Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Light of the World

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." (John 8:12 KJV)



We had a Candlelight Service at my little church tonight. It's a service I love. Many of you have told me the same thing when you  entered my Christmas giveaway and shared some of your favorite things about Christmas. Candlelight services were mentioned time and again. (By the way, you can still enter if you haven't already. Just leave a comment here with a way to contact you or send me a message at annhgabhart(at)yahoo(dot)com. Prize details on my website here.

Most churches have this special service on Christmas Eve, but that doesn't work out for our church. However, I used to go to midnight Christmas Eve candlelight services with my mother at her church. They started at 11 p.m. and the service was especially moving. The service would conclude right at midnight and the congregation silently filed out of church, putting out their candles as they left while the church bells tolled the midnight hour. 

At our services we all go forward to light our small candles from the larger candle that represents Jesus as the Light of the world. That's where our pastor says we must get our light. Then our pastor has us hold the candles up in the air to show how, if we let our lights shine, the world gets brighter. Since our church is out in the country, when we turn off the electric lights, it's dark! That makes the candles more impressive. We always let the children have candles too although that means their moms and dads have to be very vigilant. But then, it's moms and dads' job to be vigilant and to help their children find the "light."  

In Matthew 5:16 Jesus says, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

I've always thought it would be great to sing "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine" to close out a Candlelight Service.

What do you like best about the Candlelight Services you have attended? Or if you've never been to a Candlelight Service, do you think you might like to? 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Do You Have Christmas in Your Heart?



He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under the tree. (Roy L. Smith)

It's been great reading the messages that have come in with the contest entries of all of your favorite things at Christmas and to see that you do have Christmas in your hearts. In fact, after I asked you to name your favorite thing about Christmas when you entered my Christmas Giveaway Contest, many of you said it's too hard to pick one thing. You have so much you love about Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus. 

As you might expect, being with family has been often mentioned. We do love sharing this time of year with those we love.


One reader wrote: My favorite thing about the Christmas holiday is probably Christmas morning, being in our pjs and opening gifts with my hubby and kids. My husband always reads about Jesus being born from the Bible before we open gifts.


We also remember and miss those who are celebrating Christmas in heaven. I liked how this reader made memories of those gone on part of her family's Christmas while making new fun memories for the youngsters. 


She wrote: My favorite thing about Christmas is the ability to share the family stories with the younger ones so it feels like my grandparents are still around. We have had duct tape Christmases and hiding presents treasure hunts. Christmas is a time of remembering and making new memories.


Many readers talked about how much they enjoy the traditional Christmas music and some of the newer Christmas songs too like "Mary, Did You know?" That's a song that stirs my heart and one that was mentioned several times in the e-mail entries I've received so far. Music has a way of getting our Christmas spirit charged up and help us feel the spiritual joy of the season.

Here's what one reader said: How can you list only one favorite thing about Christmas? They shift every year, but right now It would have to be the tears flowing down my face as I listen to and/or sing the songs. Favorites are Mary Did You Know, O Holy night, and of course, Silent Night.


But there are other beautiful things to hear at Christmas time as this reader tells us. She loved the songs and more. 

 I love the SOUNDS of the season. Favorite Christmas carols, popular secular music, hearing the joy and laughter in children's voices and the friendly greetings that are more often spoken at this time of year~~all of these bring me joy.

The act of decorating and getting your house and yard and heart ready for Christmas was a favorite for some of you. You like going to special Christmas worship services. You even like stringing up Christmas lights and baking those cookies and cakes. So many ways to celebrate this special season and find Christmas in your heart. 


This reader listed some she loved. My favorite thing about Christmas is celebrating the birth of Jesus, getting together with family, and all the beautiful lights and decorations.


But then there are the children who light up our lives and make us so ready to keep the spirit of Christmas bright in our homes and churches. 


Here's one reader's short favorite thing message. She simply says, Looking through the eyes of a child at Christmas.


May we all have the childlike spirit we need in order to find Christmas in our heart. "Joy to the world! The Lord is come."

Do you have Christmas in your heart this year? 


(Remember, if you haven't already entered my Christmas giveaway, you can enter by leaving a comment here, but you have to leave a way to contact you. Details here. Drawing is December 31.)




Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Generations of Love



"It's true, Christmas can feel like a lot of work, particularly for mothers. But when you look back on all the Christmases in your life, you'll find you've created family traditions and lasting memories. Those memories, good and bad, are really what help to keep a family together over the long haul." (Caroline Kennedy)

Family - generations of love. Grandmother to mother to grandchild. As you might imagine, I'm missing Mom as the Christmas season approaches and remembering those family traditions and memories she helped create in my life. I'm sure many of you have experienced like feelings after you've lost loved ones. I am grateful for all the good memories I have and for the pictures that awake many of those memories. 

Somehow we never took a generation picture with my mother. Don't know how I missed out on that opportunity with the hundreds, even thousands of pictures I've taken over the years since my first grandchild was born. We weren't able to do the five generation pictures that are sometimes printed in our hometown paper here because my grandparents were gone before I had grandchildren, but we could have done a four generation one. Now that picture will have to be only in my heart. 

As those of you who read Sunday's post or get my newsletter know, I'm having a Christmas giveaway contest with the above figurine as the first prize along with one of my books. You have to win a book, you know. LOL. I like writing about families in my stories. I like exploring the relationships in my fictional families and I like sometimes letting those families reach out and pull people into their family circle that aren't actually related by anything but the love in their hearts. That is especially true in my Heart of Hollyhill series with the great bond between Jocie and Wes. (Scent of Lilacs is still a free download if any of you haven't grabbed it yet.) It's true in my Rosey Corner books too with how Lorena finds a forever place in the Merritt family. In the first Rosey Corner book, Angel Sister, generations play an important part in the storyline. 

All that to explain that's why I picked this particular prize - to celebrate families. You can read all the details of the contest on my website here. Entering is easy. An e-mail or a comment here as long as you be sure to leave a way to contact you. For fun, you can tell me something you especially like about Christmas. I've been reading your messages already. Not got them all read yet since I had some of those grandkids visiting this weekend and have been playing catch-up ever since. But here's one of the messages from Jan that seems to sum it all up. 

"My favorite thing about Christmas is the family catching up and being together during this wonderful season. The memories that are made and the tales that are told. The window dressing of Christmas trees and lights and the beautiful music just makes it more fun but it's all about the miracle of God sending his son to earth for our sins."

Family. Memories. Stories. Beautiful lights and music to celebrate the greatest gift - the birth of Jesus.  Yes, Jan, that is Christmas. 

Thanks for reading. 



Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Magic and a Christmas Giveaway for You


A Small Act of Grandparent Bravery

I got extraordinarily brave Saturday. I was keeping three of my grandkids including my twin grandsons who at the age of six must drink high energy water every morning when they pop out of bed. That energy doesn't run out until about fifty "go to sleep" orders have been issued well after dark. That wasn't the brave part. The brave part was that I took them to our local town's Christmas parade. It helped that my other son and his family was there to help me keep an eye on the kids.

A Small Town Parade
 
I was a bit concerned disappointment awaited in the wings when, before we left home, one of the boys started talking about how we might be on television. Not until he mentioned seeing the big balloons did I realize he was thinking we were going to be on the sidelines of a parade like the Macy's parade he'd watched on Thanksgiving. Their cousin, my older grandson, and I tried to ratchet down their expectations without totally stealing their excitement. 

We found our viewing spot in front of one of the churches, and then had to wait for the parade. And wait. And wait. Waiting is not what these two kids do best! Plus, it was cold. Before we spotted the police cars' flashing lights or heard the marching band's drums, the boys were ready to give up on the parade ever coming and call it a night. But I persevered. I'm good at that. Maybe eventually they will be too. 
 
Do we see Santa?

Finally, the police cars came, sirens sounding to lead the parade. The kids spotted Grinch on one of the floats and the Nativity scene on another. Santa finally showed up too, riding on a firetruck. My daughter-in-law took this picture as the boys were peering ahead to catch sight of Santa. Kids are such fun at Christmas time. And even better, when we took them to church Sunday morning and our pastor asked the kids why we celebrated Christmas, one of the boys was eagerly ready with the answer, "to celebrate Jesus being born."  

A New Christmas Contest


Christmas is a great time for thinking about giving and so time for me to have a Christmas Giveaway Contest. If you get my newsletter, you may have already read all about it and entered. I sent out the newsletter Friday to share that my book, Christmas at Harmony Hill, was a free download for twenty-four hours. The free is gone, but the e-book price is reduced for a while longer if you would like to check it out at your e-book provider. Christianbook.com also has the hardback copies at an even cheaper price.
Amazon Kindle
Nook Books 

Christianbook.com

If you'd like to get my newsletter (more book freebies and contests are on the horizon) and aren't signed up, just let me know or sign up here. 

