Thursday, December 23, 2010


I want to keep this really short today since, well, it is Christmas Eve! LOL! So, I wanted to share a couple pictures from my house for you finally : )

These are all our Santa's! We collect them every year, just like our Nutcrackers. I love to see them grow each year!

THIS beauty is our Christmas tree this year!! I actually think it's a great tree :) There's a couple funky spots, but they always look great once the lights and decorations are up! Lol...

And this is my fake tree up in my room! Sorry it's a little blurry because of the lights, but I thought it would look better that way : )

So in the spirit of keeping things light on this special day, I want to once again thank all of you for being so kind to me and following me through this month! We've made some new friends, so welcome again! And to all the old, I appreciate you so much : ) It's fun to know that someone is reading what you write, lol! If I could, I would send this card to each and every one of you!

Here's hoping to a GREAT Christmas for all of you!! But let's not forget about the song of the day! I hope this helps to calm you for a few minutes of your day ; )

Thanks again and y'all come back now, you hear!?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

True Friends at Christmas - Amber Stokes

Hello everyone,
This is Wednesday, midweek, the hump you've got to get over, right? Well, I'm hoping that maybe this post will add a bright spot to that not so great day : )

"Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Walk beside me and be my friend."
- Albert Camus

I want to have an underlying theme of friendship today. I am feeling so, so grateful for everyone who participated in my blogfest and for everyone that followed, who commented. You made me laugh and be thoughtful during this month. So I thank you so much for that!

Now Amber...what is there to say about Amber? I am SO glad that I stumbled across her blog on that fateful Thursday in May : ) Glad is a terrible word to use, though, because it in no way expresses how happy I am that I've met Amber. Amber is a kind and gentle soul, always there to give advice, listen, laugh, and love. I'm proud to know this author in the making because I just know we'll be freinds for a long, long time (here's hoping!). So now before I gush too much, we'll get onto the interview ; )

"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out."
- Anonymous

Hannah: What is your favorite part(s) of the Christmas season?

Amber: Well, the best part of Christmas is that we’re celebrating Jesus’ birth and the amazing gift God gave us in His Son! Besides that, it’s really hard to choose a favorite part of the season, because I love it all! I love spending extra time with family and close friends, and now that I’m an out-of-state college student, going home for Christmas is even more special.

Hannah: I'm so glad you get to head home for the holidays, Amber! It just couldn't be the same otherwise and I'm sure you feel the same way. Are you a big celebrator of Christmas?

Amber: For sure! I LOVE Christmas!!! I love the decorations my mom and my grandma put up; I love the Christmas tree in our house full of gorgeous and fun Hallmark ornaments; I love listening to Christmas music; I love all the food, like the fudge my mom makes every year; and I could go on and on!

I think my friends at college have noticed how much I love all the different holidays. ;) My mom sends me packages with window clings and decorations (etc.) for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day…you get the idea! I love being festive!

Hannah: That sounds so fun! My roommate put some up in our window, but otherwise we don't usuallky get into the wall clings. They are fun though :) We've got other things though like our Santas and our nutcrackers. I'm trying to get my camera to work so I can show you some pictures! LOL! What are some of your traditions? (i.e. food, gift giving, family traditions, etc)?

Amber: One of our small traditions that I’m currently observing is getting and enjoying Advent calendars. My mom sent my roommate and me Advent calendars that have chocolate pieces you open and eat every day from December 1st through December 24th. Yum!
We also keep a German tradition involving pickle ornaments. My mom hides a couple of pickle ornaments in our Christmas tree for my sister and me to find, and when we find them we get an extra gift. And then my grandparents hide a couple of pickle ornaments in their tree… So we’re doubly spoiled! ;)
If anyone would like to learn a little more about this tradition, I share more in this post on my blog:
We also have other traditions, like opening gifts sent from out-of-town on Christmas Eve and then our gifts for each other on Christmas. Christmas is so special in our household, especially since my grandparents and one of my uncles live so close to us!

Hannah: I love this! How fun to have a tradition involving a pickle shaped ornament, rofl! Do you have a favorite Christmas themed book/recommendation? Movie?

Amber: I have several! For Christmas-themed Christian romance, I recommend Cowboy Christmas by Mary Connealy and A Currier & Ives Christmas by DiAnn Mills, Lynn A. Coleman, JoAnn A. Grote, and Deborah Raney. I have a hardcover version of the latter, and it is a really sweet collection! I don’t think it’s as easy to find anymore (my mom got it for me years ago), but if you ever do see it anywhere, it’s really good (from what I recall)!
As for movies, where do I begin?! I recently watched The Christmas Card, which was really cute. (You can find my review here: I absolutely LOVE The Polar Express, as well as Jingle All the Way, Christmas Vacation, The Santa Clause and The Santa Clause 2, and more!

Hannah: We STILL haven't seen this movie, Amber. I know you recommended it to me and we've seen it in the store, but we're still yet to actually watch it. have your Christmas traditions changed since you were a kid now that you are at college?

Amber: Good question! I think the biggest change is that I don’t get to be home until halfway through December, so I miss out on helping to decorate the Christmas tree, singing in (or even watching) the Messiah choir’s Christmas concert, etc. There’s so much that leads up to Christmas that I miss being a part of. I just found out that I’m going to miss my younger sister’s Christmas play at school by one day! Such a bummer. :(
But other than that, I still get to be a part of our family’s main Christmas traditions. I still get a stocking! And I’m so thankful that I still get to be with my family for about three weeks. I love them so!

Hannah: I can understand how that would be difficult. Alicia and I still do stockings also, so you're not along there. By this point I'm starting to get a little excited for Saturday, especially hearing you talk about all these traditions! If you had to pick one “symbol” of Christmas (i.e. ornaments, the tree, the lights, the nativity set, etc.), what would you pick as your favorite?

Amber: Hmmm…it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think I’m going to have to go with the Christmas tree. As I mentioned before, our Christmas tree is covered with ornaments, particularly Hallmark ornaments. I love seeing the memories decorating our Christmas tree, and I love looking at the beautiful Disney ornaments. And some of the ornaments make noises when the lights are turned on, so it’s always funny to hear them go off all at once! The Wizard of Oz ornament lasts the longest, and the last line it says (after the cacophony of other noises has ended) is, “The Great Oz has spoken.” ;)

Hannah: I LOVE that Wizard of Oz ornament!! It sounds phenomenal ; ) What did you ask Santa for this year? *wink*

Amber: There are three specific things I asked for this year:
1. The first season of the new PBS Masterpiece version of Sherlock on DVD
2. How to Train Your Dragon on DVD
3. Head in the Clouds by Karen Witemeyer

Hannah: Well those seem pretty doable! I hope you get them : ) What was one gift that you always wanted, but never got?

Amber: I’m having a hard time coming up with anything… I am so spoiled! My parents and grandparents have been so sweet and given me so much! Ummm…I really want a trip to Prince Edward Island in Canada, and I haven’t got that yet. Of course, I’m saving that for my honeymoon if I ever get married, so I don’t think that counts. ;)

Hannah: Oh Amber, I don't think that does count, lol!! But how cool to want something like that! Ambitious :P

These are some bests. Just fill them in with your favorite/the best.

Christmas present as a child?
I don’t know if I have a favorite, but for a long time I loved Disney princesses (guess I still do!) and one year Santa brought me a “magic carpet” (a lovely rectangular, patterned rug with tassels sewn on each end) and a Jasmine doll. So special!

Favorite Christmas? Oh, dear! I have to pick a favorite? I don’t know if I can!

Christmas song? Another hard question! I love so many different Christmas songs. One really fun one is “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause” (as sung by Perry Como). ;)

Character in the Christmas Story (maybe you played them in a church pageant one year? Lol!)? If we’re talking about the Christmas story from the Bible, I’d have to say Jesus. ;) But as far as a character I’ve been, I just loved taking turns being the manger angel standing on stacked hay bales above a live nativity scene at our old church!

