Christmas Blog Tour

Welcome to 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.   

The Nativity

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.

To qualify for the drawing simply: 1) subscribe to my website; 2) comment below this article that you subscribed via Christmas Blog Tour. The winner will be announced on December 24, 2022.

To read the blurb click here.

I hope you’ll take a moment to enjoy a video with my 52-year-old nativity set honoring the birth of Christ.

Merry Christmas,

Dianne Marie Andre

The Mighty Oak

The Mighty Oak

“The Mighty Oak’s zeal for life suggests determination

despite aging cracks and cavities.

Extended arms of gnarled bark give rest to fowl,

nesting habitats, and acorn fuel.

The Mighty Oak is never alone.

It greets visitors where it grew beneath the sun,

weathering the wind and rain,

watching, listening, and sheltering man and beast.

It’s serene and tranquil … always giving.

Always receiving.

Always present.

Bound by a vast network of roots.

May its wounds heal and its leaves rustle in the wind.

May its majestic trunk uphold a mighty canopy

over the meadow where branches soar into the sky.

Let its journey live forever.”

Dianne Marie Andre, 2022

We have two giant oaks. One has died from borers and now stands bare. The other oak—pictured above—with its obvious deterioration fights to live … to give splendor and renewal to creatures and humanity.

Regardless of its state, it doesn’t stop baring fruit … a stunning message that we too can bear fruit no matter what our circumstances.

For he will be as a tree planted by the waters, who spreads out its roots by the river and will not fear when heat comes, but its leaf will be green, and will not be concerned in the year of drought. It won’t cease from yielding fruit.” Jeremiah 17:8 (WEB)

 The Christmas Tree by Julie Salamon is one of my favorite Christmastime books. It’s about befriending a fir tree and “learning to love, and, finally, being able to share that love with others, allowing it to be reborn, remembered and cherished forever.” 

This story is a beautiful reminder of yielding fruit to the very end. Do you have a favorite Christmas story? A favorite tree? I’d loved to hear about them.

Release Day!

Today is the day, friends! Dress Shop Miracles is live on Amazon and it’s dedicated to those with a dream. If this is you, be sure to read the Dedication page.

Here’s the blurb:

Molly is determined to achieve her dream as a dress shop owner before accepting Ted’s marriage proposal. As the Christmas-season grand opening approaches, an unexpected curve derails her plans—which means possibly letting go of her career hopes. But at least she has Ted . . . or does she?

Ted, a former city guy turned small-town farmer, longs to marry Molly more than anything. He also wants her happy doing what she loves. He uses his city connections to help solve her problems when his secret comes to light and she wants nothing more to do with him.

As if life isn’t hard enough, a stranger enters Molly’s life, testing her faith even further. She tries to move forward with a broken heart when she learns that God had been working behind the scenes all along and that Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without His miracles and healing grace.

I can’t reveal all the characters, but I can share the following personalities that carry small but significant roles.

Hetty isn’t bashful. She has all the answers to Molly’s problems and she’s not afraid to speak her mind.

Mr. Hollow, a booming, older man bearing threads on his apron, leads a pack of merchants when members need help.

Simon, a shopowner of exotic creatures gives a freshwater fish to Molly for good fortune.

Noah and Julia are sure their natural methods will make life easier for Molly, at least for the moment.

Shanna, a bookshop owner, believes the answer to Molly’s problem is to read a book.

Then there are the pets! But you’ll have to read the story to learn about them and their owners. So get your ebook copy today!

Dress Shop Miracles is available on Amazon. Get your copy now!

Want to catch up on previous blog posts about Dress Shop Miracles? Here are the links:

It Took a Miracle or Two

The Book title Challenge

The Truth about Snow

Writing about a Farmer

I’d love for you to follow me on Facebook and Instagram.

Writing about a Farmer

Now that we’ve discussed my research about the weather—more specifically, snow—how about talking farmer? As in Ted, Molly’s boyfriend in Dress Shop Miracles.

As a master gardener, I’m familiar with sowing and harvest schedules for home gardeners in my zone. Not so much with commercial crops in snow country. Naturally, a list of questions ran through my mind. What type of winter crop would a farmer harvest before the ground freezes and the first snowfall? What does a packing building look like? What equiptment and material would it contain? How does a farmer keep busy during the off-season?

A trip to Apple Hill during harvest season, where I walked through a packing building, had all the elements I needed. Google data and a California crop calendar answered my other questions. I had a pretty good idea of what farmers do during the winter, but I wanted to gather as much information as possible. I found an award-winning website with a blog post titled, What Do Farmers Do in the Winter? A second website broke down winter tasks by the month, with photos of Montana snow. 