The newsletter also let readers know about my Christmas giveaway. Since many of my books deal with family relationships, I picked the lovely three generation figurine above for first prize. Plus the winner will get his or her choice of one of my autographed books. Second prize is the Peanuts perpetual calendar with smiles waiting on every day and also the choice of one of my books. To enter, you can leave a comment here with a way to contact you via e-mail or Facebook (without this important information I can't find you should you be a winner) or send me an e-mail (annhgabhart at yahoo dot com) and I'll throw your name in my giveaway hat. Any e-mail will do, but for fun, you can tell me your favorite thing about the Christmas season. Deadline for entries is midnight EST December 31. You must be 18 to enter and have a USA or Canadian mailing address. Next time, I'll come up with something not so hard to mail to include you international friends.

Last Week's Winner of the Christmas Stories

Carolann won last week's giveaway - the Christmas stories. Rose McCauley's Christmas Grace, and my Christmas at Harmony Hill. Thanks to all of you for your comments. It's always fun hearing what you have to say.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Chance to Win a Couple of Christmas Books


Do you like Christmas stories? 

Rose Allen McCauley visited my blog on Sunday and we're giving a free download of her new book to someone who comments on her guest post or tonight's post. I'll draw for the winner Sunday, and so far the odds are very good. Along with Rose's book, you can win a copy of my Christmas Shaker book, Christmas at Harmony Hill. (An autographed print copy.) If you don't have an e-reader, Rose says her book will soon be available in print as well. So answer one of the questions on the post tonight and join in the giveaway fun.

The Greatest Christmas Story

The greatest Christmas story is straight from the Bible in Luke and Matthew. Luke tells about the angels giving the Good News to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks about the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger and Matthew has the story of the visit of the Wise Men. In spite of every church Christmas pageant you've ever seen, the Bible doesn't say how many wise men came to visit Jesus, only that they brought three gifts. But three works pretty well when you're assigning parts for those Christmas plays at church. 

Did you ever have a part in a Christmas play at your church?

Maybe you were a shepherd or a wise man or an angel in a Christmas play. Could be you were picked to be Mary or Joseph or even one of the sheep or other animals. I love Christmas pageants. I don't think I was ever an actor in one, but I've helped with a lot of them with my kids and the other kids in the church. 

I want the kids to tell the old, old story every year wearing those fuzzy, too long wise men and shepherd robes. I want to see the angels draped in white sheets with tinsel halos and cardboard wings that always end up a little crooked before the great announcement is finished. At our church gathering tonight, we were saying how little girls were always the angels. Yet in the Bible any time an angel is actually named, it's a man's name and often described as men, like the men Abraham fed in the Old Testament before they told him he would have a child in the next year and Sarah, eavesdropping, laughed. In spite of all that, we decided we couldn't imagine little boys doing the angels' parts in our Christmas pageants. They much prefer the shepherd role or bringing the gifts. 

What's your favorite carol?

My husband says all the carols are hard to sing and I guess he's right. He's the singer in the family. I just try to make a joyful noise and maybe that's why I like "Joy to the World." It probably is the easiest carol to sing. You can belt that one out pretty good.  But I like them all. They tell the Christmas story in song. 

I hope you get the privilege of having the Christmas story told to you by a cast of children. I've seen many and I have never been disappointed in the story they tell. 

Remember, leave a comment to have a chance to win Rose's download and a paper copy of my book. And make sure to include a way to contact you. 

As always, thanks for reading.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Author Rose McCauley Shares Some Thoughts with Us

 My Friend, Rose



One of the best things about writing Christian fiction is the people I meet. Not only readers, but other writers as well. Rose Allen McCauley is one I feel blessed to count among my writer friends. 

Rose has a generous heart and even before she was published herself, she was always ready to support any area writers with her presence at book events and with her encouragement and prayers. She started a blog to give shout-outs to her friends walking the writing trail. 

Now it's her turn to have a few shout-outs herself with her second book, Christmas Grace, now available for readers. Read on to see what Rose says about prayer and how the Lord often gives us the desires of our heart.

