Christmas Wishes and Looking forward

Here it is four days before Christmas. I’m sitting at our local library enjoying a few quiet moments of reflection and catching up. It’s the last day of school for my children, and I’m looking forward to spending more time with them and making some new Christmas memories.

As I think about Christmas this year, I don’t have the same sense of anticipation I have had many years. I am not caught up in chasing the glitter and harried pace. But one thing remains the same – God my Father loves me, and Christmas is the time we celebrate the selfless love He demonstrated in giving up His one and only Son so that I could receive the gift of salvation.

  • Although I experience pain and confusion, He gives me peace.
  • Although I experience grief, He gives me comfort.
  • Although I experience weakness, He gives me strength.
  • Although I experience brokenness, He makes me whole.
  • Although I have so many unanswered questions, He is the answer.

At this Christmas season, I don’t know what you are experiencing, but God does. I do not wish you happiness, which is a common sentiment at this time of year. Instead, I wish that you accept God’s gift of salvation, His peace, comfort, strength, wholeness, and that in Him you find the answer to all of your unanswered questions. What about you? What is your wish for others this Christmas season?

If you are experiencing a difficult Christmas season, or know someone who is, you may be interested in a recent post I shared on InScribe Writers Online – When Christmas Isn’t Merry.

Yesterday I received a free pass to all national parks in Canada. You can get a free pass as well – it’s part of celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017! Our family is looking forward to using this pass several times in the coming year.

In January I will be celebrating my 50th birthday. Watch for some special deals and help me celebrate! Here are some goals I have set for my 50th year:
  • Submit 50 pieces of writing for publication
  • Write 50 Haikus
  • Share 50 Memes on Social Media
  • Write 50 blog posts
  • Write 50 thank you notes
  • Share a list of 50 books I’ve read and would recommend
  • Share a list of 50 people who have influenced my life
  • Add at least 50 people per month to my mailing list

What are you looking forward to in 2017?


Keeping your Christmas tree healthy and happy

NOTE: Today I have a guest post on A Beautiful Life about our family tradition of going on a Christmas tree hunt.

Whether you cut your own Christmas tree down or purchase a real tree at the nearest Christmas tree lot, you want your tree to stay healthy and keep its needles as long as possible. Here are some tips:

Choosing a tree

Look for healthy branches with no signs of dryness or brown needles. At the Christmas tree lot, grab a branch and pull it towards you. When it springs back into place, you should only have a couple needles in your hand if the tree is healthy. Make sure you store the tree in a sheltered, cool spot until you are ready to decorate it.

Making room for your tree

Choose a spot in your home that is away from heat sources like the heat register. It should be close enough to a plug-in for the lights.

Setting the tree up

If the tree has been sitting for more than 4 hours or you purchased it from a lot, saw off a small round from the bottom of the trunk. This enables your tree to access water more easily, which keeps your tree vibrant and healthy. The bottom of the trunk should be straight to make it easier for you to mount it in a stand. (Wondering what makes a good stand? Check out 3 Best Christmas Tree Stand Designs.) The stand should be able to hold a good amount of water (some say up to a gallon) so that you don’t have to keep adding water.

There are some people who say just plain water is best and others who insist you need to add a few things to prevent mold and keep the needles on longer. Here are some recipes for Christmas tree food:

 

Safety Considerations

Make sure your light strands don’t have any exposed wires. Keep your tree away from heat sources. Take your tree down before it dries out.

More Information?

 

Do you have any more hints for taking care of a Christmas tree? What’s your favourite Christmas tradition? Please share in the comments below.


Merry Christmas: O Holy Night and some thoughts about Christmas

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Merry Christmas! O Holy Night is my favorite Christmas carol, the first one we sang at our Christmas Eve Service in Glendon last night. Due to spending time with my family, I haven’t done the research like I did the previous 11 days on my musical countdown to Christmas. However, I did find a beautiful version to share with you.

I’d also like to share a few thoughts about Christmas that have spoken to me in the past week or so:

From In Touch Ministries (Daily Devotion)

“As we lay our praises at the foot of the manger, let us not forget that He came so that we may lay our sins down at the foot of the cross. This is Jesus’ Christmas gift to you.”