Pinewood Village isn’t in Montana, but farming tasks are much the same in most states: fertilization, seed purchase, plant, and crop harvest, storage, farmers’ market, export, hiring field hands, and the list goes on. 

If all this sounds boring, trust me, it’s not. The details are weaved with plenty of drama and special moments at Ted’s farm. There are also tender scenes at Molly’s Pinewood Village apartment. In one scene, Ted helps her preserve a batch of his apples. Here’s an excerpt: 

Ted removed the last of the pint jars containing apple-cinnamon butter from the water bath. He eased behind Molly and untied her apron bow. She tossed her apron onto the preserves cooling on the counter and then twisted around in Ted’s arms.  “I’m beat. How about you? “

“I’m never too tired to hold you.” Ted kissed her on the neck, the jaw, then her earlobe. 

I can’t tell you what happens next but I assure you this is a clean Christian read. I can tell you there are a lot of surprises. Life isn’t all kisses and hugs for Ted and Molly. Bad choices are made. Undeserved adversity enters their lives. As it’s true with all of us during difficult times, they needed supportive friends. I’ll reveal a few of them in the next post.

Release day is November 1, so be sure to get it now on Amazon while it’s discounted. Still not sure? Read the blurb here.

I’d love it if you would 1) share this blog post; 2) follow me on Facebook and Instagram.  

Thank you for reading!

Top Photo Background: Dianne Marie Andre; Couple:  Joanna Nix, Unsplash

The Truth about Snow

In the last two posts, I shared the hardships and miracles of writing Dress Shop Miracles. This week, let’s visit the story’s fictitious location, Pinewood Village.

This quaint little town portrays similarities between those from my past and my current residence. I live on rolling hills eight minutes from an unincorporated community with less than ten businesses surrounded by agricultural land. The nearest city with ample shops is twenty minutes away. In the process of bringing Pinewood Village to life, I blended the charm of a small rural area with mom-and-pop shops, agriculture, and distant groves.  

I had one challenge. Raised in a region where it rarely gets cold enough for snow to fall or accumulate on the ground, I lacked experience with snow country. I wanted a snow-covered storybook village.

I’ve watched many Christmas movies with beautiful, romantic snow scenes but how actuate were they? What does the sky look like before a snowstorm? Do snowflakes float? Are six inches enough to cause roadblocks? Is it windy during snowstorms?

Dissatisfied with Google search results, I turned to my street team. Terri Lynn Flowers whose annual winter scenery is covered with white fluff, read the snow scenes I had written, corrected my misconceptions, and answered all of my questions. Thanks, Terri!

Did you know snow doesn’t adorn one’s hair with pretty little flakes? They melt. Terri explained it this way: “Your head radiates heat so snowflakes don’t usually linger.” She also said if someone is in a blizzard for any amount of time, their hair would be stiff or frozen.

Leave it to Hollywood to manipulate nature. 

Regardless, I loved writing the snow scenes—the beauty, even the avalanche of trouble it brought into Molly’s life. Yes, there is misfortune in my protagonist’s life—lots of it—and for her boyfriend, an ex . . .

Oops, you’ll have read the story to uncover Ted’s mysterious past, but you can learn more about Dress Shop Miracles by reading the blurb here.

How about you? What type of winters do you have? Are you a city or country dweller?

To read more about this story, subscribe to my blog. You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram.

Release day is November 1, so be sure to get it now on Amazon while it’s discounted. 

Email from a Reader: “I loved Kiss under the Lemon Tree – I read it in 3 days, that’s a record for me, lol, my mind usually wanders to other things when I read, but that story kept me engaged. So I am looking forward to [reading] and sharing this new story [Dress Shop Miracles].”

Top Photo credit: Jill Wellington, Pexels

Bottom Photo credit: Celine Ylmz, Unsplash

Ebook Pre-order: It took a miracle or two

Let’s pretend you have a dream you want to accomplish. Now, imagine you are one step from achieving it when something goes wrong and there’s nothing you can do to change the outcome.

Most of us will experience this at least once in our lifetime.

Writing novels requires hard work and determination. Sometimes this isn’t enough. Sometimes an author’s only option is to pray and wait for a miracle. This was the case with my new novel Dress Shop Miracles.

But first, how Dress Shop Miracles came about:

I was going through old college papers when I came across a Christmas story I had written for a creative writing assignment. I sat down to read The Victorian Lady about a widow who owned a dress shop. Prior to reading it, I had been thinking about writing a Christmas story and this one had the potential for a novel.