Place to spend Christmas day? My house! You should see the way my mom decorates! As for Christmas Eve, that would be my grandparents’ house. :)

Christmas food? Fudge!

Amber, I can't thank you enough for finding the time somewhere to do this for me : ) You are a very, very special person and I'm lucky to have found you! Lol...I look forward to the years to come, being included on the big events in your life. Thank you so much for being such an amazing friend.

"If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you."
- Winnie the Pooh

Today Amber is kind enough to offer up one $10 Amazon gift card to a lucky winner! Please make sure to leave an email to be entered and let us know what you might use it for!
Extra +1 Entries:
- Follower of my blog
- Follower of Amber's blog

"Friends are the bacon bits in the salad bowl of life."
- Anonymous

This would be Amber and I if we had known each other as kids! LOL! That's her on the right and me being dumb on the left :P

Okay, we've got two songs today. They're both not sad, but have a saddish vibe to them lol...Here's the FIRST. Think Glee Christmas...singing around the Christmas trees ; ) And the SECOND. Think The Polar Express!

Thank you to everyone for making this December so fun! No, we're not quite done, but almost. And a very special thank you to Amber too *hugs* Have a great Wednesday, everyone,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Health Update, Visiting Author Cindy Woodsmall (kind of), and a Giveaway

Good morning, afternoon, and evening to you, depending on when you read this. I don't want to kill the Christmas mood, but first I really wanted to give you all a little health update, since it's been a while and now things are changing again. I had a doctor's appointment last week and because of some issues he has now put me on iron. Since it's a little pricey, I just got it so I haven't started it until today lol! Anyway, he had some concerns that he wanted me to run by my rheumatologist, who I saw yesterday. So I did so and they are both completely positive that my Carpal Tunnel is back. Yes, again already. THIS is my post from August of 2009 when I had Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery on both wrists. I have no clue why or how it's possible though, so that's the frustrating part to me. I'm going back to see my doctor, the surgeon who did the surgery before, but I can't get in until January 24. So we're at a standstill, and still have lots of numbness :/, until then.
My other piece of news from yesterday was that, as many of you know, I have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), the reason I was seeing my rheumatologist lol....So with RA you can get secondary diseases and one of them is something called Fibromyalgia. Turns out I have that. So I was put onto a new medication to try for that. Fibro is known for causing widespread pain. You always feel achey all over your body. My rheumy is quite positive that this could be the problem we haven't figured out yet. He took me off all my RA medications, however, because he wants a "drug holiday". I'm seeing him again in about a month and we'll review and see whether I should go back on Methotrexate or try something new too.

There, I just wanted to catch you all up. It's tough to hear so close to Christmas, but I guess it's good to maybe get some answers? Anyway, now we'll move onto the real star of this post, lol...regretfully, due to her busy schedule, CIndy Woodsmall could not actually be here today. Instead, she sent some things for us to enjoy. Let's gather around the fire everyone *ushers everyone closer, pulls out my magic bag*

*whips a book out of bag* This is a very special book : ) Cindy wrote Blind Hope as a fictionalized true story. So without further ado, here's Cindy's story.

Blind Hope
By Cindy Woodsmall

©Copyright. All rights Reserved.

I’d like to share with you a fictionalized account of a true story.

Years ago an Amish man and his wife spent their days struggling against poverty. They had four children under the age of five. Even with both Dad and Mom doing all they could, they were barely able to keep food on the table and a roof over the family’s heads.

Then the man’s wife became sick. As she grew weaker, she could no longer take care of the baby while her husband worked. After weeks of prayer, they knew what they needed to do. There was a suitable Amish family in the district who needed the love of a baby to ease their own recent loss.

With tears of sorrow and sacrifice, the couple agreed to relinquish their six-month-old daughter to their care.

While the other children waited in the horse-drawn carriage, the dad helped his wife carry their precious infant to the front doorstep, where the grateful couple waited with both anticipation and compassion. The infant cooed blissfully as she was passed from one woman’s arms to the other’s.

The mothers embraced, gently pressing the baby girl between them. “When your health returns,” the neighbor said, “we will bring her back to you.”

But the mother did not get well. Some months after this painful parting, she passed away.

As the bereaved father struggled through his grief, he continued working hard to keep his three older children fed, clothed, and housed.

After more than five years slipped by, the youngest one began attending school with all her siblings in the one-room schoolhouse. That year, as Thanksgiving drew close, the older children approached their dad and asked if the youngest could return home to live and if they could all be together in time for Christmas.

They’d seen her on church Sundays and eaten the district-wide meal with her after those services, but bringing her home had not been possible. “I would love nothing more,” he said. “But I don’t make enough money to provide for her.”

His children gathered around. “We can all help,” the eldest said. She fingered the sleeve of her frayed coat, which was already too small for her. “This could last one more winter. And I don’t need a new pair of gloves for Christmas like I asked for. I can patch the ones I have.”

Her sister took Dad’s hand. “I can alter Mom’s old dresses instead of getting new material to make clothes for next year.”

“And I’ll eat only one slice of bread at dinner instead of three,” the young boy said. The family laughed.

Touched by his children’s sacrificial offers, the father thought of more ideas for making extra money. “With a bit more help from you girls, we could expand the garden so we will have more produce to sell during the summer months.”

He turned to his son. “If you could help me add stalls to the barn, we can rent parts of the building to our neighbors. They’re looking for space to raise their new calves.”

The children eagerly agreed to the plans. Their hearts soared with hope.

The father and his excited children clambered into the carriage and headed for the home of the couple who’d been taking care of their baby sister. When the horse stopped at the front gate, they saw the young girl playing in the yard. Even though the dad spent time with her on church Sundays and at district-wide events, she seemed like such a big girl that day. In spite of holding her a couple of times each month since giving her to this family, the father’s heart ached over the years he’d missed with his littlest daughter. He wondered how she and her new parents would feel about her returning to her family.

The couple emerged from the house and embraced the father and his children. The woman called to the little girl, and she came toward them.

“She will be thrilled to be going home with you,” the woman said. “We’ve always told her this day would come.”

After the dad asked his little girl if she’d like to come to his home to live, she jumped into his arms. The older children surrounded them.

The father told the couple about the plans they had made that would help them provide for the youngest one. Both families rejoiced over the little girl returning home.

In the days that followed, the father and his children continued to fight against poverty, but in the midst of it they bonded with one another and found joy in the little things life offered. A beautiful sunrise, building snowmen, walking together to school and to the home where church would be held, sledding down the backyard hill, silently praying at the dinner table, always knowing they had each other.

A week before Christmas the dad received a hundred dollars in the mail. None of the family knew who the money came from, but they each had ideas for how it could be spent.

“Food,” suggested the son, smacking his lips and rubbing his belly.

“New winter clothing,” the middle daughter said, her eyes aglow.

“Perhaps,” added the oldest girl, “we could get fresh prayer Kapps so we’re not dishonoring God by wearing tattered ones.”

The father turned to his youngest girl, who had so recently been reunited with them. “I think we should let her decide.” He brought the little one onto his lap. “What do you think we should do with the money?”

Her face lit up with a bright smile. “I think we should help someone who is poor.”

The family looked at one another. Didn’t she realize they were poor?

After a moment, the oldest daughter mentioned a non-Amish man who lived down the road. “He is more poor than anybody I know. I’ve heard that he doesn’t have any family either.”

They all heartily agreed to take every penny of that hundred dollars to the man.

They rode in a carriage to the old man’s house. Dad knocked on the door. After several moments, it creaked open.

“Merry Christmas,” the father said as he handed him the cash.

The old man’s body shook and tears soon rolled down his face.

He invited them into his home, walking stiffly. He told them he’d injured his back at work months ago, and he was unable to return to his job for a while. “I’m afraid I have nothing to offer you in return.” The old man sat with a groan. “This winter has been the worst of them all. I’ve been sitting here alone, thinking that no one cared about me. Not even God.”

The old man looked into each of his visitors’ eyes. “Because of what you’ve given me, I’ll be able to keep food on the table until I return to work. I don’t know how to thank you.”

