Monday, December 28, 2015

Happy New Year: 2016!

Winner of last week's give away of Cynthia Ruchti's An Endless Christmas: Shakeia Rieux!

From each of us at CCC, we wish you...


  • Philippians 3:13-14 NIV
  • Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

We want to thank you all for joining us this past year. We will be taking a break this week to enjoy our families. Join us again next week to kick off 2016. We're jumping into the new year with a fun discussion of our favorite genres, writers, and books.

Happy New Year! From: Anne, Jaime, Erica, & Gabrielle

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Painter's Daughter, by Julie Klassen (Book Giveaway!)

It's hard to believe my favorite week of the year has arrived! That glorious week between Christmas and New Year's is always filled with games and books and wintery things like sledding, skating, and playing in the snow. Amidst all the fun, we celebrate my husband's birthday on the 27th, and then we have a big family-style party on New Year's Eve.

I enjoy this week because it's all about relaxing and spending time with family and friends (and reading!).

I thought I'd share my newest favorite book with you, in case you're looking for something good to read this week. It's The Painter's Daughter, by Julie Klassen.


Okay, here's the real deal: I loved this book! And not just because I absolutely adore Julie, either. I was a huge fan of hers before I had the pleasure of becoming her friend. :)

Julie's books read like a Jane Austen novel and pull you into a world completely foreign--yet, surprisingly comfortable and familiar. There is just enough intrigue to keep your heart pumping and your fingers turning the page, but not so much that you feel uncomfortable.

The Painter's Daughter is about a marriage of convenience (the first time Julie has written about this subject). I fell in love with her hero and I rooted for her heroine. The second-to-last scene of the book had me swooning and in tears, all at the same time. It's one of those stories I couldn't put down, and ended up reading too fast, because suddenly I was at the end and I didn't want to be!

My daughters and I had the pleasure of
attending Julie's release party a couple
weeks ago! This is her tenth book, so we
had a party and celebrated! So much fun. :)
Here's a little more about The Painter's Daughter:
Sophie Dupont, daughter of a portrait painter, assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. She often walks the cliffside path along the north Devon coast, popular with artists and poets. It's where she met the handsome Wesley Overtree, the first man to tell her she's beautiful.

Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother's neglected duties. Home on leave, he's sent to find Wesley. Knowing his brother rented a cottage from a fellow painter, he travels to Devonshire and meets Miss Dupont, the painter's daughter. He's startled to recognize her from a miniature portrait he carries with him--one of Wesley's discarded works. But his happiness plummets when he realizes Wesley has left her with child and sailed away to Italy in search of a new muse.

Wanting to do something worthwhile with his life, Stephen proposes to Sophie. He does not offer love, or even a future together, but he can save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he believes he will, she'll be a respectable widow with the protection of his family.

Desperate for a way to escape her predicament, Sophie agrees to marry a stranger and travel to his family's estate. But at Overtree Hall, her problems are just beginning. Will she regret marrying Captain Overtree when a repentant Wesley returns? Or will she find herself torn between the father of her child and her growing affection for the husband she barely knows?

You can purchase the book here.

In the spirit of Christmas, I'd love to give away a free copy of this book to one lucky winner! I'll announce the winner next Thursday.

Your Turn: Have you ever read a book by Julie Klassen? What's your favorite Jane Austen story? What are you reading this week?

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My Favorite Christmas Carol



One of my favorite Christmas Carols is "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." Not only is it a beautiful song, but the story behind it is so poignant. 

From Wikipedia:

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" is a Christmas carol based on the 1863 poem "Christmas Bells" by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.[1] The song tells of the narrator's despair, upon hearing Christmas bells, that "hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men". The carol concludes with the bells carrying renewed hope for peace among men.

During the American Civil War, Longfellow's oldest son Charles Appleton Longfellow joined the Union cause as a soldier without his father's blessing. Longfellow was informed by a letter dated March 14, 1863, after Charles had left. "I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave but I cannot any longer," he wrote. "I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good". Charles soon got an appointment as a lieutenant but, in November, he was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church (in Virginia) during the Mine Run Campaign. Coupled with the recent loss of his wife Frances, who died as a result of an accidental fire, Longfellow was inspired to write "Christmas Bells".

He wrote the poem on Christmas Day in 1863.


I Heard The Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong, And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."


Merry Christmas to you and yours!


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Earl Grey Aficionado
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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

When Life Slows Down

It's no secret that life has been nuts lately - and I'm not the only one. Strange how December becomes filled with turmoil, trauma, stress, frantic-ness, and the like. In an interview I listened to once with Vince Gill he stated something akin to loving the month of December when everything "slows down". What world is he living in?

