Doomed to Repeat It?

George Santayana said in 1905 that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

My papa’s family came from Ireland back in the 1700s, and I’ve researched a bit on the 5 Ws, who, what, why, when, where. For instance, I know those two George Carliles who came from County Down, Ireland in the 1700s were distant grandfathers. I can’t tell you why they came, but I can tell you they lived in Scotland before they did in Ireland, so were probably part of the English moving Protestants to Ireland to beef up their land holding and thus voting rights. The resident Irish didn’t think much of them, and it’s possible they took a hike hoping for better reception.

And yes, that led to more research on the relationship of the English and Irish, which is not a pretty story. Then that led to the writing of Rogue Irishman, a novel in both current time and the time of the Troubles in Ireland. Rogue Irishman follows Quinn O’Sullivan on a trip around Ireland that was meant to explore family history and find a fine Irish Sport Horse to purchase, but turned out to be about the possibility of reuniting Northern Ireland and the Republic. I’m immersed in work on it, and hope to have it out this summer. The twenty-fifth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, a good time to release a book like Rogue Irishman.

Did I mention that another reason I love the history of Ireland is that I discovered Nellie Cashman, an Irish woman who left after the An Gorta Mor, the Great Irish Potato Famine and became a mining woman on the West Coast of America? She was a generous and talented miner and operator of boarding houses, restaurants, etc. But that’s not all, she once saved seventy-five miners from dying of scurvy by pouring lime juice over their blistered gums. I wrote about her in Toughnut Angel, and I think she’d make a great subject for a movie. Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, are you listening?

I haven’t met face-to-face with any of these people. But I research, recreate them in my imagination, and come to love and learn from them. Therefore, I am not doomed to repeat the mistakes of history, and I receive the added benefit of enjoying its victories. (And you can, too)

A Common Girl, An Uncommon Time – Part II

This one’s my finale to the blog tour. I hope it blesses your Christmas.

Thanks to Caesar Augustus’s demand for a census, which Mary didn’t mind, since it rescued her from Nazareth, Mary and Joseph trod the same crowded road Mary had six months ago when she visited Elizabeth.

The donkey plodded along, and she recalled arranging her clothing to mask her expanding abdomen when she’d walked back into Nazareth after her visit.

Mary planned to circle around Joseph’s house, but as she was about to, there he stood. Smiling.

“You know that angel?”

“Um hm”

“I met him in a dream. He told me this incredible story’s true. The hundreds of years we’ve waited for our Messiah have ended. Right here, in Nazareth. And just so you know, it doesn’t surprise me one single jot that Yahweh picked you. I’m so sorry I didn’t believe you before. Forgive me?”

“Oh Joseph.” She’d run into his arms.

She’d begged to go with Joseph, though a wife could stay at home if she wanted. Only, she couldn’t stand the staring eyes and wagging tongues of Nazareth, or her parents’ shame, one more moment. Now the sun set as Joseph led their donkey into Bethlehem.

 Ouch! What was that? Wait, was it the beginning of birth pains? They grew stronger as the couple came to each door where another innkeeper rebuffed Joseph.

With gratitude to

Finally, an innkeeper who also claimed no rooms, seeing her endure a strong contraction, pointed to a stable behind his inn. “You can take her there.”

The Son of the Most High would be born in a stable? Not a palace? Not even a house? Yahweh, what are You doing?

You are rich in something more than gold and silver, Mary. I draw attention to what matters by where you birth My Son.

Joseph piled up clean straw for her, and when she’d accomplished Jesus’s birth, she gazed down into His eyes–His deep eyes held eternity, and love. God had done what He said He would do. Joseph took Him from her and laid Him in a manger where he’d arranged more clean straw. How could she mother God’s Son? How can I, Lord?

I will guide you. But you will make mistakes because you are human, and I am prepared for that.

Rough shepherds appeared and lingered at the entrance. “May we come in? An angel told us while we were keeping the temple sheep that our Savior is here in a manger.” They looked over at Jesus sleeping in His swaddling cloths.

Mary wondered again. No kings, prophets, priests, or warriors–just shepherds? Common people, like her and Joseph. Father, are You telling us that faith is more important than the power, education, or wealth our world approves?


“Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

May the amazing birth of our Savior lead us all to ponder.

I hope “A Common Girl, An Uncommon Time” warmed your Christmas. If you’re reading this on Facebook, I’d love to send you free short stories once a month if you’ll sign up with your email at

Embracing Christmas Traditions


Julie Arduini

As a child, each Sunday we could count on roast beef for dinner. If we’d lost all calendars and had no idea what day it was, seeing roast beef on the table would give us a clue it was at least Sunday. Honestly, because it was so predictable, I made fun of it.

                Until I moved to a dorm and my family Sunday dinner was whatever I found in the dining hall.

                It was then I started to understand the importance of traditions. As a young adult I no longer complained about a Christmas Eve present, a tradition, and knew it was going to be pajamas. Once I married, we’d add attending Christmas Eve service before opening that present. On Christmas morning we’d read Luke 2 before opening presents. Christmas dinner would be at my childhood home, where there would be a ham dinner. Once I got pregnant and violently ill thanks to the spiral ham, the tradition forward was turkey.

                Fast forward and our two children are young adults. One is married and about to experience his first Christmas away from home and with his new traditions. Both my parents and my in-laws are gone. The moments I reflect on those past Christmas seasons I realize it is the traditions I hold close.