After helping the old man with a few jobs around the house and yard, the family hugged him and said good-bye. As they rode home in their horse-drawn buggy, they held hands and sang carols, basking in the warmth of Christmas joy.

A few years have passed since then, and the dad and children continue to work hard, but poverty has released its awful grip, leaving few signs behind that it had once lived with them. Perhaps the true spirit of the Christmas season is most often found inside of hope that does not have to see help to know it is coming. Blind hope has the power to get us through our toughest times and it continually nudges us onward until we can embrace a better tomorrow.

Wasn't that touching? Even though I know she won't see it, I really want to thank Cindy for allowing me to post that. I knew you all would just love it!

*pulls out another book* Now this book, you've probably seen before.

Here's the first chapter as a teaser for you ; )

The aroma of fresh-baked bread, shepherd’s pie, and steamed vegetables filled Lizzy’s house, mingling with the sweet smell of baked desserts. In the hearth a bank of embers kept a small fire burning, removing the nip that clung to the early-April air.

The noise of conversations rose and fell around Lizzy’s kitchen table as her brother and his large family talked easily throughout the meal. His grown and almost-grown children filled the sides of her fourteen-foot table, and his grandchildren either sat in their mothers’ laps or in highchairs.

Nearly four decades ago her oldest brother had put effort into finding an Amish bride. When Stephen found the right girl, he married her. He’d handled life well, and the fruit of it fed her soul. Lizzy had focused on her business and never married. She didn’t regret her choices, not for herself, but she’d crawl on her hands and knees the rest of her days to keep her niece from the same fate.

Beth was like a daughter to Lizzy. Not long after the family’s dry goods store passed to Lizzy, Beth graduated from the eighth grade and started working beside her. Soon she moved in with Lizzy, and they shared the one-bedroom apartment above the shop. When Lizzy had this house built a few years ago, her niece had stayed above Hertzlers’ Dry Goods.

Lizzy studied the young beauty as she answered her family’s endless questions about her decisions in the middleman role between the Amish who made goods and the various Englischer stores who wanted those goods.

That was her Beth. Answer what was asked. Do what was right. Always be polite. Offer to help before it was needed. And never let anyone see the grief that hadn’t yet let go of her. Beth had banned even Lizzy from looking into the heartache that held her hostage.

The one-year anniversary of Henry’s death had come and gone without any sign from Beth that she might lay aside her mourning, so Lizzy had taken action. She’d prepared this huge meal and planned a social for the afternoon. Maybe all Beth needed was a loving, gentle nudge. If not, Lizzy had a backup plan—one Beth would not appreciate.

Over the din of conversations, the sounds of horses and buggies arriving and the voices of young people drifted through the kitchen window, causing Beth to look at her.

Lizzy placed her forearms on the table. “I’ve invited the young singles of the community for an evening of outdoor games, desserts, and a bonfire when the sun goes down.”

Two of Beth’s single younger sisters, Fannie and Susie, glowed at the idea. With grace and gentleness, Beth turned to her Mamm and asked if she would need help planting this year’s garden.

It didn’t seem to bother Beth that five of her sisters had married before her, and three of them were younger than she was. All but the most recently wed had children. Lizzy knew what awaited Beth if she didn’t find someone—awkward and never-ending loneliness. Maybe she didn’t recognize that. It wasn’t until Henry came into Beth’s life that she even seemed to notice that single men existed. Within a year of meeting, they were making plans to marry.

Now, in an Amish community of dresses in rich, solid hues, Beth wore black.

Through a window Lizzy saw the young men bring their rigs to a halt. The drivers as well as the passengers got out of the carriages. The girls soon huddled in groups, talking feverishly, while the guys went into the barn, pulled two wagons with plenty of hay into the field, and tied their horses to them. It was far easier to leave the animals harnessed and grazing on hay than to have to hitch a horse to its buggy in the dark. The young people knew the routine. They would remain outside playing volleyball, horseshoes, or whatever else suited them until after the sun went down. Then they’d come inside for desserts and hot chocolate or coffee before riding in wagons to the field where they’d start a bonfire.

Fannie and Susie rose and began clearing the table. Beth went to the dessert counter and picked out a pie. She set it on the table beside her Daed, cut a slice, and placed it on his plate. Then she slid a piece onto her Mamm’s plate before passing the pie to her brother Emmanuel. She took her seat next to her mother, still chatting about the upcoming spring planting. Lizzy hoped her brother saw what she did—a daughter who continued to shun all possibility of finding new love. Beth clung to the past as if she might wake one day to find her burning desires had changed it.

Fannie began gathering glasses that still held trace amounts of lemonade. “You’ve got to join us this time, Bethie. It’s been too long.”

Flatware stopped clinking against the plates as all eyes turned to Beth.

Susie tugged on her sleeve. “Please. Everyone misses you.”

Beth poked at the meal she’d barely touched as if she might scoop a forkful of the cold food and eat it. “Not this time. Denki.”

“See, Beth,” Lizzy said. “Every person here knows you should be out socializing again. Everyone except you.”

Beth’s face grew taut, and she stood and removed the small stack of plates from Fannie’s hands. “Go on. I’ll do these.”

Fannie glanced to her Daed.

He nodded. “Why don’t you all finish up and go on out? Emmanuel and Ira, do you mind helping set up the volleyball nets?”

Emmanuel wiped his mouth on a cloth napkin. “We can do that.”

Chairs screeched against the wood floor as most of the brood stood. Fannie and Susie bolted for the door. Two more of Beth’s sisters and two sisters-in-law went to the sink, taking turns rinsing the hands and faces of their little ones before they all went outside.

Lizzy longed to see Beth in colored dresses, wearing a smile that radiated from her soul. Instead Beth pasted on smiles, fooling most of those around her into thinking her heart continued to mend. But her quieter, more stoic behavior said things no one else seemed to hear. Lizzy heard, and she’d shared her concerns with Beth’s Daed, Stephen.

Beth took a stack of dishes to the sink and flicked on the water.

“You can leave that for now,” Stephen said.

She turned off the water and remained with her back to them.

Beth’s Mamm glanced at Lizzy as she ran her finger down a tall glass of lemonade. “Beth, honey—”

Beth turned. “I’m fine, Mamm.”

Stephen got up and piled more plates together. “Of course you are. And I’ll throw my favorite pie at anyone who says otherwise.” He stuck his finger into his half-eaten piece of chocolate pie, placed it in his mouth, and winked at Beth.

She smiled, an expression that probably looked real to her Daed but reminded Lizzy of fine silk flowers—only beautiful to those who aren’t gardeners.

“Beth, sweetheart,” Stephen said, “you know how me and your Mamm feel. We love you. It’s no secret that you’re different from our other girls. You’ve always had more of a head for business than a heart to find a beau, but now…well, we just want to make sure you’re doing okay. Since you don’t live with us, that’s a bit hard to know sometimes.” He set the dirty dishes beside the already full sink before he rinsed his hands and dried them. “Officially, your period of mourning was over nearly six months ago, but you haven’t joined the young people for a single event. You’ve not left the store for your usual buying trips. You eat half of what you should. You continue to wear black. And those are things a stranger would notice.”

“I…I could plan a buying-and-selling trip. It’ll take me most of the summer to get completely organized for it, but I can be ready by August. I know I should have sooner, but…”

Lizzy hoped Stephen didn’t fall for the diversion tactic Beth had just thrown his way, but since Beth was listening to him without getting defensive, Lizzy wouldn’t interfere.

“Good. If that’s where you feel like beginning, I’m glad to hear it. I know the community will be too, because without you they can’t sell near as many of their goods.” He walked to the table, took a seat, and motioned for Beth.

She moved to the chair beside him.

“But other people’s financial needs are not what this is about. Tell me something good and hopeful about you—something I’ll know in my gut is true—and I’ll end this conversation right now.”

