Ponder in My Heart

Merry Christmas!

“Mary kept these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

IMG_3004I’ve attached myself to this verse and the word “ponder.” It makes me ask what I ponder in my heart. Also, what does ponder mean? Before, I look it up, I want to explore my definition: to ponder–to think about often, to keep safe, to treasure, to meditate on, to hold close.  Are there things that I treat this way? Quite a few. The Miriam-Webster definition is: to weigh in the mind, to appraise, to think about, to reflect on, to consider quietly, soberly, deeply.

So many things I give too much thought to. I ponder too long on things that are not important. Since this verse has entered my thoughts this season, I want to make sure the things I ponder–the things I consider quietly, soberly, deeply or hold close–merit my time and reflection.  For me those things revolve around my journey with Christ and include my family and friends, and my purpose and place in this very big world.

What things do you ponder? 

Little Advent Blessings

“Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

IMG_2999During this Advent Season, I am slowing down and concentrating on preparing for Christ’s birth. I don’t want to be so busy and so stressed that I miss the little blessings all around me. Baby Jesus was not surrounded by all the stuff and the noise that bombard my life. So, I breathe. I want to ponder the small things of my everyday Advent journey. The birth of Jesus, our Savior, was the greatest gift ever, one to never be overlooked even when the Christmas season passes.

I am thankful for many small blessings this month. Here are a few. Perhaps you can make your own list as Advent approaches Christmas Day.

  • a cup of hot tea, cider, or chocolateIMG_3004
  • a favorite ornament
  • an inspiring book
  • a warm blanket
  • Christmas cookies
  • a nativity
  • string of lights
  • wreathes
  • Christmas cards
  • candles
  • Advent wreath
  • shiny bowsIMG_3003
  • Christmas carols
  • the Christmas story
  • Christmas Eve candlelight service
  • Hallmark movies
  • my sleeping cats
  • children’s laughter
  • visits with friends and family
  • cold weather, maybe snow
  • jingle bells

I’m sure I will think of more, for little blessings are everywhere. Let’s concentrate on them this season. They bring me comfort in a crazy, chaotic world.

Merry Christmas!

 

Review and Giveaway–Christmas at Breakers Point

Christmas on breakers point

Tour page on Celebrate Lit

About the Book

Book:  Christmas on Breakers Point

Author: Chautona Havig

Genre: Christian Contemporary Fiction, Christian Romantic Fiction, Christmas

One man’s last Christmas wish might change two lives forever.Christmas on Breakers Point

Mallory Barrows has one last Christmas with her uncle.  She’s determined to make it the best one he’s ever had.

She knows when she asks what he wants as his final gift, it won’t be a tie or a new mug. He won’t need those where he’s going, and he’s quite happy about that.

Mallory just didn’t think he wanted a miracle wrapped in paper and tied with a shiny red bow!

Christmas on Breakers Point is the introductory book to the Independence Islands Series.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

Chautona Having has created another wonderful world where characters face lives full of challenges and opportunities of change.  And the awesome thing about this book is that the end is not the end. The series will continue with her vivacious character Mallory Barrows and other authors will add their own characters giving this island series many avenues to inspire readers.

Speaking of inspiration, Chautona allows her characters to be real with questions about faith, Christianity, worldly and spiritual issues, life, death. You name it, she is not shy at confronting what we all struggle with every day, either personally or with someone we know. I’m glad I had the chance to read this series at the beginning, knowing that there are many more books to come.

Thank you for supplying readers with a unique experience on a set of islands where we can feel at home with big-hearted characters.

About the Author

Chautona Havig lives in an oxymoron, escapes into Chautonaimaginary worlds that look startlingly similar to ours and writes the stories that emerge. An irrepressible optimist, Chautona sees everything through a kaleidoscope of It’s a Wonderful Life sprinkled with fairy tales. Find her on the web and say howdy—if you can remember how to spell her name.

 

More from Chautona

The book opens with a phone call that goes like this:

Her phone buzzed. Without taking her eyes from the page, Mallory Barrows fumbled about until her hand closed around it. The book held her bound in ropes of suspense as the villain slipped into the party unannounced—unseen. While she followed him around the edge of the imaginary room, her thumb swiped, tapped, and answered the call as if on autopilot.

Even as Mallory said, “Hello?” her breath caught. The guy had found his prey.

