Lord?
I will guide you. But you will make mistakes because you are human, and I am prepared for that.
Rough shepherds appeared and lingered at the entrance. “May we come in? An angel told us while we were keeping the temple sheep that our Savior is here in a manger.” They looked over at Jesus sleeping in His swaddling clothes.
Mary wondered again. No kings, prophets, priests, or warriors–just shepherds? Common people, like her and Joseph. Father, are You telling us that faith is more important than the power, education, or wealth our world approves?
“Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
May the amazing birth of our Savior lead us all to ponder.
Jane Carlile Baker met Jesus fifty-five years ago. She serves children and on the tech team in her church. Jane’s written three biographies, one nonfiction study of the Bible’s take on living in our times, and two novels. She’s at work on the third, Rogue Irishman, set in her beloved Ireland. Jane edits both fiction and nonfiction. She and her husband live in Central California with a dog and three alpacas. They have three children, five grandsons, and two great-grandchildren.
Jane hopes “A Common Girl, An Uncommon Time” warmed your Christmas. She’d love to send you free short stories once a month if you’ll sign up with your email at janecarlilebaker.com.
After a long walk from Nazareth with Daniel’s family, finally Elizabeth’s shaky soprano drifted over her wall, her words from a psalm of David Mary recognized. “You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.” The swish of her broom kept time to her song. She had waited so long, no wonder her joy.
Mary tapped at the gate with one hand. The other caressed the cotton tunic over her stomach. Would her elder cousin understand her confusion? “Elizabeth, it’s me.”
Elizabeth’s singing stopped. She opened the gate. Her silver hair escaped the veil that covered her wrinkled head and belied the obvious bump under her clothing.
“Mary!” Elizabeth’s hand flew to her own womb and her eyes bulged. “Our little John recognizes the mother of our Messiah, the tiny One you carry!” She hugged Mary and kissed her cheek.
“The angel said you’d understand God’s moving among us. … I only wanted to marry Joseph and raise a big family with my carpenter. And now … ”
“Have you told Joseph?”
“He didn’t call for the elders to stone me. He said, ‘We’ll just call it off.’
And I couldn’t … I came to you. The angel said I’m favored, but I feel … favored … and not favored, all at once.” She searched Elizabeth’s eyes for understanding.
And got it. “Dear girl, come in. You look pale. Tea and cakes will revive you. Gabriel spoke to Zechariah too, to tell him about John. You must have responded with faith. Zechariah questioned Gabriel and can’t speak now.” Elizabeth smiled, but then shook her head.
Mary accepted tea, and they relaxed in the courtyard. “Yes, suddenly Gabriel stood there in the room with me.
“He’s not a little fellow.
“I could barely manage to accept his assignment. There’s no evidence I should mother the Messiah. Why me, out of all the girls in Nazareth? Anyway, I asked him one question. How? I really am a virgin, Elizabeth.
”And yet, my womb warmed with life when God moved over me. I know Jesus grows inside me. I know, and yet I am … I don’t know how to do this.”
“Will my father disown me? My mother insisted I come to you because of what Gabriel said, but her skeptical look broke my heart. What will the townspeople say? I don’t want to return to Nazareth. I’m glad Gabriel told me about you. But … ”
Elizabeth cupped Mary’s arm. “Dear girl, you needn’t know how to do this. I know for certain our God guides us who live in faith. You need only put one foot in front of the other in the direction He leads.”
Tension left Mary in the light of Elizabeth’s words. “Could I stay with you for a while? Could you talk with me about Jesus and John? Please?”
“Of course, for as long as you need. A visit will shorten the time of my waiting.”
Mary stayed three months, gaining courage for what lay ahead and strengthening her faith. After she kissed Elizabeth goodbye, Mary looked to heaven and said, “The Lord has looked with favor on the humble estate of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me. Holy is His name.” And yet, in this generation, not everyone thinks me blessed. She took home with her all the wisdom Elizabeth had shared before it was time to bring John into the world.
