Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Are You Prepared to Celebrate?

Luke 2:4-5

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 

“Be prepared, just not to be safe, but to be a faithful servant of God.”-Didi Bacon

Christmas takes preparation. With five children, four with spouses, and eleven grands, I have to begin preparing for the holidays early, because I prefer to take my time rather than stress.

For Christmas dinner, I keep it simple. Yet, the meal takes organization. Yesterday, I spent a chunk of the day cooking hamburger for sloppy joes and chopping peppers for pizza dip. When I finished, I tucked both into the freezer until December 24. As I stirred the burger and cooked the pink out, my mind wandered to Joseph and Mary. Weird, I know, but that’s how my brain works.

God had chosen Mary to be Jesus’ momma, and he picked Joseph as Jesus’ earthly father because Joseph was a man of integrity who loved God. Obviously, Joseph took care of Mary. When he heard Caesar Augustus called for them to travel to Bethlehem for the census, he loaded the donkey (at least that's what we learned in Sunday school,) and he and Mary joined the caravan on the journey. I’ve no doubt Joseph packed water and snacks, along with blankets and bags of clothes. He prepared for the long trip, but he didn’t stop there. His most important preparation wasn’t food or clothes, instead he took the time to prepare his heart.

Joseph had accepted his role in the coming of King Jesus. With willingness, Joseph humbled his heart and opened his mind to the changes coming to his family. He looked to God with a servant’s heart and accepted the part God asked him to take on. He chose to love the One who would change the world, even as he raised Jesus as his son.

Joseph’s willingness to accept his circumstances kind of blows my mind. His faith was extraordinary. His actions push me to prepare for Christmas, not in gift giving and cooking, but more importantly, to prepare my heart to worship the King.

Christmas is about Jesus. He’s the reason we celebrate. With humility, I ask God to open my eyes and heart in service to Him.

Prepare your heart to worship God and serve Him in this holy season.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Never Say Never by Patti Shene Gonzales

Today, I'm hosting Patti Shene Gonzales. Patti is an amazing encourager who has written her first Christmas novella. She shares a bit about herself, her journey, and her story, Cathy’s Christmas Confession: A Christmas Ridge Romance Book 3.

I have wanted to be a writer since childhood. However, a career, a family, and other priorities always seemed to get in the way.

The biggest stumbling block to my writing career came from my own weakness, my procrastination. As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW.com) and an attendee at several writers conferences, I have encountered agents and editors interested in my work over many years. However, in my opinion, my manuscripts always needed improvement before submission, and therefore were never really 'finished'.

There were things I said I would never do if I did pursue a writing career. Number one, the last story I would have any interest in writing would be a Christmas story. It’s not that I have anything against Christmas. It is the most joyful and meaningful time of year. I just could not see myself coming up with the type of amazing Christmas stories that I have seen others write.

Second, I was never going to self-publish a book. I wanted my work to be accepted by a royalty paying publisher who, by contracting it, would validate that what I had written was worth publishing.

Sometimes God has other plans. He has an amazing way of changing the minds of even the most stubborn.

A few months ago, a friend invited me to participate with four other writers in a multi author series. This happened to be a Christmas series. She assured me that, having written Gunsmoke fanfiction in the past, this would be easy for me, since the setting and some of the characters were already established.

The project sounded intriguing, so I decided to accept the challenge. I encountered many obstacles along the way as I prepared this manuscript, mainly, as mentioned before, my almost pathological propensity to procrastinate.

I spent way too much time tossing ideas around in my head without writing them down. Suddenly, my deadline date loomed a mere few weeks away. Several nights found me up until 4 a.m., struggling to put the words together that would make a readable story. Sometimes, I went to the Lord in tears, wondering if this was a project I should pursue. The ideas just didn’t seem to be coming.

The more I wrote scenes and deleted them, changed the names of my characters, and tried to create conflict and resolution, the easier it became. I thank God for that. He has a way of putting ideas into a writer's head that can be transposed onto paper or a computer screen to convey a message.

I had promised myself that I would never publish a book that had not been edited by someone other than myself, I sent the manuscript to a friend who edits in an unusual manner. She is blind, so using a reading program, she picks up things the average person doesn’t, such as a missing open quotation mark, a missing period at the end of a sentence, a commonly misspelled word.

Next, I sent the manuscript to two friends who served as beta readers. These were authors I could trust to tell me if the manuscript had merit or did not deserve to see the light of day.