The four of them remained silent as shouts and roars of laughter echoed from outside. If anyone could touch Beth’s heart and cause her to change, her Daed could. But the silence continued, and Beth’s inability to think of anything hopeful to say made Lizzy sick with worry.

The grandfather clock chimed the half hour, startling Lizzy, but no one spoke. Long shadows filled the room, and she lit a kerosene lamp and set it in the middle of the table.

Whatever happened the night Henry died consumed Beth. When Lizzy arrived on the scene, her niece didn’t even acknowledge her. The only words Beth spoke were the ones she whispered for days—God, forgive me. Lizzy had tried to talk to her about it, but Beth never broke her polite silence on the topic.

Beth’s Daed cleared his throat. “I’ll wait all night for an answer if I need to, Beth.”

Her eyes filled with tears, but it was another five minutes before she uttered a word. “I don’t trust my feelings about…certain things anymore, Daed.”

“Then can you trust mine?” her Daed asked.

“Always, but I don’t want to be one of the single girls looking for a husband. Not ever again. Is that such a horrible thing?”

“It’s not what we’d figured on, but we can adjust.”

Lizzy repositioned her glass of lemonade. During church the singles sat separately from the married couples. Lizzy’s memory of growing too old for the singles and removing herself from them still stung. From that day on she’d carried the title of alt Maedel—old maid. She’d been older than Beth’s twenty-six years, and her prospects of finding someone had faded into nothingness. If Beth thought navigating life after Henry was difficult, Lizzy dreaded the pain that lay ahead for Beth when she openly admitted to the Amish world that she didn’t fit—not with the single folk and not with the married ones.

Stephen had yet to mention anything about the color of mourning Beth still wore. If she would wear something besides black, young men would gravitate to her, and she stood a chance of finding someone.

He covered Beth’s hand with his and bowed his head, silently praying for her. He lifted his head. “There’s somewhere you’d like to be tonight other than washing dishes or working in that stuffy office in the store. Am I right?”


“Then go.”

Beth kissed her Daed’s cheek, told her Mamm and Lizzy she’d see them later, and left.

Lizzy moved to the window and watched as her niece walked past small groups of young people. She overheard both women and men asking Beth to stay. Beth shook her head, smiled, and waved before making her way across the road and into the pasture near their store.

“You said nothing that will nudge her to change how she’s handling life,” Lizzy said.

Stephen placed his hands on her shoulders. “Henry’s death is the hardest thing this family has faced. Pressuring Beth isn’t the answer. Trusting God is.”

Lizzy stood in silence as Beth harnessed her mare to a carriage. She knew where Beth was going.

The cemetery.

Again. And again. And again.

“Please, dear God, move a mountain for her.”

Stephen squeezed her shoulders. “Amen.”

Excerpted from The Sound of Sleigh Bells; copyright © 2010 by Cindy Woodsmall. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times best-selling author whose connection with the Amish community has been featured on ABC Nightline and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
She is also a veteran homeschool mom who no longer holds that position. As her children progressed in age, her desire to write grew stronger. After working through reservations whether this desire was something she should pursue, she began her writing journey. Her husband was her staunchest supporter as she aimed for what seemed impossible.

I don't know if any of you or how many of you have read anything by Cindy, you know how awesome she truly is! I know Kav has read her books per recommendations and loved them. Both Cindy and I would love for you to experience her books. Sooooo it's GIVEAWAY TIME!!! If you'd like a chance to win a signed, hardcover version of The Sound of Sleigh Bells, listen up ; ) Make sure to leave your email and you will be entered lol....easy, right?

Lastly it's time for our song of the day! THIS is an old classic in a way ; ) Think high squeaky voices and little furry animals, lol!!

Okay gotta run to work! I'll check in later : ) Hope you all are having a great day, one day closer to Christmas, right?

Monday, December 20, 2010

A True Christmas Gem - Ashley Wolynes - with Surprise ; )

I am delighted to have Ashley with me today! She has become such a good friend and I'm thrilled she agreed to come onto my blog for the blogfest : ) I know most of you probably know Ashley, but for those of you who don't she is just like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. Anyway, without further ado, here's Ashley!!

What is your favorite part(s) of the Christmas season?

The Lights. When I see Christmas lights outlining the eves of house while I’m driving down the road at night, I can never get enough, and don’t get me started on all the lights people have synchronized to music. *sigh* And if possible, they're even more beautiful when there is snow on the ground for it to glisten off of. Mind you, we only get about an inch of snow, but it does the job. And Jesus. I know it sounds super corny, but Jesus is the true reason for Christmas and I love celebrating Him. Oh, and walk through Bethlehem’s are the best, just saying. In fact, we went to one this last week and it was FANTASTIC!

GREAT choice! I'm with you on the synchronized lights...but I can't imagine doing it. I have a feeling that it's super tough, you know? I agree, Christmastime is the one time of the year that snow is more than okay, it's welcomed! We need some more before Saturday! LOL! Are you a big celebrator of Christmas?

Need you ask? Of course! I’m the one who decorates the house, inside and out, the car and the tree. Last year, we lost our Christmas tree during our most recent move and so we had no tree to put up when it came time.
But, luckily we had a little Charlie-Brown-like tree we usually put up outside still intact. So, I took some of our outdoor garlands and a WHOLE LOT of Christmas lights and fashioned myself a good ol’ Fraser Fir for us. Until my mom say it and declared it passable and suggested that I don’t go into the Christmas-tree-making business. ;)

LOL! If you put your mind to it, I know you'd succeed in the Christmas-tree-making businees : ) But that is too funny!! I think Charlie Brown trees are kinda cute in an ugly way ; ) LOL! What are some of your traditions? (I.e. food, gift giving, family traditions, etc)?

Well, one of the Wolynes Family traditions was started back when we were no bigger than a cotton bush and when we just had no patients for waiting; my Mom would allow us to open one present (usually the ones from our Aunt Michelle) on Christmas Eve. Another family tradition that also came into being while we were little was our Christmas Feast/Buffet. See, we all had a favorite food and we weren’t too keen on turkey/chicken and mash potatoes at the time, so my mom made up a menu, which mostly consisted of cookies and cakes, of everything we liked and would have it all on our dining room table on Christmas morning. And the only other tradition that I can think of that we still have today is sitting on the stairs.
It sounds weird, I know. But, see, if you were under 18 yrs. Old, you would wake up, grab you blankets and pillow and sit on the stairs till my mom would tell us that everything was ready. That tradition was also started to keep us away from the food and presents for as long as possible.

Poor Ashley, still stuck on the stairs!! Lol...but that's really clever of your mom to do :) Keeps you out of her hair lol....Do you have a favorite Christmas themed book/recommendation? Movie?

A Christmas story! We watch A Christmas Story every Christmas morning, and sometimes many times that day. It’s always super funny and so much fun to watch together as a family. And this year the favorite book is The Polar Express. My nephew, Cabot, asked me to read that books so many times, that I have the lines down pat, for sure. ;)

AWESOME choices!! Alicia and I watch A Christmas Story on Christmas Eve, which is a new tradition. We didn't even see it for the first time until 2 years ago!! But now we love seeing it! If you had to pick one “symbol” of Christmas (i.e. ornaments, the tree, the lights, the nativity set, etc.), what would you pick as your favorite?

A lighted nativity! It’s the best of both worlds. Christmas lights and Jesus! What more could you ask for? Of course, just make sure we keep the little baby Jesus and His meager away from my dog Felix. Around the holidays, Felix gets an appetite for little defenseless babies, especially those made of plastic! :D

Poor plastic baby Jesus!! Lol that's too funny though : ) What did you ask Santa for this year? *wink*

A Home for Christmas. But, that’s a whole other story.
But, if it had to be something that could fit in a box, I’d ask Santa for a 1930’s replica Cathedral radio to go on my night stand. They look so very vintage and I love that.

Aw, Ash. We're all keeping you and your family in our thoughts. I'm sorry this year is a stressful one for you : ( But that radio sounds cool! I can see you liking something like this, unique, timeless, but still totally revelant lol! What was one gift that you always wanted, but never got?