I began retyping the story, weaving in new ideas and before I knew it, I had a new plot, theme, and characters. Instead of a middle-aged woman, I created a young lady, Molly who is in love with a dream, and her boyfriend Ted, a former city guy turned small-town farmer. 

I had a great deal of hope for Molly and Ted’s story, and for readers. I planned to release the novel in 2021 for the holidays. Then the unexpected happened. I kept getting knocked down with various ailments. My dream, like my character’s, came to a halt more times than I care to count.

It wasn’t until mid-July of this year that I turned the manuscript over to my editor. Several weeks had passed when I learned she was dealing with a family emergency. I had to find a new editor.

Often, reserving a date with an editor is three months out! I had three weeks to meet my deadline!

Was my Christmas story going to be delayed for another year? I felt all the emotions Molly and Ted experienced in unfortunate hardships.




Friends reached out to me with suggested editors. I researched possibilities and made inquiries. The only thing left to do was pray and wait for a miracle. It came! I hired an editor who was willing to squeeze my manuscript into her busy schedule. I had to hustle but instead of another year’s delay, I had a suitable, extended deadline.

Then I needed more miracles!

There was a 10-day delay in receiving the proofed copy, and two days before announcing the preorder I kept getting an error message with my software program. Again, prayer was my only resource. Faith in this project—small as it was at this point—was all I had to hang on to.

My dream like my characters’ hopes came to a halt more than once. Maybe I should take extra thought to the next book’s plot. I’ve certainly grasped that “To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (KJV)

Will Molly and Ted learn this as well?

How about you? Have you experienced a period of waiting for a dream to bloom? If so, please share in the comments so we can encourage one another.

Release day is November 1, so be sure to get it now on Amazon while it’s discounted. 

To read more blog posts about Dress Shop Miracles subscribe to my blog. You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram.

Top image: Arek Socha, Pixabay 

The Promise

By Dianne Marie Andre

There once was a bookstore owner whose wife decked his shop identically every Christmas. She placed three pole lanterns just inside the door, and everyone who entered paused to gaze at their extraordinary glow.

Regular customers understood the meaning of the lanterns, but tourists often merely said, “How charming,” or “How quaint.”

The wooden floor creaked, and books towered so high one needed a ladder to read the spines. Sporadic book spires served as end-cap displays. No one dared remove a single volume for fear the rest would tumble like blocks in a game of Jenga.

One day, something drew a young couple to the three lanterns. The man took the woman’s hand and said, “What is it about these lights that make me feel hopeful when I’ve lost all hope?”

“I don’t know,” replied the woman, “but somehow they seem special.”

The bookstore owner introduced himself. “Those represent the gifts of joy and hope. Why have you lost all hope?”

Sadness crossed their faces. “Our baby girl was stillborn,” the woman whispered.

“I’m very sorry. The tallest of the lanterns represent the daughter my wife and I lost in a car accident fifty years ago, just before Christmas. We, too, felt there was no hope, but we trusted Jesus to somehow comfort us. That Christmas, my wife erected the tallest one to honor our precious child, and we began celebrating her life with the hope that we’d be with her again someday.

“Two years later, my wife gave birth to twins. Jesus had doubled our joy! That year, we decided to honor Him for the two little miracles entrusted to us. Each Christmas since, we have displayed all three lanterns.”

“Is your wife here?” the woman asked. “We’d love to meet her.”

“I’m afraid she passed last year. But before she died she told me the tallest lantern belonged to someone special and that when the time came, I would know who to give it to. I promised I would fulfill her wish. I want you to have it as a reminder of the true Light of joy and hope in your lives.”

“Oh, no, we couldn’t possibly take your lantern,” the man said.

“But you’re the first to understand its purpose. Please help me keep my promise to my wife.”

The following Christmas, the couple returned to the bookstore, the woman carrying a beautiful baby adorned in pink.

The bookstore owner’s face lit up. “Welcome back! And who do we have here?”

“This is Kindle Hope. We wanted you to meet her.”

The man’s eyes widened. “What a fitting name for such a radiant face! My wife and I thought we were the only parents who ever named a daughter Kindle, and we never met another child with that name. How did you know?”

Note: Dianne Marie Andre was inspired to write this fictional story after taking the photo of the three lanterns at a local bookstore.

Greet Hope

I haven’t seen the sun for days, until this morning when I woke to hope, a bright glow in the sky.

Sometimes we’re too busy tending other thoughts to see it,

to see hope.

Other times we have to wait for a sign to greet it,

to greet hope.

The first message of Christmas was spoken by an angel,

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” Luke 2:10 (KJV)

Fear blocks our view. Darkness takes over and we can’t see the messages,

the signs of hope.