“Mallory, honey?”

Without a second look, she dropped the book and sat up, feet planted firmly on the floor and all attention on the call.  “Is it time?”

“’Fraid so, darlin’. Doc says it’s a matter of weeks or a month or two. And I promised.”

“I’ll be there Friday afternoon.”

 

Just days after I wrote those lines, I woke up to a message from my sister.  “Call Mom.”

I called.  Mom said, “I need you to come.”  That was Thursday.  I walked into Mom’s house on Saturday evening and our lives changed forever.

I don’t know if God prepared me for this change by having me write that scene just days before, but I have to say it felt like it!  Everything went crazy for over a month as I tried to wrap up my mother’s affairs in Missouri, I had to try to finish three books in a time of upheaval and turmoil.  No, it’s not the same as trying to help a young woman reclaim her True First Love so she could reclaim her first earthy love.  It isn’t the same as starting a whole new life and a new business.  But… oh, how it felt like it.

Another parallel in the story and my life was how Mallory struggles to try to get Uncle Bud to eat. I did the same thing for most of my time in Missouri.  Mom struggled and hard just to swallow and just wanted to eat.  So, while I was writing, I worked hard to come up with a recipe that Mallory might use to convince Uncle Bud to eat something.  The result were these Coconut Lime Cookies. I hope you love them as much as Uncle Bud did.

 

Coconut Lime Cookies

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups white flour

½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 cup shredded coconut

1 cup sugar

3 oz room temp cream cheese—cubed

½ tsp vanilla

Zest of 1 lime (key limes may be preferred)

½ cup (1 stick) melted butter (warm)

1 egg

1 TBS milk (whole is the most delicious… and half & half is even better)

1 TBS lime juice (again, some may prefer key limes)

½ cup powdered sugar  (reserved for rolling cookies in)

 

Directions: (oven preheats to 350)

Stir together the first five ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside

Stir together sugar, cream cheese, and lime zest in a large mixing bowl. Cream butter in. Repeat with egg, milk, and lime juice, one at a time. Make sure your ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

Add dry ingredients slowly. Mix well.

Roll dough into approximately 1” balls.  Roll each ball into powdered sugar and place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.

Bake for approximately 11-12 minutes until lightly golden.

Before you eat, close your eyes and imagine yourself beneath swaying palm trees with warm sand between your toes.  Merry Christmas!

Blog Stops

Texas Book-aholic, December 10

Connect in Fiction, December 10

Lots of Helpers, December 11

My Devotional Thoughts, December 11

Wishful Endings, December 11

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, December 12

Stories By Gina, December 12

Quiet Quilter, December 13

Batya’s Bits, December 13

Godly Book Reviews, December 14

Emily Yager, December 14

Blossoms and Blessings, December 15

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, December 15

Back Porch Reads, December 15

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Chautona is giving away the grand prize of a 6 Month Kindle Unlimited subscription!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/f1b8/christmas-on-breakers-point-celebration-tour-giveaway

 

Please leave your thoughts here!

 

Advent Already?

IMG_2977Did anyone else think Advent came about very suddenly? It surprised me to end Thanksgiving and go directly to December 1 and the first Sunday in Advent. I wasn’t ready! I love the season of Advent as I prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth. I’m just a little behind.

IMG_2976Preparing and anticipating the birth of Jesus, always gives me the opportunity to concentrate on the true meaning of this season, something I should be doing in February, June, September, etc… I love the decorations, the lights, the nativities, the carols. All of it.

So, I am going to slowly add the bits to the season that I deem necessary and not fret over my part in not realizing the season began a little earlier thisimg_2982.jpg year. Once I saw the calendar on November 30, I found my advent wreath and one candle for the first Sunday. I have yet to buy the other candles, but I will in time for this Sunday. I pulled out an Advent devotional that I had purchased last year, In the Manger by Max Lucado, and have read it faithfully so far. The Scriptures and the inspirational stories help me focus on what is truly important and amazing about this season.  “For with God nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1:37. Not even the birth of His Son.

I spent a few minutes in the attic and found a wreath and some garland. I already had two poinsettia to brighten my hearth and table. Next, I put out a few pieces of my Christmas china. The nativities are ready to see some action as they await the placement of baby Jesus in about 20 days.