A rainbow pony that I could ride in our front yard. Of course, every little kid wants a pony, and sadly Parents are in cahoots together in not giving their little children ponies! A Conspiracy I tell you! Jk/jk

See, I think the reason I never wanted a pony was because I had cows at my grandparent's house ; )

These are some bests. Just fill them in with your favorite/the best.

Christmas present as a child?

A Furby. Those things where AWESOME! I remember mine was the little one and had brown fur. They were ahead of their time, for sure! (YESSSS!!)

Christmas song?
The Carol Of The Bell’s. I love how the voices are perfectly blended into one beautifully harmonious song.

Place to spend Christmas day?
There is no better place to spend Christmas day than at my house with all my family around. I love it that it gets so loud, you can hear yourself and then when the unwrapping starts and red and green paper goes a flyin’, it’s lends a sort of excitement and activity, that wasn't there before.

Christmas food?
Well, it really wasn’t a “Christmas” food, but we ate is on one Christmas Eve and I have never forgotten it. One Christmas eve my Mom made rich and buttery Lobster tails, with baked-in-the-oven potatoes. Hmmm It’s was all sooooo good, but alas, My Mom has not made Lobster tail since, and for that I mourn the lost deeply. *sigh*

Thank you SOOO much Hannah for the interview. I love the party so far and I just hope you and all your readers have an extra blessed Christmas this year. Christmas is a grand time, which seems to come a lot slower, than it goes, but make sure to remember it’s not all about the presents or the lack of Lobster tail, but about Jesus and His glorious, yet humble, birth! Merry Christmas, Y’all!!!

No, thank YOU Ashley : ) It was fun for me to hear all about your traditions and I'm sure for everyone else too. I also want to publically thank you for all the support you've given me over the past few months? I've lost track of how long I've known you now : P Thank you, Ashley. I can't imagine having a Christmas without wishing you a Merry Christmas now!!

Today is another giveaway!! It's a little random, but that's okay ; ) We're giving away a signed copy of Margaret Daley and Debby Guisti's Christmas Peril today! It's signed by Debby. So it's a two for one today!! All you need to do is give Ashley some support and maybe even pop over to visit her spectacular blog! And remember an email of course too ; )

For +1 extra entries:
- Follow Ashley's blog
- Add Ashley's blog button to your blog (remember to leave a url)
- Find the very first time I left a comment for Ashley on her blog and tell me what she was talking about in her post, this is tough! But a hint: it's right near the beginning of a month that falls in the middle of the year : )

And onto the songs!! The first one is in honor of Ashley, that's a BIG hint! LOL! This song, though it's not a Christmas song, is still a beautiful song that I wanted to share with you :) And okay, I've been good not to bring it up love it, you hate, you want to forget about it but just can't!! But at least I gave you a cool arrangement!

Okay that's all for today, folks! I would just like to ask you all to kind of keep me in your thoughts, if that's not too self-centered lol...I'm having a doctors appointment today that we're not sure what is going to come of it. I should have more news tomorrow, but I hadn't wanted to mention information that wasn't concrete yet! Lol...
Talk to you all tomorrow when I've got a neat post!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Stories from the ER with Candace Calvert!!

HAPPY FRIDAY!!! One week from now will be Christmas Eve and you will all have far better things to be doing than reading my blog, as I would want you to : )

Today I am so happy to bring another favorite author to you! It's the super fun Candace Calvert!! She was nice enough to stop by for a bit to share some of her special Christmas memories with us.

H: Welcome, Candace! I know you stop by sometimes when you have time, so it's cool to finally be "spotlighting" you! Are you a big celebrator of Christmas?

C: Yes, though I don’t go as hog-wild as I did in the past: I once created an entire hospital emergency department out of gingerbread. Complete with gingerbread men and women in “scrubs,” and a Santa Claus “overdosed” on cookies and milk.

H: What an image that puts in my head! SO cool!!! What is your favorite part(s) of the Christmas season?

C: This question is as hard as choosing the single best chocolate cream from a 2 pound box!
So I’ll have to say that I love the whole wondrous mix of the Christmas season: the celebration of Christ’s birth of course, but also the lights, music, ribbons, scents of pine, peppermint and gingerbread . . . and especially the excitement on children’s faces.

H: Completely agree. It definitely just wouldn't be Christmas without any one part of these. What are some of your traditions? (i.e. food, gift giving, family traditions, etc)?

C: When my children were young, attending the Nutcracker Ballet was a favorite Christmas tradition. I remember my son’s first time-- hair-slicked down, dress clothes tidy, barely able to see over the seats in front of us. He was wide-eyed at the music, lights and glittery stage props. Then, maybe 30 minutes into the ballet, he finally whispered: “Mom . . . when are they going to start talking?”

H: That is too cute, Candace!! We used to go see the Nutcracker every year, I wish we could go again : ) Whenever I see these dancers, I can't help but question how I thought I was ever going to become a ballerina....I made it through one class! LOL! If you had to pick one “symbol” of Christmas (i.e. ornaments, the tree, the lights, the nativity set, etc.), what would you pick as your favorite?

C: My mother gave me a lovely Italian nativity set, and it’s the first thing I display every year. I think of her when I do that—and of how my daughter used to call it the “activity set” when she was little. This year I had the joy of showing it to our 18 month old grand daughter for the first time.

H: That's so beautiful, how lucky for you to have it. Congratulations on your granddaughter, even though she's not so new anymore! What did you ask Santa for this year? *wink*

C: “Santa” is always too generous . . . year round. I’m more than blessed. We’ve recently moved back to northern California, and this will be our first Christmas here.
Those folks who follow me on Twitter and Facebook know that I’m a passionate cook, and I’m still pinching myself over the kitchen in our new home. My guess is that “Santa” may indulge me with something culinary-related. A win-win, since we all know that “jolly old elf” loves to eat!

H: Hahahaha!! I love this Candace and I bet you're a great cook too! What was one gift that you always wanted, but never got?

C: Cliché as it sounds, I always wanted a pony. Hoped beyond reason to find one waiting under (or munching on) the Christmas tree . . . every year. I finally got a horse when I was 38 years old. And I still love them, as evidenced by the important role a horse plays in my newest medical drama, Code Triage.

H: Okay since you mentioend your book, I HAD to show readers this picture you sent me! It's sooooo funny! And the caption read that this is "McSnarly McGrinch" LOL!

These are some bests. Just fill them in with your favorite/the best.

Favorite Christmas?Oh, that’s too hard! “First” Christmases, I suppose: first-love Christmas, first married Christmas, first Christmas in a first home, first Christmas with each baby , grandbaby . . . and this one, the first Christmas back home in California.

Christmas song?I love the old romantic ones, like: “Winter Wonderland,” “White Christmas,” A Marshmallow World,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” And traditional ones like “Angels We Have Heard on High”, “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Joy to the World”—and “Silent Night,” of course.

Character in the Christmas Story (maybe you played them in a church pageant one year? Lol!)?
I didn’t get to play a character in the Christmas Story, but I sang in the choir. And, since I CANNOT sing (ask anyone who sits near me at church), my part amounted to saying “Prum, Prum, Prum” as a background chorus in “The Little Drummer Boy.” And I once played a Candy Cane—because I was taller than most kids, not because of talent.

Place to spend Christmas day?
Crazy as it may sound; I liked working the PM shift in the ER on Christmas. I’d wear my green scrubs with a bright holiday vest and candy cane socks. People don’t come to the hospital on Christmas unless they are really injured or ill, so it felt good (in the true spirit of giving) to be there for them on that day.

Christmas food?
Gingerbread, absolutely. Even better if it’s the wall of a “house,” scalloped with white royal frosting, cinnamon imperials and gumdrops. That’s the best kind of demolition—ask my kids!

Thank you for hosting me here. I wish you and all your readers an abundance of Christmas blessings.