(Continued Dec 10)
Jane Carlile Baker met Jesus fifty-five years ago. Now she serves children and on the tech team in her church. Jane’s written three biographies, one nonfiction study of the Bible’s take on living in our times, and two novels. She’s at work on the third, Rogue Irishman, set in her beloved Ireland. Jane edits both fiction and nonfiction. She and her husband live in Central California with a dog and three alpacas. They have three children, five grandsons, and two great-grandchildren.
Jane hopes you enjoyed Journey I of “A Common Girl, An Uncommon Time.” She’d love to send you free short stories once a month if you’ll sign up with your email at janecarlilebaker.com.
After more than seven years of giving of myself and going above and beyond in serving my residents at the nursing home, I found myself experiencing extreme burnout and fatigue.
Rev. Edward Hamilton Sears struggled with his own breakdown and melancholy in the 1840s.
He struggled with the dark world, “full of sin and strife” and not “hearing the Christian message.” This inspired him to write a five-stanza poem, first published in 1849, that he had worked on for over a decade.
The lyrics were set to the tune “Carol” written by Richard Starrs Willis, a student of Felix Mendelssohn. Today we know this carol as “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.”
The song comes from the story of the angels appearing to the shepherds in Luke 2:14. The angels spoke of “Peace on the Earth, good will to men.”
“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” is considered to be the first Christmas carol composed in the United States and published in the same decade as the resounding Dicken’s classic “A Christmas Carol”.
The song reminds me of the 1984 movie, with the same title as the hymn, and starring Mickey Rooney. Rooney plays a retired cop, who has a heart attack, and dies. However, he’s allowed one week to return to earth and show his grandson the seasonal glories of Christmas.
Christmas is one of the busiest times of the years for many of us. Sometimes we feel as if we’re in survival mode instead of slowing down and savoring the season. For years, this is exactly how I felt. I had so much to do for work, that my personal Christmas shopping and plans, had to be completed by Thanksgiving in order to stay sane.
During those seven years of serving in the nursing home, I was responsible for planning and implementing Christmas for 120 residents. Fund-raising occurred year-round and major planning began around Labor Day. During the Christmas season, there were cookies with Santa, an outing to look at Christmas lights, Santa’s workshop, countdown activities, sing-a-longs, two Christmas parties for residents (we didn’t have enough space for one party) and a party for the staff.
These activities required considerable planning and preparation. From having youth groups help us put up and decorate twenty-five trees (from a 12-foot tree to the three fiber optic trees on each nurse’s station) to purchasing and wrapping presents for each resident, to accepting and handing out donated blankets and stocking stuffers.
This year I’ve transitioned to another position within healthcare and am looking forward to having time to savor the season. To slow down and find some new traditions that can be enjoyed and savored. To have time to reflect on the true meaning of the season—the birth of Jesus Christ. To search for that peace on earth, good will to men.
How do you reflect on the meaning of God coming to earth in the form of a baby?
Diana Leagh Matthews shares God’s love through her story from rebel to redeemed. Her day job is as a volunteer coordinator, but at night she writes and hunts genealogy. She gives programs as a speaker, teacher, and vocalist, and also presents historical monologues. Leagh (pronounced Lee) is the author of History Made Real, Fun with Words, 90 Breath Prayers for the Caregiver, and others in the Breath Prayers series. She writes the history behind hymns at DianaLeaghMatthews.com and would love to connect with you https://linktr.ee/dianaleaghmatthews.
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” –Aesop
The holidays have arrived, dressed in glitter, bearing the aroma of pumpkin, cinnamon, and pine. Traffic has jammed around malls and supercenters. And who can forget the increase of events? Parties, special church services, and family gatherings, to name a few.
A time of joy, laughter, and togetherness.
But not for all.