I then tackled the hurdle of learning how to self-publish the book through Amazon. That took a bit of time, but once I got the knack of the program, it wasn’t that hard. I spent several hours at my friend's home as she showed me how to upload the book to Amazon.

So, this aspiring writer who claimed she would never self-publish a book, especially a Christmas story, is excited to announce the publication of her first novella, Cathy’s Christmas Confession: A Christmas Ridge Romance Book 3. The book released on November 22, 2022 at this link (https://tinyurl.com/mr26ekaj) on Kindle. Hopefully, a print copy will follow.

If you choose to read Cathy's Christmas Confession, out of the many hundreds of Christmas stories that will be published this year, I will be truly honored. My prayer is that the story will glorify my Heavenly Father and bless you as the reader.

Blurb for Cathy's Christmas Confession

Christmas is not a time of joy for the hurting.

During a snowstorm, widow Cathy Fischer creams a stop sign on her way to work at the Christmas Ridge Community Church. Acquaintance David Martin stops to help. Cathy sees signs of deep grief in David, a recent widower. She reaches out with support in an attempt to help David through this most difficult first Christmas without his beloved wife.

David Martin struggles with grief over the death of his wife. He blames God for her rapid demise after her cancer diagnosis. Cathy reaches out to him with compassion and support and soon enlists him in her mission to bring joy to others at Christmas. Will their joint quest restore David’s faith?

David needs to turn loose of the past and embrace his future. Cathy has a confession to make to the entire community that may give David a different perspective of who she really is. Will her confession set her free?

Does God have plans in mind for the two of them they did not anticipate?

Check out our Amazon Christmas Ridge Romance page (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BLCJ9P9J) to learn about other books in the series and receive updates!


BIO:
Patti Shene Gonzales hosts Step Into the Light, a weekly interview style podcast, where guests share their journey out of darkness or ways they lead others back to light. She hosts writers on her two blogs, Patti’s Porch and The Over 50 Writer. Patti is published in two anthologies and local publications and has three novels in progress. She enjoys writing, reading, critiquing, and spending time with family and friends. Patti lives in Colorado with her devoted feline companion, Duncan. Cathy’s Christmas Confession is her first novella.

Visit Patti at her website www.pattishene.com

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pattishene/

Twitter https://twitter.com/PattiShene

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Tuck Hope in Your Heart

 Luke 2:19

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

So many memories flood my heart at Christmas.

I confess. I put my Christmas tree up the day before Thanksgiving, this year. We were going to my sister’s house for the holiday, so no one would be visiting us. After I had prepared the food I was taking, I had time to set up the tree. As I fluffed the silver branches, I remembered when Tim brought home this beauty. He knew I wanted a silver one and went on the hunt for it.  The tree has been with us for ten-plus years.

Each year as I adorn it with ornaments, the memories I’ve stored in my heart come to life. As the wrapping comes off of each bauble, I remember the person or occasion associated with the decoration. The first felt ornament I made, in sixth grade art class, still hangs on my tree. Along with our Christmas tree, decorations from my childhood adorn our home. With each one the thought of Christmases past tugs at my heart.

Imagine a young woman who an angel declared pregnant by God, traveling to another town at nine months pregnant, and giving birth to the King of Kings in a stable. Instead of being terrified or embarrassed, she treasured and embraced her experience. As a mom and a person who cherishes sweet memories, I love reading that Mary treasured and pondered what happened in her heart.

I’m sure those memories helped carry her through the death and resurrection of her Son.

Even as I contemplate the memories attached to my tree, I cherish the nativity ornaments that tell the story of the Savior come to earth as a babe.

Jesus brought hope to a dark world. Even as we navigate the chaos, hold on to the hope and tuck it into your heart.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Heavenly Delight

Matthew 2:10
When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 

Jesus gives the true joy of the season.

In the book, Blessed are the Misfits, Brant Hansen, Star 93.3 radio DJ, poses the question, "Can a person have depression and joy at the same time?" That got me to thinking, can we invite joy into our hearts during the holidays, regardless of our circumstances or our feelings? Can I be joyful during the holidays even when...

I'm a single parent and, by America's standards, I can't buy what my children want...

I've lost a loved one who won't be there to wish a Merry Christmas...

I'm a high school student who has no close friends...

I'm a college student struggling to balance work and school...

I'm a parent rushing from activity to activity just trying to get it all done...

I’m single and all my friends are in couples...

I'm a soldier, out of the country, with no hope of being home for the holidays...