Thank you, Candace! This has been so much fun! I think it is absolutely selfless how you would love to be in the ER on Christmas. I know someone has to do it, but not everyone would want to. You, however, have learned to embrace what you have and for that we thank you for all you do! I think I speak collectively for all the readers when I say that we do hope you continue to write though, also!!

I am so sorry for the lack of post yesterday. I was heading to make a post of all things Christmas here, lol, but my camera won't load the pictures. I'm still working on it because I'd love for you to see!! Coming up we've still got a couple giveaways, a special story sent to me from Cindy Woodsmall, and some of my very favorite blogger buddie's interviews!!! So be sure to stay tuned, just because we're getting close doesn't mean it's over!!

Okay, I've got two songs for you again today and yes it's our first official David Archuleta day! LOL! Some of you pointed out that I put up a lot of David's songs. Yes, I do, but they're good, right!? I've had some diversity too : ) But today, since it's Friday and we all need some good music to start our weekend, it's David again lol! Here's Song Number One and Song Number Two. #1 was sung at the concert we were at in Boston last year!! He was fabulous, wish we could do it all over again. Alicia and I stood on the floor and were right near the front! Song #2 is just a festive Christmas song for ya : ) It was also the first song I played in my first Christmas recital as a kid. Obviously my arrangement was different on the piano, but still lol!

Okay, off to do some Christmas stuff! Wishing you a great Friday!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Fun with Cheryl Wyatt and a surprise : )

Hello everyone!
I am so sorry for not being around yesterday. Yes, there was supposed to be a post, no it did not get lost somewhere between me hitting post and it actually showing up. The weather has really been taking a lot out on me and I didn't get around to making the post. Then last night I got bad news at my doctors appointment. Never fear though, I've got some stuff up my sleeve for tomorrow ; ) Anyway, our guest today needs no introduction. She's an amazing person and author, mother, Seeker, and's CHERYL WYATT!!!!! Heehee....

H: Cheryl! Finally, I feel like you needed to be on my blog with me before this, ah well, can't complain at least you are now :P Anyway, what is your favorite part(s) of the Christmas season?

C: People being off work and able to get together. Spending time with family is my favorite part. I have in recent years come to really love the season more. The lights and nostalgia and being mindful of God sending to us the most grand gift of Jesus and thereby removing from Himself the ability to destroy mankind altogether. That we have a Savior at all is mindboggling to me. There is a God. Thankfully He's the kindest person in all of history. LOL.

H: I agree completely : ) Plus, don't we all need that break!? Are you a big celebrator of Christmas?

C: Yes. Although I hate putting up a tree and taking it down.
I like miniature trees. LOL!

H: Oh booooooo, Cheryl. Come on, how can you hate the tree?! Well does that mean you hate decorating it too or merely putting it up? Lol! What are some of your traditions? (i.e. food, gift giving, family traditions, etc).?

C: I use the season to teach my daughters the importance of reaching out to the world and giving. We give to needy children here in the U.S. as well as abroad, to orphans. I started this before they could walk and they look forward to shopping for orphans and less fortunate children each season. They are becoming givers at heart and I am so thankful for that. We play a lot of games around Christmas time. My husband and I are hosting Bunco parties. It's a great mixer and tons of fun. My face usually hurts the next day from laughing so hard the evening before. We love getting together with friends and family and just laughing & playing games during the holiday season.

H: Ohhhhhh goodness, we all know how you can laugh too. I can imagine it MUST hurt the next day ; ) And how good of you to be teaching your daughters those good life lessons. They'll always remember them too. Do you have a favorite Christmas themed book/recommendation? Movie?

C: I actually love Frosty the Snowman. LOL!

H: Good choice! If you had to pick one “symbol” of Christmas (i.e. ornaments, the tree, the lights, the nativity set, etc.), what would you pick as your favorite?

C: Definitely the nativity set.
It would be a toss up between that and the famed Kneeling Santa sculpture where Santa is kneeling before a tiny baby in a manger and worshipping the baby Jesus.

H: I've never heard of the Kneeling Santa sculpture before! I looked him up and look how cool it is : ) What did you ask Santa for this year? *wink*

C: A Keurig Coffee Maker and funny socks. I love getting new socks for Christmas.

H: Coffee, coffee, coffee! As your niece said to me, coffee makes everything better : ) We've got the SockLady socks, theyre purposefully mismatched socks.
You'd love 'em I bet!! What was one gift that you always wanted, but never got?

C: I can't think of a thing, honestly, other than asking my family to make their present to me be that they go to church with me for Christmas. That didn't happen...yet! LOL.

H: Erm....I don't think you could get me to go to church on Christmas Day either lol!! Sorry, but we've never had church on Christmas anyway. So I'm just not used to it, we have lots of plans on the actual day anyway lol.

These are some bests. Just fill them in with your favorite/the best.

Christmas present as a child?
An eighteen speed bike that I rode ten miles every day, uphill (both ways) in the snow....

Favorite Christmas? When my Aunt Linda and her family made a surprise visit to Illinois.

Christmas song? The Little Drummer Boy and Breath of Heaven

Character in the Christmas Story (maybe you played them in a church pageant one year? Lol!)? Baby Jesus of course. LOL! I played Mary once in Kindergarden I think it was. Unfortunately the baby Jesus was a persnickety doll whose head came off and rolled off the stage. I was so stunned I went blank and froze, forgetting my lines. My cousin Wes was Joseph and he kept poking me in the ribs and whispering loudly the next script but I still stood frozen and freaked out by the head laying on the gym floor. I dropped the headless doll and almost cried until my teacher scurried out and knelt in front to help me refocus...and to fix Baby Jesus. LOL!

Place to spend Christmas day? With family playing games and watching kids open gifts.

Christmas food? Mom's no bake cookies.

In closing, I'd love to say that my most reminiscent Christmas season was spending time with orphans in India following the great tsunami. The children at one orphanage in particular had one toy to share between 347 kids. We came loaded with suitcases full of toys. I remember their faces as one by one they came into the realization that they EACH would get a toy for THEMSELVES. They could not comprehend having their own, personal toy.

I encourage everyone who can to take at least a short term mission trip. I went with Hopegivers International which can be found with Google. There are many great organizations out there that help orphans. Here in the U.S. too. I love encouraging people to give during the season. Toys for Tots. Angeltree. Soldier's Angels. Compassion International. World Vision. Hopegivers. Easter Seals. I could list a gazillion more good ones. Even twenty dollars can make a difference.

Hugs all and thank you Hannah, for a wonderful interview! This was great fun! Wish you all could join me for Bunco!

Cheryl, thank you so, so much for making this blogfest even more special and cheery! I loved getting to know more things about you, especially in your Christmas traditions! Now it's GIVEAWAY time!!! Cheryl has graciously offered up one of those Kneeling Santa statues for three lucky winners! Make sure to leave an email : )

Okay before the Mystery Song of the Day, I need to just give you THIS to watch for fun! It made me laugh soooo hard! Today's Song is very different lol! But I definitely associate it with Christmas : ) Can you imagine this happening to you!?

Today I have my last final and I will officially be done this semester for Christmas break!!! Woohoo!! Hope your Wednesday gives you the hope to finish this week : )

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bringing the Joy Out in Christmas wish Joy Tamsin David : )

Sorry! Another pun for a title : P

Anway we have a very special guest here today, ladies and gents! It's Joy David from Edgy Inspirational Romance! I'll get right onto the interview : )

H: What is your favorite part(s) of the Christmas season?

J: Going to church and my sons' Christmas pageant at school. Wrapping presents on Christmas Eve, the look on my boys' faces when they see the tree for the first time Christmas morning.

H: Awwww, all are very sweet memories, Joy! Are you a big celebrator of Christmas?

J: Well, I'm no Clark Griswald, but after I had kids, Christmas definitely eeked past Thanksgiving as my favorite holiday.

H: Lol!! I can't quite picture you as Clark never know I suppose :P What are some of your traditions? (i.e. food, gift giving, family traditions, etc)?

