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Christmas in Northern Hearts

By Laurie Wood

Northern Hearts (Heroes of the Tundra Book 2) is my Christmas novella set in the real-life town of Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. It’s called the Polar Bear Capitol of the World. I set my entire series there, and my husband and I flew up in 2019 so that I could do proper research on the town and its polar bear research facilities.

I set this story during the Christmas in between Northern Deception (Book 1) and Northern Protector (Book 3). The inspiration for the story came to me out of the blue—I love it when my brain and creativity strikes like that—because I was thinking about family situations and secrets.

I had the vision of a rich young woman with every advantage she could have in her life, but still yearning for more. And her family held a long, dark secret in the past. She’s about to find out about a family member she had never known existed before, and how that person had been following her life from afar.

The hero is the opposite. He’s grown up without a proper family in the foster care system and the unknown family member of the heroine has been a stand-in mother figure for him. When the hero and heroine meet and are forced to work together for thirty days to meet the legal requirements of the family member’s will, they have to examine what their relationships mean to them and learn to work together.

Being a romance, they will fall in love, but I include some real-life festivities that take place in Churchill, and some traditions that I wish I’d done myself over the years. I believe that family traditions keep memories alive and serve the purpose of keeping families intact, especially when children are young and growing up. Once they’re grown up, some traditions need to change to facilitate the changes in the family make-up, for example, adult children marrying and the “family” enlarging.

Like the Sabbath being made for man, not man for the Sabbath, as Jesus taught us, I think that family traditions like every person being present at Christmas dinner when that may not be feasible, need to be looked at in the light of love and common sense. Christmas dinners may need to be done rotationally. Traditions may need to grow and change as the years go by.

That doesn’t mean that our Christmas excitement and celebrations of our one true King shouldn’t take place or be enjoyed. They just may look different from year to year, and that’s all right. The true meaning of Christmas is that Jesus is the Light of the World and our Saviour. I wish you all a blessed Christmas!

If you visit my website at https://www.lauriewoodauthor.com and sign up for my newsletter, you’ll receive a gift. Thank you for being with me today.

You can buy Northern Hearts here: https://amzn.to/33CFJeE 

Northern Redemption (Heroes of the Tundra Book 4) will come out in 2023.

Far From Home Christmas

by EV Sparrow

In 1975, I accepted Jesus Christ’s work on the cross for my salvation, and a few months later, my parents sold my childhood home. We moved into a new community for people over 55. Because of my parents’ ages, they allowed me in. The promise of the clubhouse pool helped sell me on the idea and get excited.

The day we unpacked the moving truck, a friendly neighbor approached from across the street, and introduced us to another neighbor, Bea. She had a son my age. As we stood in our driveway, Bea told us there were four teens now, and she was happy to meet me. She invited me to her church, the youth group, and was the first Christian woman I met. Bea discipled me before I’d heard what it was. She also has the gifts of mercy and evangelism. It’s always Christmas in her heart.

Bea is 100 years old now, and my “second Mom.” She and her family adopted me by welcoming me as a sister. Her two youngest sons were my close friends. One had the travel bug and urged me to come over to Israel and work on the kibbutz for the summer where he lived, then work for the winter in Germany. I did.

It was 1981, and I fulfilled my dream of overseas travel after listening to his stories of working seasonal jobs and traveling for several years. The thought of going to Bible story locations burned within my soul. Experience where Jesus lived and see where He died? Yes. Not only enjoy gorgeous posters of castles on my walls, but to go inside them? I must.

I purchased a one-way ticket to Israel, worked on the kibbutz for the summer, traveled, then flew to Germany to work for the winter. Visiting 14 countries gave me the experiences I wrote about in my short stories, and how God gave me the unexpected encounters with Him as I traveled.

I’d never been so far away from home until that 1981 Christmas and never dreamed of celebrating it in the magnificent setting of the German Alps. It remains my most fantastic memory of Christmas, and I wrote a short story about it for Grace Publishing’s Celebrating Christmas anthology. My hope is it will resonate with your heart.