You know, by taking things slower, I’m enjoying the process more. I’d like to not stress this season and concentrate on why there is the season of Advent. Join me in the time left to prepare and anticipate the birth of Christ.

What plans do you have for preparing for Christmas and our Savior’s birth? 

Off-season Strategy

January has become a month of semi-hibernation for me. About ten years ago, I found myself a bit depressed and unresponsive in January. One year I decided to counteract those feelings with a new strategy. What if I pulled out of a few obligations for that month only. I couldn’t quit my teaching job or ignore my children, but I decided a few organizations and commitments could survive without my presence.

img_6517
DeGray Lake Resort

I took a leave from choir, civic organization committee meetings, and Sunday school teacher. During those four weeks, I read, exercised, and caught up on some projects like writing and photo albums. When February arrived, I was ready to plunge back into my place in outside activities.

img_6510I travel as often as I can. Most of the time it is during tourist season since I am a teacher. Spring break and summer are the most opportune time for me to get away, along with everyone else. This year I tried something different. I used my strategy of doing something out of the ordinary.

Two days after Christmas, my husband and I spent three days at an Arkansas lake resort—yes, in winter. A resort known for lake activities, horseback riding, golf, hiking, nature watching, offered a warm place to sit in front of a fire, drink hot drinks, eat well, watch movies, and relax. The off season brought a few families to gather around beautiful Christmas trees and shiny winter decorations. There was no hustle and bustle in the towns or at the resort. I enjoyed the calm, semi-hibernation existence.

I give 5 stars for off-season resorts and for my January reclusive lifestyle (especially if normalcy is just around the bend). February will be here soon enough.

img_6530I’m enjoying reading and writing. And, I have 100 prints to put in my France photo album. Do you enjoy anything about an off-season vacation or time in your life?

 

Catching Christmas Review and Giveaway

I am very excited to offer my review of Terri Blackstock’s Catching Christmas. I have read so many of her intriguing mystery and suspense novels. This one looks and reads and feels like Christmas. In addition to the tour giveaway, I am giving away one copy of Catching Christmas to someone who comments on this blog.

catching-christmas-FB-banner_edited-1

Tour page on Celebrate Lit

About the Book

Book: Catching ChristmasCatching-Christmas-210x300

Author: Terri Blackstock

Genre: Christian Fiction, Romance, Christmas

Release Date: October 9, 2018

This Year, Christmas Comes Just in Time

As a first-year law associate, Sydney Batson knows she will be updating her resume by New Year’s if she loses her current court case. So when her grandmother gets inexplicably ill while she’s in court, Sydney arranges for a cab to get her to the clinic.

The last thing cab driver Finn Parrish wants is to be saddled with a wheelchair-bound old lady with dementia. But because Miss Callie reminds him of his own mother, whom he failed miserably in her last days, he can’t say no when she keeps calling him for rides. Once a successful gourmet chef, Finn’s biggest concern now is making his rent, but half the time Callie doesn’t remember to pay him. And as she starts to feel better, she leads him on wild goose chases to find a Christmas date for her granddaughter.

When Finn meets Sydney, he’s quite sure that she’s never needed help finding a date. Does Miss Callie have an ulterior motive, or is this just a mission driven by delusions? He’s willing to do whatever he can to help fulfill Callie’s Christmas wish. He just never expected to be a vital part of it.

 

Click here to purchase your copy.

 My Review

I have followed Terri Blackstock and her writing career since I lived in the same city as she did over twenty years ago. I even attended a workshop she taught. This novel shows a different, upbeat, feel-good side of her writing skill. If you want mystery and suspense that you usually find in many of her other books, Catching Christmas offers a different experience.

The festive cover features a little yellow taxi cab with gifts on top. This is definitely a book offering a gift of love, hope, second chances, and forgiveness through acts of giving and sacrifice.

I must admit I laughed and smiled a lot while curled up with this novel. Thank you, Terri, for a delightful Christmas–and life–tale.

I give Catching Christmas five stars.