I’m sick and not sure I can celebrate...

I'm just overwhelmed with all the preparation of Christmas...

I haven't experienced all of these scenarios, but I've had my share of struggles
during the holidays. Circumstances that could have stolen every speck of joy from my heart. Yet, God shined on me through His people and His word. I found if I could hold on to one little twinkle of joy in my heart, the fire would burn and spark delight in my soul. 

Joy filled the wise men's hearts when they saw the star and realized Jesus was nearby. He is for us, too. Jesus is here with the joy we desire. Not happiness that's fleeting, but joy that underlies all circumstances. Even when everything seems difficult, frustrating, or hopeless Jesus' joy is like a buoy that helps me through the tough times. I think of it as heavenly delight that fills my soul.

I pray this Christmas you’ll seek hope in Jesus and discover His spark of amazing joy.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Meet JPC Allen, Author of A Shadow on the Snow

Meet teen detective Rae Riley in her first mystery "A Rose from the Ashes" 
collected in Christmas Fiction off the Beaten Path. Then follow her to her next adventure A Shadow in the Snow by author JPC Allen.


Enjoy an excerpt from A Rose from Ashes:

        Glancing left and right, I crunched across the frozen weeds to the abandoned children’s home. I could not afford to be spotted now. If only I could take a few seconds and snap some pictures. The light from the early December sunset was perfect. Gashes of blood-red light seeped through the clotted clouds, creating an ominous background for the gray stone building that was rumored to be the scene of a murder.

        At the back wall of the home, I slung the strap for my camera across my chest and climbed through an opening that once held a window. I dropped to the bare ground, my long, dark gold braid catching on a loose nail in the sill. I disentangled myself and crossed the dirt floor. The fire had burned the wooden floor away. And the roof and the whole interior. The four stone walls loomed above me like a medieval fortress as the sunset’s rays spotlighted sections of the garbage-strewn floor.

        I knelt by a large fireplace, straining to detect any sound of psychics, ghost hunters, or thrill-seeking high school kids who had come to catch sight of the ghost of Bella Rydell.

        Nothing but a few caws from crows and sighs as gusts of wind sailed through the empty window frames.

        A lonely place. Very lonely, stuck on twenty acres of unused county land.

        Shaking off a shiver, I unzipped my down vest and removed the two roses. I laid them on the rusty iron grate of the fireplace.

        These would start everyone in the county talking again.

        I retraced my path to the window opening, hoisted myself onto the sill, then sat suspended, my right leg swaying.

What was that?

        Scrutinizing the naked trees, black against the dimming sun, I held my breath.

        Wind. Just wind, rattling the dried-up weeds. No people.

        Exhaling, I landed on the brittle grass and ran into the woods. As I approached my battered, black truck, I took a few pictures. If someone spotted me, I could say, with halfway honesty, I was out here capturing the sunset.

An hour later, in my one-room apartment over Mrs. Blaney’s garage, I warmed my hands around a mug of tea and stared at three wrinkled envelopes.

        Jason Carlisle. Walter R. Malinowski IV. Terence O’Neil.

        Those names on the envelopes were burned into my brain.

        I set down my mug, picked up my phone, and scrolled through photos until I found my favorite. My mom and I stood on a beach in North Carolina. She was in front since she didn’t even come to my shoulder. Her brown hair had grown back long enough to mousse and brush back, and her cheeks had filled out so the bones didn’t look razor sharp. I touched her beaming smile.

        Mom, I will do what you want. I promised. But I’ve got to do it my own way.

        Since I’d placed the first pair of roses in the grate on Halloween night, I’d gotten to know the men attached to the names a little better.

        But I still didn’t know which one was my father.

        Or which one tried to murder my mother twenty years ago.

        Or if my father and her attacker were one and the same.

Purchase link: Christmas Fiction off the Beaten Path


Chapter 1

I’M NOT FOOLED, RAE. YOU’RE JUST LIKE YOUR MOTHER.

I stared at the sheet of copier paper in my hand as the note fluttered in a gust of January wind.

Really? It had only taken three weeks for someone to hate me and my mom enough to leave an anonymous insult?

Turning over the envelope, I saw my address was written in the same marker, same all-caps style. It was postmarked. I must have missed it when I grabbed my mail last night.

Shivering on the miniscule landing to my apartment, I blew out a sigh, which formed a little cloud in the freezing air. At least the idiot hadn’t crept up to my mailbox in the dead of night. I shivered again, and it wasn’t from another gust.