Something strange happened this morning. I sat down in my fake leather office chair, stared at the Christmas tree my co-worker put behind my computer monitors to cheer me up, and looked at my calendar for the rest of the month. It. Is. Empty.

EMPTY.

NADA.

NOTHING.

ZILCHO.

What do I do with several days and no agenda??? I grabbed the Administrative Coordinator's hand and we raced from the office to get coffee for everyone. (Benefits of being head of department) Once we returned, I leisurely perused the 600+ emails (595 of them being spam) I'd received for work over the weekend. Then I opened my office window for fresh air because the ductwork in our office building is somehow pouring acidic vinegar fumes into my office. (Someone's Christmas cheer is a little too cheery in the next business over!).

Aside from this quick post on my blog, I'm going to dive back into my inbox on my desk which is about three feet high. I might even get some filing done. (Ha.) But the coolest thing? I HAVE A LUNCH BREAK!! I don't think I've had one for - 5 weeks? Literally. I can WRITE MY LITTLE HEART OUT for 60 glorious minutes. Can you hear my ear splitting scream?

What do you do when life magically slows down - even for a day? 

___________________________________


Professional coffee drinker, Jaime Jo Wright, resides in the hills of Wisconsin. She loves to write spirited turn-of-the-century romance, stained with suspense. Her day job finds her as a Director of Sales & Development. She’s wife to a rock climbing, bow-hunting Pre-K teacher, mom to a coffee-drinking little girl, and a little boy she fondly refers to as her mischievous “Peter Pan”. Jaime completes her persona by being an admitted social media junkie and coffee snob. She is a member of ACFW and has the best writing sisters EVER!

"The Cowgirl's Lasso", The Cowboy Bride's Novella Collection - Barbour Publishing - COMING MARCH 2016

"Gold Haven Heiress", California Gold Rush Romance Collection - Barbour Publishing - COMING AUGUST 2016





Visit Jaime's web site: jaimejowright.com

Email Jaime - jaimejowright at gmail dot com

Like Jaime on Facebook 

Friend Jaime on Twitter

Meet Jaime on Pinterest

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Thrill of Hope

If ever a time...now is the time...
To fall on your knees.

If ever a time...now is the time...
To know the thrill of hope.

If ever a time...now is the time...
To feel His worth.

If ever a time...now is the time...
To hope and to rejoice.

If ever a time...now is the time...
For the Divine to bend lo,
And fill our night.

O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining. 
O Holy Night. O Night Divine.

