Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

The other night I lay awake thinking of all the things I had to do before Christmas. The worrying didn’t help, but I did it anyway.

You may be one of the many even-tempered, well-organized folks who complete their Christmas shopping in August, who decorate their homes with homemade ornaments in November, who bake and cook until every available space in freezer and cabinet is full of delectable goodies from Pinterest. Who never find themselves backed into a corner created by their own neglected duties. You may well be one of those.

On the other hand, you may be one of “the others,” people like me who never seem to get everything done, who forget to send birthday cards until the day before (why do people insist on having birthdays in December?), who make a hasty stop at the grocery store to buy mass-produced cookies, who mutter as they try to dress the house for Christmas. People like me who feel frustrated every December with all that waits to be done to comply with the status quo.file3341326331749

As I lay awake the other night, I thought of another individual who also must have lain awake those weeks before Christmas. She was very young, in the midst of an engagement grown difficult because of her unexplained pregnancy. Her family and friends, if there were any friends left, regarded her with accusatory glances. Her betrothed tried to understand, tried to walk in faith. And then, a final inconceivable obstacle: an unexpected journey. In those last weeks when she was tired and felt like a plodding camel, she and her fiancé had to travel a great distance to comply with the orders of the Department of Family Status to confirm their pedigrees. Add to this the fact that they were poor. No money for a wagon or even a cart. Just a bony donkey. No reservations to confirm a room at the end of the journey.file000450585184


Yet this young woman endured all this because she believed it to be God’s will. She still suffered swollen ankles, possibly dread of what lay ahead, a hard labor in the corner of a warm but smelly barn with only her fiancé as midwife, and unanswered questions about her future. But God was there. In the midst of the chaos, squalor, pain and fear, He entrusted His only Son to that young, very possibly worried young woman we know as Mary.

That first Christmas did not follow the expected script, but it was the perfect one. Which helps me to understand several things:

  1. We can’t expect our lives to follow our preconceived plans
  2. God often surprises but never forsakes
  3. Often the things we think are so important…are not

I pray that as we prepare for this Christmas season, we will concentrate on people and God’s gift to us. Let’s not let those niggling duties interfere with the greatest gift ever given to our world:  Jesus.

God bless, and have a very Merry Christmas!




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The new year is here, and with memories of wonderful Christmas celebrations with friends and family, I’m ready to move forward.

I hope you enjoyed your Christmas as much as I did. Our house was bursting with family including ten grandchildren ranging in age from four months to eleven years. And they all needed to be fed several times a day.

At the suggestion of our kids, we packed up and traveled to a small city about forty-five minutes away and booked into a hotel with a swimming pool and waterslide. I could summarize our two-day stay with the words “a fine time was had by all,” but that wouldn’t fully express the fun of watching the kids and grandkids throwing themselves repeatedly down the slide and into the water. Nor would it convey the noise level.


The four and five-year olds wore water wings or life vests, so they quickly gained confidence in their abilities and jumped in with wild abandon. Then Jordy decided to take off his life vest. He danced down the steps into the shallow end until he was completely submerged. It didn’t faze him and there were adults within arm’s reach, but the experience reminded him that he would sink without his flotation device.

I thought of how often the Lord has rescued/comforted/guided/corrected me in the past year and how I sometimes thought I’d done it myself. As I step into the year ahead, I want to remember to rely on Him to keep me afloat.

Wishing you all “God-confidence” in 2014.

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I recently received a phone call from one of my grandkids, four-year old Jordy. He schmoozed a bit first because that’s what he does, then said something garbled about Christmas, followed by, “This…and this…and this…and this…”

“Jordy,” I interrupted, “do you have a list there?”


“Have you been looking at the catalogue?”


“Are these all things you want for Christmas?”

“Yes,” followed by a cheery goodbye. Mission accomplished.

Is that how my prayers sound to God? Do I schmooze my way into His presence with the prescribed praise, confession, thanksgiving, then get to the good stuff: my list of wants? Some of them are legit, some are just plain selfish. Sometimes I’m ashamed of how childishly I approach the Holy God.