My Bavarian Christmas story is a gift to you when you sign up for my newsletter. Merry Christmas to all!

Second in the Series, and you may find some fun ideas!

Christmas Season Must-Watch List

by Karin Beery

I love the holiday season. It’s not just Christmas—it’s the love, anticipation, grace, and thankfulness that fills our house every November, December, and January. I start decorating the first weekend of November, and I have to pace myself when it comes to wrapping presents, donating gifts, and baking (and baking and baking) so I don’t do it all in one week.

While I’m doing all of those things, I always have a Christmas movie playing in the background.

Though I enjoy Hallmark holiday movies, I can’t watch them while I work—it’s too easy to get sucked into the plot and stop working! Instead, I have my Must-Watch List of traditional and nontraditional movies. They’re perfect for the season without being too distracting (because I’ve seen each one a dozen times!).

Christmas movies became a staple in my life when I was single because I often felt lonely in my apartment by myself. Even though I’m married now, we’re a childless couple. We spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with my family, but the other holiday is spent at home with each other. I love my husband, but our small family lacks the craziness I grew up with having two sisters with less than four years between all of us. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but now I crave the familiar coziness of it all.

Though I’d rather be with family, these holiday movies set the mood, and because I’ve seen them so many times, it makes it feel like the house is full of friends. I can’t wait to watch them again this year!

Here’s my list of Must-Watch holiday flicks.

Traditional:

White Christmas
The Santa Clause
(1, 2, and 3)
The Holiday
Elf
Holiday Inn
The Man Who Invented Christmas

Nontraditional:

Little Women (1994)
Die Hard (1 & 2)
While You Were Sleeping

I’ll also usually watch Home Alone and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but those are really for my husband, not so much for me.

What about you—are you a fan of Christmas movies? Which is your favorite?

(Movies aren’t the only tradition at our house—click here for the easy-to-make recipes for my husband’s two favorite holiday treats!)

Author of hopeful fiction with a healthy dose of romance, Karin Beery also owns Write Now Editing, helping authors turn good manuscripts into great books.  She lives in northern Michigan with her husband and pets. They drink too much (decaf) coffee, put up their Christmas tree the first weekend in November, and do their best to live every day for the Lord.

Some places where you can connect:

https://www.facebook.com/authorkarinbeery/

https://www.instagram.com/karinbeery/

https://www.bookbub.com/profile/karin-beery

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/2666258-karin

https://amzn.to/3FsyE0k

Ten Ways to Display Kindness During the Holidays

By Jennifer Hallmark

The holidays have arrived, dressed in glitter, bearing the aroma of pumpkin, cinnamon, and pine. Traffic has jammed around malls and supercenters. And who can forget the increase of events? Parties, special church services, and family gatherings, to name a few.

A time of joy, laughter, and togetherness.

But not for all.

During this time of pandemic illnesses, high inflation, and families uprooted from their homes due to job changes and fresh starts, people are lonely. Unsettled. Depressed.

Crying out for relief.

What can we do? Is there a way, as individuals, churches, or civic groups, that we can help?

Yes! We can make a difference in our community, state, nation, and world. From small acts of kindness to large charitable undertakings, everyone can do something. We just have to start. Over the years, I’ve had the blessing of participating in “good deeds” to make the holidays brighter for someone in need. Here are some ideas that you, as an individual, or your group can look into:

Individual:

  • Send Christmas cards. Who doesn’t enjoy receiving a cheerful card in the mail?
  • Make a phone call. Brighten someone’s day with the sound of your voice.
  • Bake or create a gift. People enjoy homemade presents.
  • Deliver packages of socks to a nursing home or homeless shelter. An often-requested item.
  • Smile while you shop. You never know what people are going through and what a smile might mean.

Church or Civic Group

Whether you share a card, phone call, visit, homemade gift, or smile, you can make a lonely person feel loved and accepted during this special time of year. The blessing you receive in return will be worth it all.