Luke 2: 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,

    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”


~~~~
While I was sick on the couch this week, I finished up Cynthia Ruchti's novella, An Endless Christmas. It's a wonderful read and a great gift idea for this season. 
It's a lovely story packed full of God's redemption through generations. Find out how the Binder family holiday--complete with chaos, food, winter storms, and a proposal--dawns a thrill of hope through Katie Vale's years of ancestral darkness. Cynthia packs this short novella with layers of blessing, and masterfully crafts a story that beckons every doubtful heart to believe in the mystery of love and walk in faith that redeems generations.



Spoiler Alert: get a box of tissues while you read! 


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Leave a message: either your favorite Christmas carol, a Christmas blessing or prayer, or a question for Cynthia about her novella.
Blessings to you all this Christmas Season!

-------------
Blog post by Anne Love-
Writer of Historical Romance inspired by her family roots. 
Nurse Practitioner by day. 
Wife, mother, writer by night. 
Coffee drinker--any time.
Find me on:Facebook 
Find me on: Pinterest
Find me on: Twitter
Find me on: Goodreads  

Friday, December 18, 2015

Interview & #Giveaway with Miralee Ferrell

We are excited to have Miralee Ferrell here today. She has visited us before and we're excited to hear about her latest book and learn even MORE about this wonderful lady!

___________________________________________


· How did you begin writing?

I started writing in 2005 after praying with a visiting pastor at our church. He shared that he felt the Lord was leading me toward writing and whatever type that might be, it needed to be published. I took that word seriously even though I’d had no thought of ever writing. A little over two years later my first book, The Other Daughter, released with Kregel Publications.


· Take us through a day in the life of you, the author (because some us picture you rise from bed, calmly pour your coffee, sit in a sunny little alcove, and write for eight hours before getting ready for a luxurious dinner out with your special someone) ;)

I’m not a morning person, so I tend to get a slow start to my day. I typically watch a little news while I’m eating breakfast and checking email—yes, all three at the same time, LOL! Then I move on to writing assignments, proofreading, editing, or whatever is pressing me most in my schedule. I take frequent breaks, and if I have a chance to spend time with my daughter for lunch, I’ll take that and set everything else aside. Family comes first in my life, but I’ll come home and jump back into the writing world until my brain is frazzled—then I’ll take the evening off (as long as I’m not under
deadline) and spend time with hubby.

· Tell us where you got the idea for your latest book and why you developed a passion to write it?

Blue Ribbon Trail Ride is the fourth book in the Horses and Friends series. The story line was a natural outgrowth of some things that happened in book three, but it also centers around one of my reader’s favorite characters, Pete, the six-year-old autistic brother of Kate, my heroine. I decided to include a mystery in this one (same as book 3) as so many readers love trying to solve a good mystery.

· Who is your favorite character in this book and why?I’d have to say Kate, my main character, due to her spiritual growth and emerging maturity over the course of the four books. She started out being upset & a bit resentful that her family had moved to a new area, and couldn’t see any good in the decision. As time passes, she comes to see God’s hand in the move, and learns to trust Him even though some difficult obstacles cross her path.

· What is the most important takeaway from your book that you hope your readers see?


There are really several, as I insert life lessons for middle-grade readers in all of the books in this series—everything from accepting others without judging, forgiving people who are unkind to you, and learning to trust God and your friends even when you’re hurting. The biggest lesson in this fourth book is trust—no matter how bad the circumstances appear to be

· If you were to be offered the opportunity to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro or to back pack deep into the heart of the Swiss Alps, which would you do and why?
Definitely the Swiss Alps, because I could travel the valleys—I’m not crazy about heights, so I’d have to pass on climbing Kilimanjaro!

· And while you’re on this grand adventure, would it be necessary for you to have coffee or tea? (‘cause we’re split evenly in preference here at the CCC blog)
LOL! Definitely tea, either hot or iced, although my favorite is iced tea with a bit of sugar.

· If you had to write your novel long-hand, would you use a fine point Sharpie, a roller ball pen, a fountain pen, or a pencil?

I love a roller ball pen, but I’d be crossing out a ton of stuff and making a mess, so it would have to be a pencil with a VERY good eraser!

· Your favorite flavor of pie … because we’re heading into pie season!

Huckleberry!! But they’re so expensive to purchase anymore. I used to go to Mt Adams (45 min from home) with my mom to pick, but we both got to the place we decided it was too much work. But I LOVE them in a homemade pie—I have an awesome crust recipe that never fails.


· What are you currently working on in the book world?


A novella for an historical cowboy/Old West collection with three other authors called Heart of a Cowboy (that’s the series title) that will release mid-March of 2016.

· Lastly, will you leave us with a snippet from your book that is one of your favorites and gives us a glimpse into its pages?