During this time of pandemic illnesses, high inflation, and families uprooted from their homes due to job changes and fresh starts, people are lonely. Unsettled. Depressed.
Crying out for relief.
What can we do? Is there a way, as individuals, churches, or civic groups, that we can help?
Yes! We can make a difference in our community, state, nation, and world. From small acts of kindness to large charitable undertakings, everyone can do something. We just have to start. Over the years, I’ve had the blessing of participating in “good deeds” to make the holidays brighter for someone in need. Here are some ideas that you, as an individual, or your group can look into:
Send Christmas cards. Who doesn’t enjoy receiving a cheerful card in the mail?
Make a phone call. Brighten someone’s day with the sound of your voice.
Bake or create a gift. People enjoy homemade presents.
Deliver packages of socks to a nursing home or homeless shelter. An often-requested item.
Smile while you shop. You never know what people are going through and what a smile might mean.
Church or Civic Group
Invite the community to a holiday dinner. Look for people new to the area or who might be struggling and extend a personal invitation.
Sponsor a drive-through or walk-through nativity scene or Christmas event. Offer fun games, photo opportunities, and free hot cocoa and provide a safe place for people new to the community to enjoy the holidays.
Host a food drive for your local food bank or for specific needy families in your area.
Create gift baskets for the elderly, those hospitalized during the holidays, and/or the military.
Whether you share a card, phone call, visit, homemade gift, or smile, you can make a lonely person feel loved and accepted during this special time of year. The blessing you receive in return will be worth it all.
What do you plan to do to make the Christmas season more meaningful? I’d love to know!
Gifts for you: How would you liketo receive ten of my favorite cake and cookie recipes, read the first chapter of my debut novel, Jessie’s Hope, and sign up for my newsletter, all for free? Here’s the page with all the information. Thanks!
Jennifer Hallmark writes Southern fiction off the beaten track and her website focuses on her books, love of the South, and the unexpected in stories. Jessie’s Hope, her debut novel published by Firefly Southern Fiction, was a 2019 Selah Award nominee. She also hosts a podcast on persevering during chaotic times, “Determined to Dance,” and is a mentor with Word Weavers International.
Welcometo the CASCA (Christian Authors Supporting Christian Authors) Christmas Blog Tour. Please treat yourself to a moment of quiet by enjoying the works of seven writers (plus yours truly) who share their thoughts or experiences about the Christmas season. Here is the first of eight Blog Posts to be shared between now and December 22.
by Dianne Marie Andre
Mary, mother of Jesus. My heart can barely grasp what an extraordinary woman she must have been to be chosen the mother of the world’s Savior. I imagine her perfect, without sin. Though this is unlikely, God blessed her above all women. Yet His path for Mary wasn’t easy. To avoid disgrace as an unwed mother, God instructed her fiancée to marry her and to travel together from Nazareth to safety in Bethlehem.
The young couple trekked on unpaved trails for four days along flatlands and over hills, possibly in freezing temperatures. When they reached Bethlehem, no doubt weary, they had to settle for a cave—used to house animals—in which to rest where Mary gave birth.
The least desired place for a birthing mother became the most honored and beloved story of all time. The young couple listened to God, trusted, obeyed, and persevered. Hard as it was—which many of us can’t comprehend just how difficult—God provided for them along the way and when they reached their destination.
I wonder if the world silenced to hear the first cry of the King. If an unidentified light glowed in the dim cave the moment Jesus entered the world. If the waters rested and the winds ceased. Luke 2:13-14 tells us after shepherds in Bethlehem were told of Jesus’ birth, the angels sang. We will never know the full magnificence of all that took place during the nativity.
What an honor it is to have included the nativity in my novel Dress Shop Miracles. It’s one of my favorite scenes as my characters traveled from a difficult path to hope, love, and miracles. I hope you love the story of Molly and Ted as much as I did writing it, and guess what?
I’m giving away one e-book copy of Dress Shop Miracles via Amazon Kindle.