But the Son is there, He’s always there, with you.

When fear is lifted—when we focus on Him—the fog clears, and hope is greeted.

How have you greeted HOPE lately? Or did HOPE greet you?

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8 Strategies for Holiday Self-Care

As I stood at the kitchen island tying my apron strings, I caught a glimpse of my husband walking into the great room. There was sadness in his eyes that first holiday after his mother had passed away. That was years ago, but I still remember the visibility of his silent struggle.

It’s no secret that bereavement increases during the holidays. For many, grief and COVID-19 restrictions signify celebrations without loved ones.

So, how do we create a joyous holiday without extended family or those we’ve lost?

Self-care is the best gift we can give to ourselves and our loved ones. It’s a gift that will move us forward to a happy future.

Enter a journey of self-care by reflecting on past holidays and note what gave you joy, made you laugh, or feel contented. Then plan ways to recreate those activities (and perhaps a new one) that will inspire a day worth celebrating.

If you are single:

  1. LOVE yourself with all the things you adore. Pets, cozy blankets, DVDs, music, books, snacks, etc. Make this a day to pamper you.
  2. Forget tradition. Cook what you want without domineering suggestions from others. Or order a holiday dinner from your local deli.
  3. REACH OUT to loved ones with a holiday cheer via phone or Zoom. Plan to end conversations with humor. It will leave you and them uplifted instead of sad and lonely.
  4. Studies show breathing fresh air can improve one’s mood. So, spend some time in a park, on a bike trail or walking path.

If you and your immediate family can’t gather with extended family members:

  1. Give yourself and your family GRACE. Grace to be less rushed, less perfect, less insistent to follow traditions.
  2. Decorate as usual (use the china and candles) or not. Maybe the family would enjoy a dinner party on cozy floor cushions.
  3. EMBRACE unhappy emotions, but don’t stay there longer than it takes to recite a poem, song, or Bible verse.
  4. Gather around the phone or monitor to speak with extended family. For a joyful virtual reunion, keep it light and uplifting.

That first holiday after my mother-in-law had passed away, it was just the two of us. My husband joined me with the meal preparations. Food sampling and laughter filled the kitchen. When everything was ready, we sat at the dining room table with flickering candlelight. A little self-care and comfort food served on china from my mother-in-law lightened his heart and brought joy to the holiday.

Looking through the Lens with God.

Outdoor photography prompts me to notice—truly notice—something other than me. When I look through my camera’s LCD monitor to make an ordinary scene or object picturesque, the moment feels magical.

I often dream of traveling the world with my camera; capturing the uniqueness of God’s character through nature.

Mountains and deep waters display His power and strength.

Fragile snowflakes reveal His mystery and grace.

Fragrant flowers divulge His love for calm and peace.

Nature’s colors, shapes, and sizes express His boundless heart for variety…

…a heart for all things to live in harmony.

But I have learned we don’t have to travel the world or even parts of it to capture God in nature. We see His character, draw near, listen, and learn from Him in our own backyard.

Most of the pictures that I make are taken on or near my rural property. Mornings are a good time to photograph outdoors. The air is crisp. The vegetation is perky, and the light is just right. Somehow, these natural elements open our soul and mind to the positive tempos in our life.

So, I head out the kitchen door loaded down with props. My camera hangs from its strap over my shoulder and bounces against my hip as I stroll to the barn, smiling with anticipation.

The small outdoor space where I create still life sits between one end of the barn and a locust tree. Beneath the tree, thick lantana drapes across low mounts. The ground cover has a pungent scent. But its graceful movements and lavender blooms are pleasing to the eye.

I use an old window to stage windowsill compositions. For the picture below, I snipped the last of three Pentas Falling Star clusters, dangling from the tops of dying stocks.

As I photographed them, I thought of a Facebook friend who commented pink is her favorite color. I don’t believe it’s an accident that others come to mind while we work (or play). God speaks to us no matter what we are doing. But there is something special about hearing His still small voice while we’re surrounded by nature. Perhaps, because His voice fills us with gratitude and prayer on behalf of those we know and love. Maybe it’s because there is peace in knowing He is the creator of the first garden.

Excitement feels my heart as I look through my camera’s monitor. Later, when I sit at my desk and study the images on my computer screen, I wonder if observers will notice the fine, almost invisible veins of a leaf. How will they translate the delicate curl of a pedal? Or the color that graduates from deep velvet to soft pastel.

Each of us interprets a different message, a different story.

Whatever prints hang on your walls, I hope you see an artist working with God.

You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” —Ansel Adams