But wait. Jordy’s chitchat didn’t bug me; I was more than pleased to hear from him. Sure, he was thinking of himself, but he also thought about me and took time to call—I know how he is. I loved piecing together the puzzle of his thoughts and deciphering his words. I guessed at what “this” and “this” might be. He made me smile and my love for him grew, as it does every time I see or hear from him.

I have a heavenly Father who adores me. He calls me the apple of his eye. Every moment of every day His thoughts are with me. When I rattle off my list of wants, He stoops to listen, and I like to think He smiles when He hears my voice. He knows how I am, yet His love for me is greater than I can dream or imagine. He tells me to approach Him with confidence and I am safe in His love.

This Christmas season I sense that Jesus is taking time to teach me—through the words of a child—how to love Him better. I trust His love and acceptance of me as much as Jordy trusts that I’ll open my arms to him when he comes for Christmas. And yes, there will be presents.



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I have a dear friend who publishes a column every Monday. The contents are as varied as life circumstances, and these posts always bless me. Since this one follows a Christmas theme, I asked Linda’s permission to repost it on my blog. Photo - Press

First, let me tell you a little about Linda. She is a published author, columnist, motivational speaker and workshop presenter. She has earned her bread and butter for many years as a professional business writer and has gained much wisdom regarding business management and professional editing skills. I’m primarily a reader of fiction, but I offered to read and review her non-fiction book 3D Success – Changing Careers in Mid-Life, and was greatly inspired and motivated by this excellent book. Please check it out after you’ve read Linda’s column. Also, note her contact info at the bottom of the page.3D Success


by Linda Wegner

As reported in the first edition of Christ’s News [1] publication, Jesus, son of Mary and step-son of Nazareth-based carpenter Joseph, began receiving unusual gifts just weeks after He was born. At that time Eastern Magi brought symbolic offerings of frankincense, myrrh and gold to Bethlehem were He was born. Now approximately thirty years later, another outstanding example of the generosity of His followers has been reported.

According to reporters covering the story, an estimated five thousand people gathered on a local hillside to hear this One who called Himself the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. That’s when a young boy was seen handing his lunch bag to Christ’s followers.

In what proved to be an extraordinarily attentive audience, attendees sat and listened for hours; some reports said it was only the physical need for food that interrupted their concentration. Apparently as conscious of their bodily requirements as their spiritual longings, this One called Jesus instructed his key disciples to provide food for the crowd.

Upon informing Him that there were insufficient funds to carry out that task, they continued to protest. “Even if we worked for months we’d never be able to earn enough to feed this crowd!

That’s where the commendable generosity of that unidentified young boy comes in. Although members of the Teacher’s administrative assistants, commonly known as disciples, acknowledged the donation, they quickly pointed out that in the face of the circumstances not much could be done with five barley loaves and two fishes.

Even eye witness accounts defy explanation as to what happened next: after a simple prayer, those same disciples were seen distributing baskets of food. Following a feast of bread and fish, conservationists were pleased to report that twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered.

Our question: Is any gift too small to be used by this Master?

[1] Fictitious title of publication used in this article

Linda Wegner, Author and Speaker
Words of Worth
5549 Maple Avenue
Powell River, BC   V8A 4N4


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Contrary to what you may think, I did not skip my Friday the 13th blog for superstitious reasons. Rather, real life snuck in. It was my husband’s birthday (yes, he was born on a Friday the 13th and he’s been blessed ever since!). It was also our first Christmas choir concert with St. Peter’s Chorus . After the concert about forty choir members and some of their spouses came to our house for a party. Lots of food and great fellowship.

During the evening, fellow choir member, Robert Henderson, said he has been reading these posts on my blog, so thanks for telling me, Bob, and Merry Christmas to you!

Today I’m going to feature another Helping Hands Press author: Jeanette Hanscome. I’ll let her tell you a bit about herself (taken from Jeanette’s blog):


Who I Am 

I am an author, writing teacher, occasional speaker, and busy mom currently living in California’s beautiful East Bay Area.

As an author, I have almost 20 years of experience, which includes work with Focus on the Family, The Upper Room, Standard Publishing, Walk Thru the Bible, and Guideposts magazine. I am a regular assigned contributor to Standard Publishing’s Encounter—the Magazine, and Walk Thru the Bible’s Tapestry devotional (also published as Journey), as well as contributing to Girls, God and the Good Life and the Christian Manuscript Critique Service blog I also edit on a freelance basis for publishers and individuals.