Sure—this is when Kate and her best friend Tori accidently overhear a conversation between Kate’s parents about not being able to afford a special camp for Kate’s young autistic brother, Pete.

Kate sucked in a breath. “Wow. I thought my parents for sure they were going to say they were closing the boarding stable.”

Tori made a face. “Me too. I’m thankful they aren’t, but now I’m worried about Pete. That camp sounds like something that might help him a lot.”

“This is the first I’ve heard of it. I’m surprised Mom and Dad haven’t said anything about it before.”

“Maybe they didn’t want to get Pete’s hopes up. He might not say a lot, but he’s a smart kid.”

“I know.” Kate puckered her forehead in thought. “What do you say we call Colt and Melissa and see if we can figure out a way to make enough money to send Pete to camp?”

Tori pushed to her knees, her brown eyes sparkling. “Cool! Let’s go.”

Kate followed Tori down the ladder to the lower level. “We need to keep our voices down. Mom and Dad might think we were spying on them.” She bit her lip, feeling bad that she’d wanted to listen, and even worse that the first thing she’d thought about was losing the boarding stable, while Tori’s first though had been about Pete. But right now she was glad she’d been in the barn loft, or they’d never have known about the camp her family couldn’t afford. Somehow she and her friends must find a way to make a difference.

_______________________________________


Miralee Ferrell’s debut novel released in the fall of 2007, and fifteen more have followed since. Her historical western romance, Love Finds You in Sundance, WY, won the Will Rogers Excellence in Western Fiction award in 2012, and her first book in the four-book Love Blossoms in Oregon series, Blowing on Dandelions, hit the ECPA Best Seller list. Since then she’s ventured into writing horse novels for middle-grade kids, and opened her own publishing company, publishing Christian novels. Miralee and her husband have been married over 40 years and live in the beautiful Columbia Gorge in WA State, where she loves to ride horses, garden, take walks, play with her dogs, and minister to women.

Website and newsletter sign up: www.miraleeferrell.com

Facebook Fan Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/82316202888/



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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Hair Rat?

I love reading, especially to my daughters. A couple years ago, I read the first four books in the Betsy-Tacy Series to them (when Betsy was in grade school during the turn of the century in Mankato, MN), but this year we're reading the next four books, which is the continuation of Betsy's life in her high school years and beyond.

We're currently reading Betsy Was a Junior.
One of the reasons I love reading historical literature to my children is because of the vocabulary and the history they learn. Even the little incidental things pique their interest, and I find myself stopping periodically to answer their questions. Since we're a homeschool family, I often encourage them to dig deeper and they've written a few reports about what they've learned.

A few nights ago, we read about a hair rat around 1908, which prompted my girls to ask questions and to do some investigating. Needless to say, they have now started collecting their hair. :) I should probably find a hair receiver for them.

I thought it would be fun to share more about hair receivers and hair rats, and what in the world an Edwardian Era woman would do with either!

A hair receiver. This would have sat on a lady's dresser.
As she combed her hair, she would take the pieces
which came out on the brush and place them in the receiver.
Hair was commonly used in making jewelry, mourning
wreaths and hair "rats." A rat would be a clump of hair
that they would pin in place, and then wrap their existing hair
around it to give more volume.
This is a hair rat in the early stages.
This picture came from Gibson Glamour Blog
and was hair collected over a two week
period of time. Once hairsprays were
invented, the hair rat went out of style.
 
This was the picture of the "Gibson Girl" she
was the epitome of feminine beauty. Her hairstyle
was called a pompadour and would have been
produced with a hair rat to give it height and volume.

 
Your Turn: Have you ever heard of a hair receiver or hair rat? Do you enjoy the thought of a wad of discarded hair hanging out on your head? ;) 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Bundles of Love

Erica Here: 

This week I have stepped back from the writing and editing to do some sewing. Local fabric stores are having terrific sales, and I had the joy of picking out flannel and fleece for baby blankets. It was so much fun! So, what am I going to do with 20 new baby blankets?

I'm going to give some to a charity here in SE Minnesota, a group called Bundles of Love. My sister-in-law, Linda first told me about Bundles of Love. She crochets blankets, booties, washcloths, and more for them. I was intrigued by the premise of the group. They assemble 'bundles' of baby items to be distributed to those in need. 


I was curious as to what went into a 'bundle.' Here is the information from the Bundles of Love website:

The following hand-made items are included in every newborn bundle:
  • 1 diaper bag
  • 1 quilt
  • 1 fitted crib sheet
  • 1 afghan or fleece blanket
  • 2 receiving blankets
  • 2 bibs
  • 2 burp cloths
  • 2 sleepers
  • 2 gowns
  • 2 t-shirts
  • 1 jacket with matching pants or knitted or crocheted sweater
  • 1 hat
  • 1 pair booties
  • 1 toy
  • 2 washcloths
  • 1 pair mittens (winter only)
  • 1 bunting or car seat cover (winter only)

In addition, we include the following baby care products:
  • Diapers
  • Baby soap or shampoo
  • Baby wipes