People could hold a grudge in Marlin County, Ohio. I’d learned that in the last three weeks since I discovered Mal was my dad and announced Bella Rydell was my mother. The strained smiles, cold stares, conversations that didn’t get much past “hello” and “I’m fine.” Mom had made a lot of enemies, but that was twenty years ago. I’d told everyone who asked the story of how she’d been saved and changed her life. Well, most of it.

I shoved the piece of paper back in the envelope, tossed it inside my apartment, and locked the door behind me.

Holding my tripod and a roll of leftover bulletin board paper in one hand, I clutched the strap of my backpack with the other and climbed down the icy steps to the pad in front of the garage. Picking my way across Mrs. Blaney’s snow-covered lawn, I pulled the keys to my ancient truck from the pocket of my down vest. The Rust Bucket sat by the curb, draped in a thin layer of snow that couldn’t disguise its demolition derby appearance.

After ten cranks of the key, the engine caught. I grabbed the gear shift, and it didn’t move. Not a millimeter. I hit the steering wheel. Not this morning. Why this morning?

I fished my phone out of the other vest pocket and checked the time. If I walked fast and ran where it was safe on the slick pavement, I’d still make it to the library on time. Although Mal had shown me how, I still couldn’t unjam the gears without someone helping.

Grabbing my backpack, and leaving the paper and tripod behind, I slammed out of the truck. Some snow fell off. I wouldn’t have been surprised if both bumpers had too.

Avoiding the slick sidewalk, I ran along the edges of the yards, heading

uphill to Main Street. In Marlin County, if you weren’t going uphill, you were going downhill, sort of a scaled down version of the West Virginia county Mom and I had lived in when I was in middle school.

The sun shone ice white in a clear sky so blue it looked like an illustration in a hyper-cheerful picture book. But despite the sun’s dazzling appearance, not an ounce of warmth made it to the hilly streets. I pulled my scarf over my mouth and nose and held my arms tight against my sides. Maybe I should have taken Mal up on his offer to buy me a proper winter coat.

I zipped my vest to my chin. I hadn’t spent the past seven months figuring out who my father was and if he had tried to murder my mom when she was pregnant with me so I could live off of him. I was nineteen. I’d been on my own pretty much since Mom’s last round with cancer. If I froze to the bone because my jean jacket and vest only kept me warm above fifty degrees, fine with me. Nobody in Marlin County was going to accuse me of being a manipulator. That’s what a lot of people thought the daughter of Bella Rydell would be like.

Whoever sent the note thought manipulation was an inherited trait.

My left boot hit a slippery spot. I flung out my arms, steadying myself. With my camera only wrapped in a towel in my backpack, I didn’t want to fall. Avoiding broken bones was a good idea too.

At the top of the hill, I passed the sandstone courthouse, decorated in icicles like a giant wedding cake, glittering in the piercing sunlight. No time for a photo shoot, although if I could capture the way the icicles glistened, it could look like an ice castle in a fairy tale without any filters or photo editing.

I crossed Main Street, striped with white streaks of salt, followed Woodward Avenue down along the side of the library, and turned into the parking lot.

Jill Cerda, second-in-command and my boss when the library director wasn’t working, tromped over to the employees’ entrance through piles of snow, her unzipped coat flapping in the wind, her fine, graying hair dancing around her face. The cold must not have bothered her. She had plenty of insulation—at least 200 pounds packed onto a body that was a lot shorter than my five-eleven.

I assembled my professional smile, friendly but not too familiar. “Morning.”

The slight tilt of her head might have been a nod back. Jill punched in the code on the security keypad and sauntered inside. I hurried in as fast as I could without running her over. Lowering my scarf, I drew in a deep breath of unfrozen air, and my lungs appreciated it.

Jill glanced at her phone. “Leandra is late.”

“She’s not working today, ma’am. Leandra and Devon switched morning shifts, and Devon won’t get here until after her girls head to school.”

“I wasn’t informed of the switch.” Jill made a scolding noise with her tongue. “Did they clear it with Barb?”

“I’m sure they did, ma’am.” I took off my hat and fluffed my tangle of dark gold hair.

“That means you’re opening alone.” Jill aimed a finger at me. “You can’t goof off. Keep your mind on your work.”

A protest came to my lips, but I clamped them shut. Better to say nothing and get away from her.

In silence, we walked down the hall to the employees’ kitchen, flipping on lights along the way. Three weeks ago, she wouldn’t have spoken to me like that. Since she’d found out who my mom was, she hadn’t had a nice word for me.