J: We open gifts in the morning (the boys aren't allowed to wake us up before 6am). Then my husband starts dinner- he makes a mean turkey. Family members from both sides of the family come to our house for Christmas dinner.

H: Ah, sounds similar to ours, if you saw my post the other day! Lol...and a fellow Christmas turkey eater! Do you have a favorite Christmas themed book/recommendation? Movie?

J: I discovered a new favorite book this year! Readers with young children really need to get The Elf on the Shelf. I bought it this month to use in my classroom. The book comes with a toy elf and the story explains how the elf spies on kids the days before Christmas and reports back to Santa.

The first day I used him in my class, I taped the elf's hands over his mouth because he's not allowed to speak to the children- Santa's rules. Well, sometime during math, the elf's hands popped off his mouth (cheap tape!) and pandemonium broke out in first grade.

After one boy jumped up to scream, "He moved!" everyone went crazy. I put my hands on my hips and tried to keep a straight face, "I told you he was an elf. What did you expect?"

Long story short, I'm not having any problems with behavior these days. ;)

H: THat's cool, Joy! You're really lucky to be able to keep such a Christmas theme in your classroom, a lot can't nowadays. How have your Christmas traditions changed since you were a kid now that you have a _________ (family, at college, etc)?

J: My dad was pretty strict with the Christmas tree because he was always concerned about fire hazards. Rules were it went up no earlier than December 18 and always came down New Years eve. These days, I put our tree up right after Thanksgiving (I buy it from a tree farm so it's really fresh). I still take it down on New Years though. I don't want to end up like my brother who once left his tree up until February. It got so stiff and prickly he couldn't get the ornaments off. They had to throw the whole thing- lights and all- out on the curb.

H: Oh my gosh! I can't imagine a tree like your brother's! That would be terrible, lol. What did you ask Santa for this year? *wink*

J: "Santa" bought me an outfit from NY and Company on Black Friday while she was out shopping for everyone else. LOL.

H: LOL Joy!! Very cool, Santa must've known exactly what you wanted ; )

These are some bests. Just fill them in with your favorite/the best.

Christmas present as a child? In fifth grade I got a Sony Walkman with Prince's Purple Rain cassette tape. At ten, I was totally in love with the artist formerly known as a symbol. I fantasized about driving a red corvette with the words "Little Red Corvette" actually painted on the sides. (Don't judge me).

Here's a picture of the Sony Walkman circa 1983:

Favorite Christmas song? Silent Night, Silver Bells

Place to spend Christmas day? Our family rule is Christmas is always spent at home. We'll travel for Thanksgiving and Easter, but my kids wake up in their own house to celebrate Christmas.

Christmas food? Desserts, definitely the desserts.

Oh man, Joy, Renee will be all over the last one with....pie! ; )

Now, I think it's time for our Mystery Song of the Day!! There is absolutely NO way to give a hint for this song. It's called Prayer of the Children by Kurt Bestor. We sang it in four-part harmony in jazz choir last year and it was so touching. Here are the lyrics:

Can you hear the prayer of the children?
On bended knee, in the shadow of an unknown room
Empty eyes with no more tears to cry
Turning heavenward toward the light

Crying Jesus, help me
To see the morning light-of one more day
But if I should die before I wake,
I pray my soul to take

Can you feel the hearts of the children?
Aching for home, for something of their very own
Reaching hands, with nothing to hold on to,
But hope for a better day a better day

Crying Jesus, help me
To feel the love again in my own land
But if unknown roads lead away from home,
Give me loving arms, away from harm

Can you hear the voice of the children?
Softly pleading for silence in a shattered world?
Angry guns preach a gospel full of hate,
Blood of the innocent on their hands

Crying Jesus, help me
To feel the sun again upon my face,
For when darkness clears I know you're near,
Bringing peace again

Dali cujete sve djecje molitive?
(Croatian translation:
'Can you hear all the children's prayers?')
Can you hear the prayer of the children?.

Sorry to give you a depressing song on Monday!! This might be a little better! Happy Monday! Less than two weeks to Christmas : )

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Southern Holiday Greeting from Missy Tippens!!

It is Friday!! Finally! Couldn't be happier! Hope your week has gone well and you all have something enjoyable planned for this weekend!

Today we have another special guest with us : ) On her blog she invites us to "Come hang out with me as I share adventures from my chaotic life as a mom of three, pastor's wife, writer and small business owner." Though she may not be as loud as some of the other Seekers *cough Ruthy and Mary cough* she still has a kind, powerful way with words. With three books under her belt and many more to come, let's welcome Missy Tippens to the Christmas blogfest!!!

H: Missy, thank you so much for coming today! I know you must be busy, aren't we all? I don't know if you knew that Her Unlikey Family was one of my first Love Inspired books I ever read! Guess we know why I got hooked ; ) Let's kick this interview off by seeing if you are a big celebrator of Christmas?

M: Yes. We decorate (although that’s more a big deal for the kids than it is for me), and I love figuring out what gifts to buy. I admit, the actual shopping part can be stressful, but online shopping helps with that. I also love Christmas Eve. And we have family traditions like the reading of The Night Before Christmas and also the Christmas story from the Bible. Oh, and cookies for Santa! We do it all. :)

H: You're so festive, but I agree I think you covered all the bases : ) What is your favorite part(s) of the Christmas season?

M: I absolutely love the Christmas Eve service at church.
It’s a candlelight service. My favorite part is at the end, where the flame is passed from person to person. I get a great view from the choir loft, and I love seeing the congregation just glowing as they sing Silent Night!

H: Oh man, that sounds awesome Missy! Maybe that looks a little like it *wink* We do a candlelight service too and sing Silent Night. I think it's quite common, but it's a wonderful part of the service! What are some of your traditions? (i.e. food, gift giving, family traditions, etc)?

M: When I was a child, we had a Christmas Eve tradition of eating at Pizza Hut for dinner and then going to the midnight candlelight service at church. Then we would go home and get to choose one gift to open. But don’t tell my kids that! We don’t open any gifts early in my household. :) Nowadays, my family has a tradition of eating biscuits and sausage gravy for breakfast.
Then I cook a roast for dinner. (No more turkey for us! We’re done with that at Thanksgiving.) We stay in our p.j.’s most of the day and enjoy family time.

H: Pizza Hut, eh? That sounds pretty good right!! As I said before, we open our one gift (pjs) on Christmas Eve, but we already know what it's going to be haha. So it doesn't completely count, right ; ) And oh we fall victim to the turkey! We only have it twice a year as a big feast like this and those are the two times. Do you have a favorite Christmas themed book/recommendation? Movie?

M: One of my favorite movies to watch each year is Elf. So cute! And of course, It’s a Wonderful Life. Oh, and, um, can I mention my Christmas book, A Forever Christmas? :)

H: ELF!! Yes, it's a wonderful movie. Definitely one of my sister's favorites, but we all love it. Don't worry I was going to make sure and mention your books at the end, but you did such a lovely job incorporating it now!! If you had to pick one “symbol” of Christmas (i.e. ornaments, the tree, the lights, the nativity set, etc.), what would you pick as your favorite?

M: I love the tree. I love to sit up at night after everyone else is in bed and enjoy the lit Christmas lights. So peaceful and a great time to reflect on the real meaning of Christmas. A time to think back over the past year as I approach the new year.

H: Same here, Missy, I totally's so peaceful to just watch the lights and....well think. What did you ask Santa for this year? *wink*

M: Would you believe I haven’t thought of anything yet?! I’ve been so busy making sure I order all the kids’ gifts in time that I haven’t even given it a moment’s thought. I guess I better decide soon!

H: Spoken like a true mom, Missy. Putting her kids before herself : )

These are some bests. Just fill them in with your favorite/the best.