When we have extra donations, we include them in a bundle. Extra donation examples are:
  • Pacifiers
  • Towels
  • Socks
  • Changing pads
  • Baby lotion
  • Baby bottles
  • Other baby care items as provided by our supporters
Isn't that amazing? What a blessing this would be to a family in need! 











There are several branches of this charity in Southeast Minnesota. Some, like the group in Rochester, have a room where they can work and store their supplies all the time, some bring in all their supplies each time they meet, and some use a cargo trailer. They offer free patterns, and you don't have to be able to sew or crochet or knit in order to help out. 


Donations come in from so many sources. Here in Rochester there are knitting groups, sewing groups, churches, and individuals that donate time, materials, and money. One local yarn shop, http://yarnologymn.com/ donates yarn and encourages their customers to bring in the bits and bobs of their stash to be donated as well.  Local stores allow Bundles of Love to set up their table and get the word out about what they do and what they need. 


Bundles of Love started small, and in just over fifteen years has gone from a handful of women making five layettes a month to an army of folks who recently celebrated their 1 MILLIONTH item donated. Above are just a few bundles ready to go out to families in need. Bundles of Love works with social workers, crisis pregnancy centers, family services groups, churches, and more to get their gifts into the hands of those who can use them.

Here are some links where you can learn more about Bundles of Love:

Bundles of Love Facebook Page
Bundles of Love Website
How to donate to Bundles of Love

Have you ever made a baby blanket or afghan or sweater or booties?

Executive Assistant
Earl Grey Aficionado
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PS: Happy 26th Anniversary to my husband, Peter. He is simply the best!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas Blessings & Kindred Hearts

When I was little my grandparents lived in New Mexico, so my brother and I anxiously awaited the Christmas package that would come in the mail. Stuffed inside were pre-wrapped presents with little surprises. Nothing huge and sometimes very small, but always sent with love, fondness, and thought. It's nice to know someone is thinking about you.

I came home today to an Amazon box sitting on my table that my husband had set for me to open. Great, thinks I, CoCo's Kindle cover finally came. I ignored it. Settled the kids in for a quick TV show so I could make supper without dodging them. I changed the frog's (yes we have a pet frog) aquarium and emptied the live crickets inside. I spent a few moments to myself in silence as I made hashbrowns and cooked venison links in the cast iron pan. Fine. Time to open the Amazon box.

The label caught my attention. Since when does Amazon hand write a label? The return address I didn't recognize--it was a business name. And then it hit me. THAT'S ERICA'S HUSBAND'S COMPANY! It's not from Amazon! It's from Erica!

Suddenly the sensation of being a child rushed through me. I tore into that box like a dog into a steak. Sure enough, inside, were two WRAPPED Christmas presents. There is nothing better than getting a gift in the mail (especially when gifts are one of your primary love languages), even better when someone took the time to WRAP it.

I unwrapped the presents and heaved a happy sigh. Erica MADE me a Christmas present. I love handmade gifts. They're so much better than Walmart. Maybe I appreciate them more because I can't for the life of me hand-make anything. But it was also the material. Coffee beans, and mugs, and words, and coffee ... love.

My new table runner was quilted with care and the place settings were four -- one for each of us. (They ARE place settings right? I mean, I didn't make up some new thing and they're really like mug holders or something?!)


But in reality, these are just things. You know, we can all get tied up in materialism at Christmas. In fact, we even hear messages on the radio, at church, and from devout friends, that Christmas isn't about gifts, but it's about the birth of our Savior.

I agree. But let me place my argument... Christmas is about symbolism. Gifts are a symbol of the greatest gift. The greatest gift, Jesus, represents love, salvation, blessing, and friendship. So to me, giving and receiving gifts is symbolic of the same.

Erica made me an apron earlier this year. It has cowboys and horses on it. What do you think that symbolizes? :) :) :) My FIRST NOVELLA, The Cowgirl's Lasso. When I wear it, I think of my dream, and then I smile. Because Erica cared enough to tie herself to my heart's dream (because she had the same one too), and her gift symbolizes that kindred spirit.

So while we try to avoid the materialistic hustle and bustle, don't negate the meaning behind gifts and the love and care we share. I love my table runner and my apron more than I do the dress I ordered form Old Navy this week (and am second guessing whether I really needed it). These items are symbolic of so many things but most of all . . . friendship.

Because friendship at Christmas, is what makes Christmas warm, inviting, and filled with special memories.

Thank you, Erica <3! :)

Do you have a special gift that symbolizes something unique to you that you cherish?


___________________________________


Professional coffee drinker, Jaime Jo Wright, resides in the hills of Wisconsin. She loves to write spirited turn-of-the-century romance, stained with suspense. Her day job finds her as a Director of Sales & Development. She’s wife to a rock climbing, bow-hunting Pre-K teacher, mom to a coffee-drinking little girl, and a little boy she fondly refers to as her mischievous “Peter Pan”. Jaime completes her persona by being an admitted social media junkie and coffee snob. She is a member of ACFW and has the best writing sisters EVER!