                Some traditions might seem silly like the one my sister, a teacher, created “reindeer food” outside Christmas Eve with my kids. When her son came along, we added him to the process. I still remember his glee when he’d go outside and find the glittery concoction had been touched. Even at 23 and 19, last year my kids headed out to help spread the food. It’s a fond memory for both of them.

                There are also traditions that probably only our family invested in. My parents worked hard, but like most families in the 70’s and 80’s, from paycheck to paycheck. Mom did a lot of her shopping after Christmas because it was affordable. One gift she stumbled upon was a vendor at the mall who created a “blue ice village.” Each year I would receive a piece. I was excited to showcase each piece under the tree. To this day, that village goes under my tree. Mom etched each piece with the year she gave it to me. That village means the world to me not for the unique look, but because it came from my mom.

                Last year was our first Christmas without a parent. Our boxes were surrounded by memories and traditions I now see I took for granted. I assumed those things would always be there, just like my parents would. The reality is they are gone, and if I don’t pick up the traditions, they die too.

                We decided to keep mom’s traditions but added one. Instead of opening a Christmas Eve present, we chose something with a humorous side to help us through our grief. We drew names among the kids, my sister, and myself and chose a white elephant gift. Once unwrapped our tokens included a large glittery rubber duck to a calendar of dogs doing their business. If we keep that game up, it will be a fun tradition that I’ll cherish as one that got us through a rather bleak time.

                If you’re facing a Christmas full of traditions that don’t make sense to you, or seems too costly in time or finances, ask God to help you see the interaction as He does. For me, a lot of what I thought was boring and predictable when I was younger was in reality tangible moments with my family I’ll never get back. Those traditions became precious memories, and that’s what I’m left with. There’s nothing in a store that could equal the value of those Christmas times.

                What are some of your Christmas traditions? What do you think of them?

Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to find freedom in Christ by surrendering the good, the bad, and —maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of the new contemporary romance series SURRENDERING HEARTS (Anchored Hearts, Repairing Hearts, +four more.) Her other romance series is SURRENDERING TIME (Entrusted, Entangled, Engaged.) She also co-wrote a YA series with her daughter, SURRENDERING STINKIN’ THINKIN’ (You’re Beautiful, You’re Amazing, You’re Brilliant.) Her stand-alone romances include MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN and RESTORING CHRISTMAS. Julie maintains a blog at and participates in the team blog Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and daughter. Learn more by visiting her at Her newest release can be found at

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

by Diana Leagh Matthews

After more than seven years of giving of myself and going above and beyond in serving my residents at the nursing home, I found myself experiencing extreme burnout and fatigue.

Rev. Edward Hamilton Sears struggled with his own breakdown and melancholy in the 1840s.

He struggled with the dark world, “full of sin and strife” and not “hearing the Christian message.”  This inspired him to write a five-stanza poem, first published in 1849, that he had worked on for over a decade.

The lyrics were set to the tune “Carol” written by Richard Starrs Willis, a student of Felix Mendelssohn. Today we know this carol as “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.”

The song comes from the story of the angels appearing to the shepherds in Luke 2:14. The angels spoke of “Peace on the Earth, good will to men.”

“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” is considered to be the first Christmas carol composed in the United States and published in the same decade as the resounding Dicken’s classic “A Christmas Carol”.

The song reminds me of the 1984 movie, with the same title as the hymn, and starring Mickey Rooney.  Rooney plays a retired cop, who has a heart attack, and dies.  However, he’s allowed one week to return to earth and show his grandson the seasonal glories of Christmas.

Christmas is one of the busiest times of the years for many of us.  Sometimes we feel as if we’re in survival mode instead of slowing down and savoring the season. For years, this is exactly how I felt. I had so much to do for work, that my personal Christmas shopping and plans, had to be completed by Thanksgiving in order to stay sane.

During those seven years of serving in the nursing home, I was responsible for planning and implementing Christmas for 120 residents. Fund-raising occurred year-round and major planning began around Labor Day.  During the Christmas season, there were cookies with Santa, an outing to look at Christmas lights, Santa’s workshop, countdown activities, sing-a-longs, two Christmas parties for residents (we didn’t have enough space for one party) and a party for the staff.

These activities required considerable planning and preparation.  From having youth groups help us put up and decorate twenty-five trees (from a 12-foot tree to the three fiber optic trees on each nurse’s station) to purchasing and wrapping presents for each resident, to accepting and handing out donated blankets and stocking stuffers.

This year I’ve transitioned to another position within healthcare and am looking forward to having time to savor the season. To slow down and find some new traditions that can be enjoyed and savored. To have time to reflect on the true meaning of the season—the birth of Jesus Christ. To search for that peace on earth, good will to men.

How do you reflect on the meaning of God coming to earth in the form of a baby?

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Diana Leagh Matthews shares God’s love through her story from rebel to redeemed. Her day job is as a volunteer coordinator, but at night she writes and hunts genealogy. She gives programs as a speaker, teacher, and vocalist, and also presents historical monologues. Leagh (pronounced Lee) is the author of History Made Real, Fun with Words, 90 Breath Prayers for the Caregiver, and others in the Breath Prayers series. She writes the history behind hymns at and would love to connect with you

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!

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You can buy Northern Hearts here: 

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