If you have ever attended the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, you might know me as the coordinator of the First Timers Buddy System. Overseeing this program at the conference where I first sensed God’s call to write for Him continues to be a highlight of my year. I belong to several writing and editing organizations, including ACFW, The Christian PEN, Christian Editor Network, Christian Author’s Network (CAN), and Inspire Christian Writers.

In real life, I am the mother of two incredible sons—one in middle school and one beginning the journey of adulthood. I love to cook, bake, read, knit, crochet, study the Bible, and spend time with friends and family.

It might interest you to know that I am visually impaired and have been since birth. I was born with a rare vision disorder called Achromatopsia, which means that I have no color vision, am extremely light sensitive, and have visual acuity in the legally blind range. (For more information on this interesting eye disease, visit Achromatopsia.info) People often ask me to describe what I see. Although it’s difficult to make normally sighted people understand the light sensitivity and limited vision (which changes depending on how bright it is outside), this picture will give you a glimpse into how I see the world. Think of it as living in a black & white movie—beautiful in its own way.

Here is another link to Jeanette’s website so you can learn more about her and her books: http://jeanettehanscome.com/book-corner/. Below, see the cover of her newest release.


And here’s a short note from Jeanette, complete with a tasty-looking Christmas recipe:

The past few years have brought a lot of changes, including changes to my family’s holiday celebrations. One thing has remained constant, however, and that is my baking traditions. One on-going favorite is pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins. I gave up a long time ago on designating these as a Thanksgiving treat. Late November usually marks the first of a half a dozen batches, and each batch makes a lot!

In honor of Christmas, I thought I’d share this much-loved recipe with you. I got it from a cookbook, so I can’t take full credit, but I do alter it a bit by only adding nuts occasionally. (I tend to forget them, nuts are expensive, and because the recipe calls for toasting them the risk of burning $3 worth of almonds feels like too big of a risk sometimes.) I pray that your family will enjoy them as much as much family does.

Note: The recipe suggests baking them a day or two ahead to give the flavors time to blend, but ours rarely last that long. I use mini muffin tins to make them bite-sized, but you can also use regular sized tins.



½ cup slivered almonds (optional)

1 2/3 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1 T pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

1 cup plain pumpkin

2 eggs

½ cup melted butter

1 cup chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350.

Toast almonds for 3-5 minutes. (Watch them carefully.)

Wisk together pumpkin, eggs, and butter in a medium bowl. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients and mix. Fold in chocolate chips and almonds.

Spoon batter into mini muffin tins, and bake for 12-15 minutes. (Larger muffins will take closer to 20 minutes.)

Let them cool. Store in a container for a day or so, if you have the will power.

Merry Christmas!

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Amber Schamel is a multi-published author of Christian Historical Fiction. Her passion for history and culture has led her to travel extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and the Holy Land. Amber is actively involved in her church and enjoys volunteer work and music ministry.  Raised in a family of twelve children and homeschooled throughout her education, she currently resides in the beautiful state of Colorado where she also serves as bookkeeper and marketing director for their family businesses. Find Amber on her blog, or on all the main social media sites.

Take a read through this blog by novelist Amber Schamel, then check out her latest release below.

Amber Schamel

Amber Schamel

How Veggie Tales Inspired a Biblical Novella

It was a summer evening, I was in the kitchen making dinner while my little siblings (for some odd reason) were watching The Toy That Saved Christmas, a Veggie-Tales movie. My publisher had asked me to write a Christmas story and I was deep in thought wondering what I should write when I suddenly tuned in to what was playing on the screen.

Grandpa George was reading a scripture to Bob, Larry and Buzz-saw Louie. “And she brought forth her first born son and wrapped him in baby clothes and laid him in a manger.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute, the passage didn’t say baby clothes. In the King James it says swaddling clothes. That got me to thinking, what exactly are swaddling clothes? Are they just baby clothes? Or is there another meaning to them?