"The Cowgirl's Lasso", The Cowboy Bride's Novella Collection - Barbour Publishing - COMING MARCH 2016

"Gold Haven Heiress", California Gold Rush Romance Collection - Barbour Publishing - COMING AUGUST 2016





Visit Jaime's web site: jaimejowright.com

Email Jaime - jaimejowright at gmail dot com

Like Jaime on Facebook 

Friend Jaime on Twitter

Meet Jaime on Pinterest

Monday, December 14, 2015

May It Be

May it be unto me according to your word....

Every Christmas and Easter, I try to listen for a new piece of truth from the age old stories about Christ's birth and resurrection.

This year, while at a Christmas concert I found it. While listening to the lead singer of Irish Celtic band, Danu, I was putting myself in Mary's shoes as she sang about the mother of Jesus. It was sad but hopeful.

First an angel appears to her. Frightening.
Then he tells her she's going to have a son.


Wait.
I'm pretty sure she knew the penalty for that, being as she wasn't married.

She was as good as dead.

But she surrendered to the will of the Father.
It was a foreshadowing for Christ's death and resurrection.
As good as dead. In her surrendering, new life was birthed. Life that would change the world.
It was a foreshadowing of the Way of Christ.

How will I surrender this Christmas to bring the light and life of Christ fore fully into my life?
How will you?

So, maybe she didn't know everything that would transpire.
Maybe couldn't see it all.
But she surrendered anyway.

YouTube: Mary Did You Know? by Pentatonix

Luke 1: 27
And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[e] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

-------------
Blog post by Anne Love-
Writer of Historical Romance inspired by her family roots. 
Nurse Practitioner by day. 
Wife, mother, writer by night. 
Coffee drinker--any time.
Find me on:Facebook 
Find me on: Pinterest
Find me on: Twitter
Find me on: Goodreads  

Friday, December 11, 2015

Whispers In The Reading Room #Giveaway!

If the title "Whispers in the Reading Room" doesn't do it for you, maybe the cover will. Yes, yes. This is the latest from author, Shelley Gray, whose novels are historical romantic suspense and my favorite genre.

I received a complimentary copy to review and was more than happy to read this lovely gem of a book.

The hero, Sebastian, is a deeply troubled soul and has both feet firmly planted in the gambling, club world of Chicago. I really LOVED this aspect of the book for a few reasons, one being not much is written about that, and two, I love haunted heroes. Not to mention, as warm as a nice hero can be, let's be honest--the world is gritty and it can take a man down into darkness.

... which is where Lydia finds him.

Our mousy little librarian hides nerves of steel, and she is captivated by her mysterious library reading room connoisseur. Of course, he's got enough bravado to save her from her fiance who is a cad, and a little saving often helps a romance. ;)

But soon enough, the dark undergound of Chicago raises its ugly head and I enjoyed the fact that people ended up dead, beat up, and worse for the wear. It makes the suspense exciting, amps up the tension in a forbidden world romance, and brings a bit of gothic-cheer ;) to the story.

A few things I wasn't as keen on were: the cover doesn't have the heroine wearing her oft-referred to spectacles. I mean, that's not a story deal-breaker, but I noticed. Mousy heroines are a bit difficult for me to connect with. While Lydia has a nervy side, as mentioned above, she definitely takes a lot from her fiance. While true to the culture of the time, I still had a bit of a time wondering when her inner strength would make her use her head a little too. Again, more personal preference than writing style or poor story. So really, I should shut up. Because the book is really good! The last thing I was a bit iffy on was the balance between romance/relationship and suspense. It was almost too much relationship and not even suspense. I'd like to see more of a 50/50 split. But again, personal preference. So again, shut up, Jaime.

All in all, it's a wonderful read and well enjoyed by me! And, I'm giving away my copy completed with the remnants of my daughter's Paw Patrol tattoo that somehow stuck to one of the pages. How special is that?!

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About the book:

Whispers in the Reading Room (Zondervan, November 2015)
Lydia's job at the library is her world---until a mysterious patron catches her eye . . . and perhaps her heart.

Just months after the closure of the Chicago World's Fair, librarian Lydia Bancroft finds herself fascinated by a mysterious dark-haired and dark-eyed patron. He has never given her his name; he actually never speaks to a single person. All she knows about him is that he loves books as much as she does.

Only when he rescues her in the lobby of the Hartman Hotel does she discover that his name is Sebastian Marks. She also discovers that he lives at the top of the prestigious hotel and that most everyone in Chicago is intrigued by him.

Lydia and Sebastian form a fragile friendship, but when she discovers that Mr. Marks isn't merely a very wealthy gentleman, but also the proprietor of an infamous saloon and gambling club, she is shocked.

Lydia insists on visiting the club one fateful night and suddenly is a suspect to a murder. She must determine who she can trust, who is innocent, and if Sebastian Marks-the man so many people fear-is actually everything her heart believes him to be.


Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1lujxr6


About the author:

Shelley Gray is the author of The Heart of a Hero series. Her Amish novel (written as Shelley Shepard Gray), The Protector, recently made the New York Times best seller list. A native of Texas, she earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in Colorado and taught school for ten years. She and her husband have two children and live in Southern Ohio.

Connect with Shelley: website, Twitter, Facebook


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Professional coffee drinker, Jaime Jo Wright, resides in the hills of Wisconsin. She loves to write spirited turn-of-the-century romance, stained with suspense. Her day job finds her as a Director of Sales & Development. She’s wife to a rock climbing, bow-hunting Pre-K teacher, mom to a coffee-drinking little girl, and a little boy she fondly refers to as her mischievous “Peter Pan”. Jaime completes her persona by being an admitted social media junkie and coffee snob. She is a member of ACFW and has the best writing sisters EVER!

"The Cowgirl's Lasso", The Cowboy Bride's Novella Collection - Barbour Publishing - COMING MARCH 2016

"Gold Haven Heiress", California Gold Rush Romance Collection - Barbour Publishing - COMING AUGUST 2016



Visit Jaime's web site: jaimejowright.com

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Christmas Tradition...Broken

In the spirit of Erica's blog post yesterday (if you haven't entered the giveaway, there's still time!), I was all set to share another one of my favorite Christmas traditions today. But then something happened that made me rethink what I wanted to share.

Let me back up. My husband Dave and I started dating in 1997 when we were seventeen. That very first Christmas, I bought him a cute little Santa ornament. I still remember the moment I saw it, and knew he'd like the jolly fellow. Since it was our first Christmas, it was a safe gift to give. It wasn't terribly personal, yet it was a glimpse of my heart. I dreamed of seeing that ornament on my own Christmas tree one day, when we were married.

The following year, we went on a school trip to London, England two days after Christmas. While we were shopping, I found a cute little tin Santa Claus. By this time, I was quite sure I'd marry my real-life hero, so I boldly said: "Let's buy this ornament, and every time we go on a trip, we can buy another. One day, we'll have a tree full of ornaments from around the world, and we'll reminisce every time we decorate."

Purchased in London, December 1998
And that's exactly what we've done for the past seventeen years.

At first, we stuck with Santa Claus ornaments. Sometimes we had to improvise, like the time we went camping in Canada and I learned I had a knack for whittling!

Santa made in Quetico, Canada, 2000

Or when we couldn't find a Santa Claus in Decorah, Iowa, and we found a little figurine and put a string on him.

Purchased in Decorah, Iowa, 2000
Eventually, we gave ourselves permission to buy anything that represented the area where we were traveling. We also agreed that if we travel alone, we still need to find an ornament. Dave has one from his mission trip to Africa. I have one from my trip to France.

Purchased in Burkina Faso, Africa, 2008

Purchased in Paris, France, 2009
We have ornaments from as close by as Duluth, MN--and as far away as Africa. We have ornaments from various places in the Caribbean, and ones from Europe. We have several from trips to California, Colorado, New England, New Orleans, New York, and ones we bought at our local Wal Mart to celebrate the purchase of our first home, our first dog, and our first cat.

Purchased in St. Augustine, FL (the oldest town
in America), 2013

Purchased in Washington, D.C., 2001

Glass Float purchased in Monterey, California, 2014
Every ornament carries a special, heart-warming memory.

But I have three favorites. The one I bought Dave for our first Christmas. The one I bought on our trip to London. And one we bought in New York City just a few months before 9/11. That one is blown glass and the original broke in Central Park when I pulled out my wallet to pay for a carriage ride. The package fell from my backpack...but Dave retraced our steps, and about an hour later, he returned with a replacement.

Purchased in New York City, 2001
But then...two days ago...I heard a crash, and then a startled: "I'm sorry, Mama!"

My favorite ornament, the very first one I bought Dave in 1997, was on the floor with a broken hat, and my nine-year-old daughter stood above it with a mixture of alarm, remorse, and apprehension.


I could have cried--but I didn't.

That jolly fellow has been on every Christmas tree we've ever owned, including the first after we were married, living in a little apartment in Ames, Iowa where Dave was going to college. It was one of the only ornaments we had. It followed us to a cute farmhouse we rented after college. And then to our first home, and our second. It sat alongside the first ornaments for each of our children, and it became crowded as each year passed.

I didn't yell at my daughter, and of course I said I forgave her. I didn't make a big deal about it, or make her feel bad (she already felt bad enough). I simply picked it up, gathered the shattered pieces, and tried in vain to glue it back together.

It will never look the same, but I've decided I won't throw it away. It will never hang on our tree again, but it will be put somewhere special for everyone to see--and for all of us to remember that it still holds the same value, even if it's not perfect. 

But, more importantly, I want all of us to remember that it's just a piece of painted ceramic. It's part of a temporary world we will all leave behind someday. What I want to remember is the love and memories behind the gift. Those are the things that truly matter and that last.

The ornament has a new story to tell. It speaks to the truth, that we're all broken and imperfect, but we're still valuable and loved.