About the Author

Terri-Blackstock-200x300Terri Blackstock has sold over seven million books worldwide and is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author. She is the award-winning author of Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall, as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, the SunCoast Chronicles, and the Restoration Series. Catching Christmas is her first Christmas romance. Visit her website at www.terriblackstock.com Facebook: tblackstock Twitter: @terriblackstock

 

From Terri Blackstock

 

Enjoy this premium excerpt from Catching Christmas

https://aerbook.com/books/-128993.html?utm_source=pubpage

To get you in the Christmas mood, here’s an early holiday playlist:

“White Christmas” sung by Bing Crosby

“I Heard the Bells” sung by MercyMe

“Light of the World” sung by Lauren Daigle

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” sung by Amy Grant

“Don’t Save it All for Christmas Day” sung by Avalon

“Till the Season Comes ‘Round Again” sung by the Katinas

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, December 15

Daysong Reflections, December 15

Genesis 5020, December 15

Back Porch ReadsDecember 15

The Power of Words, December 16

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, December 16

Quiet Quilter, December 16

Among the Reads, December 17

Kathleen Denly, December 17

By The Book, December 17

Lighthouse Academy, December 17

Cultivating Us, December 18

Simple Harvest ReadsDecember 18 (Guest Post from Mindy Houng)

Remembrancy, December 18

Caffeinated Christian Raves – N – Reviews, December 19

Jennifer Sienes: Where Crisis and Christ Collide, December 19

Christian Author, J.E. Grace, December 19

All-of-a-kind Mom, December 20

amandainpa, December 20

Christian Chick’s Thoughts, December 20

Multifarious, December 21

Cathe Swanson, December 21

Stories By Gina, December 21

Connect in Fiction, December 22

Have A Wonderful Day, December 22

Splashes of Joy, December 22

Bibliophile Reviews, December 22

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, December 23

Lis Loves Reading, December 23

Mary Hake, December 23

Bigreadersite, December 23

Book by Book, December 24

Pause for Tales, December 24

To Everything A Season, December 24

Southern Gal Loves to Read, December 25

A Good Book and Cup of Tea, December 25

Vicky Sluiter, December 25

Tell Tale Book Reviews, December 26

Inklings and notions, December 26

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, December 26

Stories Where Hope and Quirky Meet, December 27

Captive Dreams Window, December 27

Texas Book-aholic, December 27

A Baker’s Perspective, December 27

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, December 28

Older & Smarter?, December 28

Janices book reviews, December 28

Carpe Diem, December 28

Giveaway

1e998299-1dd7-470d-9237-3d8e3cf18173To celebrate her tour, Terri is giving away a grand prize of a finished copy of Catching Christmas and a Christmas Tree Ornament!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/d776/catching-christmas-celebration-tour-giveaway

Also, when you comment here, I will enter you in an additional giveaway of Catching Christmas from me.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas 1772

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I have a funny confession to make. When I wrote the draft for Hold Me Close, I knew Elizabeth, my heroine, would love Christmas. I had her 1772 home in Charles Town, South Carolina decorated with a tall, full tree, greenery, and candles everywhere. As the story traveled through a critique group, a very wise critic brought to my attention a grave error. (Of course, she told me tactfully and nicely.) Christmas trees were not introduced and used in the United States until the 1800’s. Oops!

dc252520076_thumb25255B225255DOh, how I hated taking away Elizabeth’s Christmas tree. How could I replace that? With a few gorgeous, bountiful wreaths. Garland, greenery, candles, and a nativity remained intact. After the initial shock, I smiled and rewrote Elizabeth’s Christmas tree scene:

On this crisp Monday morning, Elizabeth put the finishing touches on the pine and fir wreath placed on the front door of her house. The pheasant feathers, nestled between oranges, pine cones, and magnolia leaves, graced the wreath…

“There. Spectacular,” she voiced out loud as she stepped back to view the rather large evergreen wreath, her handiwork hanging by a read sash attached to the door…

The candles in the windows, the smaller wreaths suspended from each window and the swags and garland throughout the house caused Elizabeth to twirl around the foyer. The sights and smells of Christmas brought back so many memories of her childhood in Boston. As a little girl, the decorations always triggered her anticipation of all the Christmas season events–parties, dresses, food, family, gifts, but mostly the singing, smiles, and happiness all around.

Promo 4 Hold Me CloseMy decorations are now complete. Now I can concentrate on the singing, family, anticipation of all the Advent season brings, especially the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

What are some special items you use for decorations?

 

 

Order your copy of Hold Me Close today from Amazon :Hold Me Close