I looked up the passage in Luke chapter two and noted that it was mentioned not only once, but twice that Mary wrapped her first-born son in swaddling clothes. So I began my research.

I found out that swaddling clothes did not necessarily mean that Mary and Joseph were poor or destitute. Swaddling clothes were used by people of all classes to wrap a newborn in hopes that it would help their limbs grow straight, as well as calm the babe. But if swaddling clothes were so common during that era, why was it specifically mentioned as a sign to the shepherds of who the Messiah would be? So I searched some more.

Another source said that in the eastern countries they would use a cloth to put between the yoke of an ox, and the ox’s shoulders. When Mary and Joseph were in the barn, they had nothing else to use, so they used this ox’s cloth that was translated as swaddling cloth to wrap the Messiah that would carry the yoke of our sin and bondage.

Many hours and websites later, I emerged armed with a ton of information, four different theories, and a story forming inside my head. So, I guess you could say that my new book The Swaddling Clothes was inspired by a Veggie Tales movie.

The things that inspire people, or give them an idea is very interesting to me.


 The Swaddling Clothes Synopsis:

SchamelSwaddling-6 x 9 Flat Cover

Through the ages, many stories have been told about Mary, Joseph and the birth of the Messiah. Stories of shepherds and sheep, kings, angels, and stables. But there is one story that has never been told. One story that has remained hidden in the fabric of time. The story of The Swaddling Clothes.

Mentioned not once, but several times in the Scriptural text, what is the significance of these special cloths? And how did they make their way into a stable in Bethlehem? From the author that brought you the Days of Messiah series comes a whole new adventure critics are calling “intriguing…thought provoking… a fresh twist on an age old story.”

“I get tired of Bible stories sometimes, but The Swaddling Clothes brings the story to life.”

“Heartwarming…truly inspired. A story you will want to read again and again. Rich details and a suspenseful plot will keep you reading while giving you a glimpse of God’s wonderful power and His amazing love.”


Blog: http://www.stitchesthrutime.blogspot.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAmberSchamel
Twitter: @AmberSchamel
Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/AmberDSchamel/


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I am pleased to feature fellow author Sheila Seller Lagrand today. Thanks, Sheila, for this great “Merry Christmas” thought.

Making Peace with Christmas

by Sheila Seller Lagrand

bio-pic-Sheila-Seiler-LagrandIn my strident youth I was a Christmas militant. I railed against the displays of candy canes and chocolate snowmen lurking about the bags of Halloween candy. I fumed as tinsel mingled with the harvest cornucopia in some kind of mall marketing miscegenation. I averted my eyes when neighbors’ Christmas lights brightened the street before we had celebrated Thanksgiving.

Not this year. Maybe it’s because I’m not as young as I used to be. Maybe it’s because the grandchild count has risen to nine—which means more gifts, more wrapping, more time to dream up selections that say I love you. Maybe it’s because I’m traveling across an ocean to spend Christmas with my daughter, her Navy-Chief husband, and their children on Guam. For all these reasons, I have overcome my Christmas-season-snobbery. Never again, Lord help me, will I judge the mom scooping up the latest Legos in October.

And never again will I jam all the gift-choosing, making, ordering, or buying into the precious few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was a legalistic maneuver all along, I see now, not a decision born of grace and joy. And what is more important at Christmastime than grace and joy? As I consider it today, I can’t even remember why I thought it was such an achievement to exhaust myself by squeezing every bit of preparation into a few short weeks.

After all these hard-line years, it’s been deliciously daring to choose gifts in October, to be laying in stores of red-and-green tissue during the first crisp days of autumn.  Once I committed to changing my approach, and my attitude, about the Christmas schedule, I reaped an unexpected bonus: The rejoicing heart, the sense of blessedness as I reflect on the priceless gift of our Savior, the real key elements to the Christmas season, they kicked in early, too. Instead of three or four weeks of an overflowing heart, I’ve enjoyed the jubilation since late October.

I understand better now the friend who sings carols in March, the heart-sister who displays a Christmas tree all year long. I’ve been cheating myself out of a heap of exultation. So if we cross paths at the beach next summer, please don’t be surprised if I greet you with a hearty “Merry Christmas!”

Check out Sheila’s website at http://sheilalagrand.com

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