Christmas present as a child?
A diamond ring that was my grandmother’s. She gave it to me for Christmas when I was a teenager instead of making me wait to inherit it. I still wear it every day!
Favorite Christmas? I can’t really pick one! I’ve had so many memorable ones. I look back at old photos from when I was a child and can practically remember them all (the year of the big doll house and the Chatty Cathy doll, the year the cat knocked over the tree, the year my cousin knocked over the tree …) Oh, and I remember the Christmas my then-boyfriend gave me sapphire earrings for Christmas when I had hoped for an engagement ring. Not a favorite but definitely memorable! LOL (Never fear, he did propose a month later!) And I remember each and every Christmas since we had children. I especially remember shopping for that first Christmas after we had our first baby. Needless to say, I went slightly overboard! Now I treasure each holiday that my oldest son is here because I know it won’t be long before he’s grown and gone and celebrating with his own family. (Can my request for Santa be to keep my younger two kids from growing up so quickly?) :)
Christmas song? Breath of Heaven as well as various traditional carols.
Place to spend Christmas day? At home in p.j.’s!
Christmas food? Standing rib roast and mashed potatoes with gravy.

Thanks so much for having me, Hannah! I hope your first finals go well and that you enjoy a wonderful Christmas break with your family!!

Thank YOU so much, Missy. It's been really fun hearing more about your past Christmases and now with your kids. Oh and Missy hearing your cat story inspired me to put this little picture show together for you to remember the good ol' times *grin*

LOL!! This is what I can imagine happening, Missy : D

Anyway, everyone please check out Missy's wesite and pop in to say hi on her blog, Life with Missy. She loves to hear from readers : ) Also please be sure to check out her books, especially A Forever Christmas as this IS the season!! It is crazy good and you will not be disappointed!!

And now, you can guess what's coming next people! Hmmmm what will it be today?? It's the Mystery Song of the Day!! Hint: Okay this isn't an easy one either! I guess think...drums and pipes? Please someone, if you get this, tell me and I will find a prze for you!! Because that's not a great hint and it's not the most well known Christmas song ; )

Have a great weekend, but just so you know we will be having a post tomorrow! So if you have time to pop by on the weekend, we'd love to have you : )

Zesting Up the Holidays with Pepper Basham!

Okay, sorry for the bad pun, Pepper, BUT I couldn't resist! Lol....

So let's jump to the chase, people. I've got Pepper Basham here with me today. She's nervous about following Ruthy, so let's make her feel really welcome!! Let's get right to the interview:

H: Thank you so much for stopping by today! So Pepper, what is your favorite part(s) of the Christmas season?

P: Did you intentionally start with a tough question? ;-) Three words: family, food, faith. Getting together with my extended family and sharing the food, oh my heavens, what a good time. Plus, I didn’t have to cook it all. Love that.
And I love attending our Christmas Eve Candlelight Communion Service. There’s something so beautiful about participating in it as a reminder of the purpose of that holy child’s birth. And by candlelight? Very moving.

H: Well, you know I try my hardest ; ) Ahhh I like the Christmas Eve service too! If you hang on, that will come up again later on during the blogfest! Are you a big celebrator of Christmas?

P: Oh yeah. In both the secular and spiritual way. Big time decorations, Christmas music 24/7, a Rudolph nose and antler headband. My kids at school LOVE it – and so do I, so it’s a good match.
This time of year is both an exciting and sobering time- because the meaning is so poignant. It’s a beautiful time of celebrating God’s gift to the world, the love of family, the beauty (and somewhat chaos) of gift-giving, but it also reminds us of the ones who have already gone on to Heaven and the forward-look to the Easter-cross.

H: Very well put, Pepper. It's a great reminder that we can have the best of both worlds - secular and spiritual. What are some of your traditions? (i.e. food, gift giving, family traditions, etc)?

P: Decorating the Christmas tree together and playing loud Christmas music. My youngest daughter puts about 5 ornaments per tree limb. It’s hilarious to see them sort through the ornaments year after year. I love it.

H: That is so cute!! I'm sure it must be fun for parents to see their kids grow and take on more responsibilites with the decorations year after year : ) Do you have a favorite Christmas themed book/recommendation? Movie?

P: Okay, how can you go wrong with It’s A Wonderful Life. I love watching that movie. And A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge.
For the kids, it’s watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Does favorite mean one?

H: No, it doesn't! And I was waiting for someone to say How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Thank you : ) How have your Christmas traditions changed since you were a kid now that you have a _________ (family, at college, etc)?

P: When I was a little girl, we’d have a big family celebration on Christmas Eve. All the kids would climb to the top of the stairs, out of sight of the tree and adults, so one of my aunts could read Twas the Night Before Christmas to us.
Since growing up and having a family, we can’t travel for Christmas Eve anymore, so we try to modify our family get-togethers to see as many family members as we can in one ‘hit’.

We’ve created our own traditions, though. Every Chrstmas Eve, I make Christmas Eve dinner and we invite one family from the church to our house. Then after that family leaves, we read Twas the Night Jesus Came and go to bed (notice I said, got to bed – not sleep. What kid sleeps on Christmas Eve? ;-)

H: Actually, Pepper, I feel like Christmas Eve is the one night that I didn't fight Mom to go to bed! It was always difficult to get to sleep, but you just did it, lol!! I love how well you've been able to integrate your traditions. If you had to pick one “symbol” of Christmas (i.e. ornaments, the tree, the lights, the nativity set, etc.), what would you pick as your favorite?

P: Okay, Hannah, we have a really odd one at our house. It’s an ornament of a huge nail that we hang behind all of the other ornaments on our Christmas tree. It’s huge, and it’s to remind of us the ‘heart’ of Christmas. Beyond the lowly stable and Silent Night. Beyond the Beautiful Star of Bethlehem and the Hark of the Herald Angels – it reminds us of the reason for this Joy to the World. The Savior, who would take on our sins in this very dark world. That reminder, that symbol, places gravity and meaning to the rest of what we do this time of year (or at least I hope it does). Whether Santa Claus is Coming to Town or not, we know Jesus already has come – and He’s given the biggest gift of all. Himself.
The ultimate reason for this Holy Night in the Little Town of Bethlehem. Jesus and his extravagant love.

H: Wow, Pep, I don't think that's odd at all. That's beautiful, I know a lot of people reading this are going to love hearing about this symbol. Thanks for sharing with us! What did you ask Santa for this year? *wink*

P: Money for ACFW for next year. Seriously. It’s either funds to support my writing habit, or funds to support another trip to England. I know, I’m thinking big, but hey…I’ve been a really good girl this year. Mostly. If we’re grading on a curve.

H: *snickers* "If we're grading on a curve..." Lol! Well I wouldn't mind that trip to England! We want to get back to London for Wicked with Rachel Tucker!! What was one gift that you always wanted, but never got?

P: A treehouse. I’ve always wanted a treehouse, still do. It’d have to be a bit bigger at this point, but oh what fun!

H: We never had a treehouse either, lol!

These are some bests. Just fill them in with your favorite/the best.

Christmas present as a child?
Barbie Dream House or a My Child Doll. Here are pictures of both – because I’m pretty sure you’re too young to know about them, Hannah.

(I just will have you know that I DO know what a Barbie Dream House is, Pepper!! We had one, not this one, but we had one!! LOL!)

Christmas song? Another hard question: I’ve always loved Joy to the World and O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, but I have a new one I like this year. It’s a worship chorus entitled Joy Has Dawned. The words are fabulous. You can hear part of it here:
Place to spend Christmas day? My grandmother’s house with my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. And the character ideas for stories? All over the place!! Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation has nothing on us.
Christmas food? How on EARTH can you pick a favorite there? I love most food that I don’t have to cook or clean up after, add chocolate to it – and it’s perfect for me : )

Pepper, thank you so much for helping us celebrate this Christmas season!! It's been a pleasure talking Christmas with you : )

And now onto our Mystery Song of the Day!! Hint: This song is THE song for this holiday. Sometimes the first word is misplaced with Chipmunks : / Anyway, this specific version I stumbled onto and absolutely adore it!! Just wait until you hear it and see who it is. Their harmony is so tight, it's marvelous!

Have a happy Thursday! It's almost Friday and my last day of classes before Christmas Break!!!!