Hopefully when my daughter looks at it in years to come, the story she will remember is one of forgiveness, understanding, and unconditional love. Because she is far more precious to me than all the ornaments on the tree combined.

Despite his flaws, he's still the same jolly
fellow. :)
What about you? Have you lost a special ornament over the years? Do you have an ornament tradition?

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas Memories and Traditions

Erica here: I thought it might be fun for us CC&C girls to share some of our Christmas memories and traditions, and we'd love to hear some of yours, too! And because it's Christmas, we're giving away a fun little holiday gift.

Anne's Family Tradition:

Anne and family at the Christmas tree farm.


Our family has gone to Christmas Tree farms for 28 years to cut a fresh tree. It's morphed over the years into a "traditional argument" akin to the family funk that seems to happen when you try to take family pictures. Someone is always disagreeable. Someone is late. Someone is too happy. Someone has too many expectations. Someone wants a fake tree but always gets out-voted in the family vote for a real tree. The tree is too tall, too short, too bare, too prickly, too fat, you get it. But finally, we all laugh, come together in harmonious agreement and bring the tree home. That's when we pray Dad gets it in the tree stand without having melt down over stuffing it into the tree stand, muttering like the father from A Christmas Story and his broken furnace. We turn on Christmas music, don our Santa hats and decorate while Dad takes pics and begs to turn the Notre Dame game back on.

Love family shenanigans.
Jaime's Christmas memory:

Jaime's Willow Tree nativity

I remember setting up our manger scene. It was my most looked forward to event of the Christmas decorating season. My mom's manger scene was handmade by friend with beanie people :) with felt faces. Each character were old friends, and through that, Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the angels all became old friends. A familiar story but one I cherished. Now I look forward to setting up my manger scene, one my mother-in-law gave me my first year married, and my kids get excited to set up and play with theirs. It's a familiar, warm feeling to greet old friends, and be constantly reminded of the birth of my Savior!

A kid-friendly nativity!

Gabrielle Meyer's family tradition:

Gabe's family trimming the tree.

One of my favorite holiday traditions is Christmas Tree hunting. We always go the weekend after Thanksgiving and we always have my parents and Dave's mother with us. It's a fun time for our children for many reasons, but especially because they have the undivided attention of their grandparents. 

Some years it's freezing, some years it's mild. Some years there is snow on the ground, and some years we trudge through stiff grass. But always, there are smiles on our ruddy faces and anticipation in our hearts for all the fun we'll have decorating and setting gifts under those branches.

After we select the perfect trees (three of them, one for each house), we also help decorate them. At my parents' home, I have three siblings and their spouses, plus all twelve nieces and nephews. My parents have purchased a Christmas ornament for each of us every single year. That's a total of twenty-two NEW ornaments this year alone! The oldest is a bulb from my parents' first Christmas Tree in 1974. Needless to say, the tree is LOADED with ornaments. All of us gather together for this event. My parents separate the ornaments according to family when they take them down, so the boxes are neatly organized and each person is responsible to hang their own ornaments. Afterward, we eat soup and sit around visiting.

My in-laws like to put up their tree closer to Christmas, so we usually go out there the following weekend. It's a much quieter event, since our children are the only grandchildren at this point, and one of Dave's brothers lives too far away to join us. But it's fun to help decorate my husband's family tree and see all the ornaments from his childhood, which, after twenty years feels like mine, as well. Historically, my in-laws' tree has also been much bigger, since they have a nineteen-foot ceiling in their living room. It's an impressive sight.

The last, but certainly not least, is our family tree. We always decorate it with just our children and have a quiet evening at home. Ours is the smallest of the trees, but at nine feet high, it's not that small! It's fun to pull out all the ornaments and reminisce about where we bought them, or what they mean to us. Our children always ask us the same questions, year after year, and we tell them the same stories. I'll share a bit more about our Christmas ornament collection in a future post, because it deserves one all its own. :) 

Such a lovely Christmas tree!
Erica's Christmas Tradition:


In our family, we have three hard and fast Christmas traditions.
1. We must watch SCROOGE sometime during the month of December to get firmly into the Christmas spirit. It must be the 1950's version starring Alastair Sim.

2. We must attend the Christmas Eve service at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church. This is my favorite service of the year with lots of singing and the Christmas story and candlelight.


3. On Christmas morning the Vetsch family eats Christmas waffles for breakfast before opening our gifts. This tradition started many years ago when my husband gave me a waffle iron for Christmas. (It's okay, I asked for one!)









Share with us one of your Christmas traditions or memories, and don't forget to enter the drawing for a sweet treat from us to you!

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