What do you plan to do to make the Christmas season more meaningful? I’d love to know!

Gifts for you: How would you like to receive ten of my favorite cake and cookie recipes, read the first chapter of my debut novel, Jessie’s Hope, and sign up for my newsletter, all for free? Here’s the page with all the information https://www.subscribepage.com/x2e1j4. Thanks!

Jennifer Hallmark writes Southern fiction off the beaten track and her website focuses on her books, love of the South, and the unexpected in stories. Jessie’s Hope, her debut novel published by Firefly Southern Fiction, was a 2019 Selah Award nominee. She also hosts a podcast on persevering during chaotic times, “Determined to Dance,” and is a mentor with Word Weavers International.

A Common Girl, An Uncommon Time

Adapted from Luke 1:5-2:19

Journey One

After a long walk from Nazareth with Daniel’s family, finally Elizabeth’s shaky soprano drifted over her wall, her words from a psalm of David Mary recognized. “You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.” The swish of her broom kept time to her song. She had waited so long, no wonder her joy.

Mary tapped at the gate with one hand. The other caressed the cotton tunic over her stomach. Would her elder cousin  understand her confusion? “Elizabeth, it’s me.” 

Elizabeth’s singing stopped. She opened the gate. Her silver hair escaped the veil that covered her wrinkled head and belied the obvious bump under her clothing.

“Mary!” Elizabeth’s hand flew to her own womb and her eyes bulged. “Our little John recognizes the mother of our Messiah, the tiny One you carry!” She hugged Mary and kissed her cheek.

“The angel said you’d understand God’s moving among us. … I only wanted to marry Joseph and raise a big family with my carpenter. And now … ”

“Have you told Joseph?”

“He didn’t call for the elders to stone me. He said, ‘We’ll just call it off.’

And I couldn’t … I came to you. The angel said I’m favored, but I feel … favored … and not favored, all at once.” She searched Elizabeth’s eyes for understanding.

And got it. “Dear girl, come in. You look pale. Tea and cakes will revive you. Gabriel spoke to Zechariah too, to tell him about John. You must have responded with faith. Zechariah questioned Gabriel and can’t speak now.” Elizabeth smiled, but then shook her head.

Mary accepted tea, and they relaxed in the courtyard. “Yes, suddenly Gabriel stood there in the room with me.

“He’s not a little fellow.

“I could barely manage to accept his assignment. There’s no evidence I should mother the Messiah. Why me, out of all the girls in Nazareth? Anyway, I asked him one question. How? I really am a virgin, Elizabeth.

”And yet, my womb warmed with life when God moved over me. I know Jesus grows inside me. I know, and yet I am … I don’t know how to do this.”

Elizabeth waited.

“Will my father disown me? My mother insisted I come to you because of what Gabriel said, but her skeptical look broke my heart. What will the townspeople say? I don’t want to return to Nazareth. I’m glad Gabriel told me about you. But … ”

Elizabeth cupped Mary’s arm. “Dear girl, you needn’t know how to do this. I know for certain our God guides us who live in faith. You need only put one foot in front of the other in the direction He leads.”

Tension left Mary in the light of Elizabeth’s words. “Could I stay with you for a while? Could you talk with me about Jesus and John? Please?”

“Of course, for as long as you need. A visit will shorten the time of my waiting.”

Mary stayed three months, gaining courage for what lay ahead and strengthening her faith. After she kissed Elizabeth goodbye, Mary looked to heaven and said, “The Lord has looked with favor on the humble estate of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me. Holy is His name.” And yet, in this generation, not everyone thinks me blessed. She took home with her all the wisdom Elizabeth had shared before it was time to bring John into the world.

I’m hosting a Christmas blog tour this month. Writing friends participate, and you’ll find nine blogs over the month, with everything from adaptations like this to ideas for Christmas movies and kindness. Look for the rest of this story the week of Christmas. I hope you enjoy the journey.