Thoughts on My Second Fiction Book Being Published

By Rose Allen McCauley



I want to share a prayer I wrote a few years ago based on this verse: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14



Thank You, Lord, that I can be still and let you fight my battles for me. But, just as the Israelites had to step out on faith and leave Egypt behind before You performed the miracle of parting the Red Sea for them to cross, help me to do as You lead.



I wonder if part of “be still” is to help us to listen to You so we follow Your lead daily in whatever task You put before us. As a writer, I cannot expect to be published if I never put words to paper—or my hand to the keyboard. A student cannot expect to pass a test if she never studies. A farmer cannot harvest a crop if he doesn’t first plant it.



We need to listen, then do our best as we follow You, and wait and trust You for the outcome. Then we will know that it is You who has accomplished it and who deserves all the glory. In Your Son’s precious Name. Amen.”



Writing my book Christmas Grace has caused me to think a lot about God’s grace, not just at Christmas, but throughout the year. He gives us the desires of our hearts, and gives us the abilities and health to perform them. If we don’t receive what we desire, then perhaps He has a better lesson for us to learn or to share with others. I am so happy that because of His grace and mercy and love, we can be assured He knows what is best for us, and trust Him for the results.



I give God the thanks and glory for letting me write this story, and pray that the readers will be blessed as they think about and experience His grace.

Check out Rose's New Book, Christmas Grace


Grace Buchanan and Chris Fisher were best friends for sixteen years...until he fell in love with her other best friend, Terrie. Chris and Terrie married after high school, then she died three years ago.



A renewed friendship soon awakens stronger feelings in Grace and Chris. Can they both let go of the past long enough to claim the future God has for them?




Books are available online at Amazon for Kindle readers now and soon will be available in paperback.


More about Rose Allen McCauley:



Rose has been writing for over ten years and has been published in several non-fiction anthologies and devotionals. This is her second Christmas novella. Christmas books are her favorites. A retired schoolteacher who has been happily married to her college sweetheart for over four decades, she is also mother to three grown children and their spouses and grandmother to five lovely, lively kids! You can reach her through her website and blog at www.rosemccauley.com or on twitter @RoseAMcCauley and FB at https://www.facebook.com/RoseAllenMcCauley?ref=hl

Thanks for visiting us, Rose, and for sharing your prayer. 

Now Rose and I want to know do you enjoy Christmas stories? Leave a comment to win a free download of her story if you have a Kindle or a Kindle reading app plus a copy of my Christmas novel, Christmas at Harmony Hill. I'll draw a winner next Sunday.
 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Gratitude is Happiness Doubled by Wonder"


I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. ~G.K. Chesterton

 What's your favorite holiday? 



Some of you might say Christmas right off, but I'm pretty sure I hear others out there picking Thanksgiving. It such a wonderful day of family and food and blessings. No pressure to exchange gifts. Just pies to bake and people to visit. And blessings to count. 




I counted some of mine last week when we had our anniversary celebration. You can see sixteen of my special blessings here - my husband, children and grandchildren. Whenever I start counting my blessings, family is right there at the top. 




Then I have such a beautiful place to live. And the Lord blesses me with fabulous scenic views that I can capture with my camera. 





I'm able to get out and walk and I have a sweet four-legged walking companion in Oscar.  


 I'm thankful for all the everyday blessings of life - blue skies and rain, flowers and trees, hummingbirds and snowbirds, breaks in the traffic when I'm merging onto a busy interstate, a car that starts when I turn the key, a child's hug, a baby's first giggle, a dog's wagging tail - just to name a few. So many little gifts of life to enjoy and appreciate.  

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder

Thanksgiving is a great time to be conscious of our treasures. Our blessings. It's been a tough few months - losing Mom in July and then in August the diagnosis of breast cancer with surgery and radiation treatments. But even during the harder times, the blessings abounded with friends who prayed for me and encouraged me. 


I can't leave out the blessing of being able to live my dream of writing books. Each story a gift and a blessing. Each reader a blessing too. I thank all of you who read my books or who peek in here at my journal from time to time. I am thankful for each of you. Next summer I'll have a new book out and maybe I'll meet some new reading friends. So may I have a thankful heart as I count my blessings. 

"Keep your eyes open to your mercies. The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life." ~Robert Louis Stevenson


Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving Day overflowing with blessings.  

What blessings are you especially thankful for right now in your life?