I hung up my coat on a rack, changed from boots to loafers, and put my lunch in the fridge. From my backpack, I took out two books on photography I had to return. I placed my backpack inside an empty cupboard. Leaving it by the coat rack seemed a certain way to get my camera broken.

When I entered the two-story lobby, the brilliant sunshine pouring through the tall, narrow windows that faced Main Street almost made the overhead lighting unnecessary. The harsh ceiling fixtures lit the room in a consistent, ugly glare, killing the homey atmosphere the fireplace, overstuffed chairs, and couch gave to the stacks and racks of books, magazines, and newspapers. But I switched them on as part of opening procedures and smiled when they made almost no difference.

Behind the checkout desk, I turned on the computers and pushed the bin with items patrons had dropped off overnight from the slot in the front wall. As I bent over, my hair tried to blind me, and I lifted it up and back. So, it was going to be one of those days when my hair was out to get me. Unless I braided it or secured it somehow, I could never be sure it wouldn’t turn on me.

I lifted a mass of books and DVDs from the bin. Could Jill have sent the anonymous note? It didn’t seem like something a person in her fifties would do. She would have been in her thirties when Mom lived here and preyed on any guy with a decent bank account. Had Mom had an affair with Jill’s husband? But the unsigned note indicated someone afraid of revealing his or her true feelings. Jill had no problem showing me how much she disliked me.

I had almost finished scanning in the materials when Devon Majors and her two daughters, bundled to their eyes, rushed past the windows. I got the keys from the drawer, went to the inner doors, unlocked them, crossed the tiny room with the mat —what was the special name for this little room?—and opened the outer doors.

Devon waved to Liberty and Serenity as they trudged down Main Street. She ducked inside and tugged off her knit hat. The sides of her long, dark brown hair were pulled back in a series of braids, revealing the studs that lined the edges of her ears and a glimpse of the vivid feathered serpent tattooed on the back of her neck, while the rest of her hair poured over her shoulders like molasses.

“Rae.” Jill’s heavy voice dropped from the balcony overlooking the lobby. “Have you pulled the items for the hold shelf?”

“Just about to print the list.” I hurried behind the desk.

“You haven’t even printed it?” Jill sounded outraged, like I’d let the toddlers in Storytime make a collage with broken glass.

“Rae’s working alone this morning.” Devon looked up to Jill, shrugging out her red parka. “I just got here.”

“I know that.” She planted meaty hands on the black metal railing. “I’m not sure the library can afford to have you come in after your daughters go to school, Devon. Perhaps you’ll have to stick to the regular schedule like the rest of us.”

A fire leaped into Devon’s forest green eyes. She might have been more than half a foot shorter than I was, but she never looked small, especially when she was mad.

She glared up at Jill. “Don’t you think—”

“Here’s the list.” I waved the sheets. “We’ll get the items pulled and set aside in no time, ma’am.”

“You’d better.” Jill disappeared into the shelves of nonfiction adult books, the floorboards creaking under her footsteps.

Devon tossed a braid behind her shoulder. “I owe you. I was about to tell Jill what I thought of her, and I can’t afford to lose my job.”

One of the million things I liked about Devon was that she didn’t filter her words or her feelings. I also liked that although she was thirty- two, she treated me like a friend, not a kid. The only real friend I’d made in the county before I discovered who my father was and that I had about 6,000 relatives.

“I can’t afford for you to lose your job either.” I handed her half of the list. “You’re one of the few people around here who doesn’t care that I’m the daughter of Bella Rydell.”

“Don’t let Jill, or anybody else, get you down.” She glanced at the sheets. “Everyone will get used to the truth about you, and most of them won’t care. But that’s one of the problems of living in a small town or a rural county like Marlin. There’s not a lot of new blood moving in. It gives people time to hold on to old wrongs.”

 “Mom and I usually lived in small towns. It was cheaper and safer than the city. But it was hard getting accepted.”

“Wellesville is better than most in that area. I wasn’t sure how people would react to two little girls who were half Native American in a county that’s ninety percent white. When Shayne and I were traveling around the country, we never knew when someone would take offense to his non- white bread looks. But, except for a few losers, no one has made any nasty comments. The kids at school think it’s cool.”

Devon stepped closer and added, “Give it time, Rae. It’ll get better.”

I rolled the hem of my sweater. “I don’t like how people treat Mal because of me. Even people at church. I don’t want to cause him trouble.” “Your dad knew what a storm he’d stir up if he acknowledged you. He’s an adult. He can take it.”

I hoped she was right. I prayed she was right. Since early Christmas morning,

when Mal and I figured out he was the only one who could be my dad out of the three men my mother had told me were possible candidates, getting to know him and his family had gone better than anything I had imagined.

My stomach tensing, I swallowed hard.

I didn’t want to mess things up now.

Purchase Link: A Shadow on the Snow 



Monday, November 28, 2022

A Christmas Blessing: A Tranquil Shores Novella (A Tranquil Shores Romance) by Judith McNees

I'm excited to share a new to me author. 
Judith McNees says her novella A Christmas Blessing 
is "a sweet romance with a Hallmark vibe." 

A Christmas Blessing can be read as a standalone, 
but it is the first in the Tranquil Shores Novella series.


 
For a taste of the first chapter and to purchase, go to: 

 A Christmas Blessing and click "Look Inside."

My review:
I enjoyed this quick read. McNees writes a romance filled with hope that’s perfect to set you in the holiday mood. Parker has social anxiety, something many of us deal with, while Lauren is a social butterfly, with her eyes on the wrong guys, until her friends dive in to help her out. McNees weaves the holiday spirit with faith and hope to create a delightful Christmas story. I purchased my copy. Opinions are my own.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Love Has Come

Romans 12: 9-10
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

The holidays bring out the best in us and sometimes the not so good. As I say good-bye to another Thanksgiving and hello to Christmas, I aspire to focus on the fruit I'm to produce as a follower of Jesus. In Galatians 5, Paul shares the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit Jesus followers strive to produce.

I love the spirit of Christmas. The happiness that seems to float in the air. The holidays are certainly a time of love. A time to honor family and friends. And a time to offer love to the people we don't know by giving.  God calls us to love, not just those who are easy to love, but all people.

When I’m out and about, shopping, at the post office, at church, or with my family, I long to put my best foot forward and be an encourager to those who are stressed. This is a time when believers can show God’s love, be a light, and shine for Jesus.

Jesus tells his disciples, in John 13, to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” He knew that when He went to heaven He needed to leave his disciples with a direct command. Those words are for us, too. Jesus wants us to love each other and to show that love by listening, showing compassion, meeting needs and sharing Jesus. Loving others is not always easy, but God gives us the tools we need and if we tap into his tool box, the Bible, we find love enough to share.

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Christmas Book Review: O Little Town by Deborah Raney, Janyre Tromp, and Amanda Wen



What it’s About:
Stories of small-town Christmas and the enduring love of God from three critically acclaimed authors

In the sleepy small town of Mapleview, Michigan, Christmas is always something special. In this charming collection of romance novellas, join three generations of Mapleview residents longing for love--and finding it--on the most wonderful night of the year.

"Hopes and Fears" by Amanda Wen

Emma Trowbridge is determined to give her students the Christmas pageant of a lifetime. The last person she expected, or wanted, to encounter in her two-room classroom is her childhood rival, Frederick Oberstein. He would rather be far away himself. He wants no part of cheer, Christmas or otherwise. Can they learn to see each other in a new light--and embrace a new season of hope and faith together?

"While Mortals Sleep" by Janyre Tromp

While World War II rages overseas, news reporter Eleanor Sweers returns home to Mapleview to face the repercussions of the death of her sister and her nightmare of Christmases past. But the homefront isn't as far from the war as she thought: a bomb has landed in the middle of the U.S. Now Eleanor and family friend Gideon Braum may have to choose between the scoop of a lifetime and the love of a lifetime.

"The Wondrous Gift" by Deborah Raney

High school football coach Caleb Janssen and music teacher Rachel Hamblin bond when they both lose their jobs at a Christian school. But when they discover their plans for the future are mutually exclusive, the fallout threatens to tear them apart.

My Thoughts:
I enjoyed reading this collection of holiday themed stories. Set in the town of Mapleview, Michigan, three authors create stories from different generations of towns folk. Amanda Wen’s story, set in the early days of the town’s settlement, is a sweet tale of love and forgiveness. Janyre Tromp’s story, set during WW 2 involves intrigue and the most lovable male character, Gideon. Deborah Raney captures modern day Mapleview in her romance of two teachers. I like that the schoolhouse from Wen’s story appears in Raney’s. Each story is unique and thoroughly enjoyable. From historical fiction, to mystery, to contemporary these authors have delivered three engaging and wonderful stories. Add this to your Christmas to be read pile. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Look to Jesus

Proverbs 15:30
Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.

I tucked Christmas away.

Every year, our home is donned with Christmas displays, trees, and memories. I usually pull out all the treasured ornaments and d├ęcor around Thanksgiving. By early January, I'm ready to take down the beauty of the season and store it away for another year. Wednesday morning, the 4th day of January, I unhooked the ornaments from the tree, wrapped them, and placed them in the Christmas tote. Once the baubles were packed away, I unwound the purple beaded garland, then pulled the plug on the lights, the last remnant of the holiday. When the colorful bulbs turned off, I felt a little tug of sadness. Those little twinklers brought me joy.

When they glowed in various colors, they reminded me of why I celebrate His birth
Shades of pinkHe came as a sweet babe
GreenHe's everlasting
YellowHe's the light of the world
RedHis blood shed on the cross
Blue—everlasting life in heaven

Proverbs 15:30 reminds me to put my sadness away and remember the true light. Jesus came to earth to bring hope. His good news offers peace. When my heart is at peace, the rest of my body feels better.

As Christmas is put away and the new year begins, I choose to look to Jesus as the source of my joy and peace. He loves me more than I understand. I'm a broken human being filled with hope because the King of Kings who came as the only perfect person, loved me enough to die a harsh death on the cross, then gloriously rise to life.

Jesus is grace. He forgives and loves like no other.

Begin this new year looking to Jesus.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Her Firstborn Son

Luke 2:6-7
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

When a baby is placed in my arms; I feel giddy. 

Twelve years ago, on December 22, Sara gave birth to our grandson, Elijah Duncan. He spent his first Christmas in the hospital with his mom and dad. When we stopped by on the twenty-fifth to celebrate the holiday, we found him swaddled in his baby blanket and cuddled in his mother's arms. I couldn't wait to get my hands on him.

What a blessing that Christmas was.

Imagine the wonder Mary felt when she held baby Jesus. As a mother, I know what incredible joy a new baby brings. Consider thisthe baby Mary held grew to be the man who became King of Kings, the One who sacrificed His perfect life to forgive sin. Because of Jesus I have the hope of heaven. All He asked of me was to believe, have faith, repent, be baptized, and obey.

Every day I seek Him and ask Him for guidance. The Holy Spirit gives me wisdom and clarity, but my part is seeking, listening, and obeying. I love Jesus and thank Him for forgiving my sins and loving me so much.

As we celebrate this beautiful season of love and giving, focus on the One whose life started as a babe in a manger and grew to be the man who would give his life for us all. The words, "Jesus loves me this I know," come to mind when I think about Jesus. He loves us and wants us to love Him and believe in Him.

Believe, this Christmas, in Jesus.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Your Gifts

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas 
and the gifts of God's blessings.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus
and enjoy fellowship with friends and family,
I pray we are all blessed with peace, hope, love, and faith.

For everyone missing someone, I pray you'll be wrapped 
in memories that bring comfort.

For anyone struggling, I ask God to pour His peace over you.

May we all celebrate Jesus birth with wonder and joy!


 

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Joy Replaced Fear

Luke 2:9-10
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people."

I remember sitting in a classroom in the junior high building, my heart pounding with fear.

I'd been absent the day my class took the standard exam, so the teacher sent me to the big study hall, which seemed miles away from my classroom. There I sat, a painfully shy, elementary student, surrounded by teenagers. The teacher stood what seemed like seven feet tall, while the paper and pencil on my desk taunted me. As I started to darken circles on the multiple-choice questions, tears stung my eyes. The teacher, in all of his wisdom, must have noticed my discomfort. He leaned over and assured me everything would be okay. And it was. I don't recall the results of the test, but I took it and evidently passed whatever hurdle I needed to.

My teacher wasn't an angel, at least not that I know of, yet he calmed my fear and gave me courage to finish my task.

When the angel appeared to the shepherds in the field near Bethlehem, the fear must have overwhelmed them. The night was most likely quiet, a few sheep baaing, maybe a breeze, and a snore here or there from dozing shepherds. Then the sky lit up with God's glory and surrounded the mighty messenger. Bless those shepherds' hearts, as they trembled in fear, and the angel consoled them with encouragement and spoke of the most wonderful news.

No doubt the shepherds had heard of the long-expected Messiah, but they never dreamed they'd be alerted to his birth in such an awesome way. With courage and encouragement from the angel, the shepherds listened and followed his directions. And lo and behold they witnessed baby Jesus in his mother's arms.

At the sight of the Lord, pure joy replaced any fear.

This season seek Jesus with the courage of the shepherds and experience true joy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The Best Gift

It's that simple.

Come let us adore, cherish, love, worship Him!

As I celebrate Christmas, I think about the best gift to give Jesus.

On my knees, hands lifted, I offer Him my heart.

What will you give Jesus?


 

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Celebrate with Joy!

Something inside of me sparks when I near the Christmas season. 
I so wish every one could experience the holiday the way I do.

The joy that bubbles over comes from the beautiful baby born in a manger,
 so many years ago.

I love celebrating the One who came to earth to offer grace. 
His grace has saved my life.

Celebrate Jesus Joy!


 

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Faith Before Fear

Luke 1:35-38
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

I love holding and rocking babies.

In 2009, we were thrilled to find out we'd have three grandbabies born. Max arrived in October, Eli in time for Christmas, and Zeke the following January. Our hearts overflowed with joy as we met each of these baby boys. As a grandma, I fell in love with them, just as I had my own babies. The boys have or will soon turn twelve, and they are lights in our lives. All so different from one another, yet so precious.

The mamas got to share in the joy and challenges of carrying a child, at the same time. Sisters, Sara and Maggie, expected Eli and Zeke with only five weeks separating their birth. What an exciting time for this grandma.

Cousins, Elizabeth and Mary, shared the experience of pregnancy and childbirth. Wow were their circumstances exceptional. Elizabeth was considered old, yet God blessed her with a child. Mary was a young virgin, yet God gave her a baby. Their stories are unusual and perhaps hard to believe. Yet the writers of the Bible tell the stories with clarity, truth, and hope.

I love Mary's humility as she accepts the angel's pronouncement. "For no word from God will ever fail." Her response says it all, "I am the Lord's servant." Mary believed. She trusted God and put her faith in front of her fear because she knew God never fails.

Can you imagine being in Mary's circumstance? Would people ridicule her? Would they punish her? She had more at stake than we might today. The Jewish laws were strict, and she could be severely punished for being unwed and pregnant. But she put her faith before her fear and trusted God with her life.

Elizabeth was old and her husband made mute before John the Baptist was born. Did Elizabeth hide with embarrassment or did she trust? She believed God blessed her, and she jumped with joy. She too put faith before fear.

This Christmas as we celebrate Jesus, put faith before fear and share about the babe who grew to be a man. Not just any man, but Jesus the Savior of this broken world.

Have the hard conversations and talk about the hope we have in Jesus.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Shine Brightly

In the book of Matthew, Jesus teaches about being a light to the world.
"...let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds
 and glorify your Father in heaven."

Our acts of kindness, generosity, and love should shine the light on Jesus 
and spill over on others--
so the glory of God will illuminate the world.

As we prepare to celebrate Jesus' birth, shine a light that draws others to Him through kindness, love, giving, and caring.


 

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Roll into Christmas

Psalm 100
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
   come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
   It is he who made us, and we are his;
   we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
   and his courts with praise;
   give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
   his faithfulness continues through all generations.

We've celebrated Thanksgiving, and Christmas is coming.

Another holiday season has rolled around. Thanksgiving Day we were blessed to spend time with some of our family, something we didn't get to do last year. Nieces and nephews have grown by leaps and bounds, as have our grandchildren. As usual on this holiday, too much food went into my mouth, but my goodness it was yummy.

As I looked around the room and visited with folks, I thanked God for the opportunity to spend time together. Something I'd taken for granted before the pandemic. I also loved meeting my niece's puppies and seeing my mom cuddle with one. The day satisfied in so many ways.

I know the holidays, along with joy, can bring stress and busyness.

As I prepare my heart for the Christmas season, I want nothing more than to focus on the reason we celebrate. Yes, I love the decorations, the music, the movies, and the food, but more than anything, I love Jesus and the reason He came.

Jesus fulfilled the prophets' words in the Old Testament by being born of a virgin, in a manger. That sweet babe grew into the man who gave His life for our freedom from sin. He's the reason we celebrate.

As you decorate the tree, thank God for the beauty He createdas you sing a carol, praise the Lord for his love and mercyas you shop for gifts, pray for the recipient and every day, recognize the grace we have because of Jesus. Let's roll from the Thanksgiving season into Christmas with a grateful heart.