On Facebook from Taber’s Truths:

“Gone to Dad’s to prepare a place for you. Be back to pick you up soon, Jesus.”

From a little gift book called Practice by Practice, written by a fellow Canadian author, Kathleen Gibson.

IMG_1539

We’ve had dreary weather all week – fog, cloudy skies, and . . . beautiful hoar frost. We had a few hours of bright blue skies and sunshine last Friday and I snapped the pictures below. The beauty took my breath away – and I was almost late for my Music for Young Children Sunshine class in St. Paul, because I kept stopping to take more pictures!

Frosty bale of hay
A farm near St. Paul, AB.

 

Frosty Gazebo and trees
In St. Vincent, AB

 

Frosty sunrise in December
A view in our yard.

 

Christ is Born
A scene from the Christmas play at the Glendon Community Church

 

Whether you are spending Christmas overseas away from family and friends, or in a busy noisy household, my prayer for you is that you will focus on the birth of Jesus Christ and the salvation we have because of His birth.

I’ll be taking a break from blogging over the Christmas holidays, but will be back in 2015. Watch for more details about some blog hops I’ll be hosting! You may also want to hop over to the InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship Blog on December 29th to read my monthly contribution there.

 


Musical Countdown to Christmas: Do You Hear What I Hear by Noel Regney & Gloria Shayne

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It’s Christmas Eve! As you make last minute preparations, take time to still your heart and mind. Read the Christmas story from Luke 2 and listen to your favourite Christmas carols. Enjoy this second to last musical countdown to Christmas.

Who were Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne?

  • Noel Regney was born August 19, 1922 in Strasbourg, France
  • Studied classical music at Strasbourg, Salzburg, and Paris
  • Drafted into the Nazi army even though he was French, but became a deserter
  • Settled in Manhattan in 1952, working as a television music arranger, composer, and conductor
  • He met Gloria Shayne in Manhattan while she was playing the piano in the dining room of a hotel
  • They married a month after they met
  • They composed many songs together. Usually Gloria wrote the lyrics and Noel wrote the music.

The Story behind Do You Hear What I Hear?

  • Written in October 1962
  • A plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Regney wrote the lyrics and Shayne wrote the music
  • The lyrics were written after Regney watched babies being pushed in strollers in New York City
  • Sold more than a quarter-million copies in the first week it was released
  • Bing Crosby recorded the song in 1963
  • The song has been recorded many times since

Here’s a version with some sand art

Historical Context

  • Written during the Cuban Missile Crisis (threat of nuclear war)
  • First recorded on November 22, 1963 – the day  United States President John F. Kennedy was assassinated
  • American Express introduced credit cards in the United Kingdom
  • Pope John XXIII died
  • Martin Luther King delivered his famous speech, “I Have a Dream”
  • The Beatles released their first album

Looking for more details?

My Gift for today:

Leave a comment below for your opportunity to win a paperback copy of the San Francisco Wedding Planner Series II.SFWP Series 2 Cover

 


Musical Countdown to Christmas: I Wonder and I Wander by John Jacob Niles

Musical Christmas10

 

Welcome to Day 10 of my musical countdown to Christmas. Remember to enter a comment for your chance to receive my gift of the day.

Who was John Jacob Niles?

  • Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1892
  • Learned music theory from his mother and began writing music as a teenager
  • Served in the first world war
  • Studied music in France after the war
  • Sang opera and then toured the United States with Marion Kirby
  • A historian, song-writer, and recording artist
  • Traveled across the Appalachian Mountains to find folk music
  • Felt it was his duty to collect, preserve, and revive American musical folklore
  • Created dulcimers
  • Farmer
  • Wrote several books on music
  • Called the “Dean of American Balladeers”
  • A Contemporary of Joan Baez, Burl Ives, and Peter, Paul and Mary
  • There is a John Jacob Niles Center for American Music at the University of Kentucky which displays a number of instruments he crafted

The Story behind I Wonder as I Wander

  • On July 16, 1933 John Jacob Niles heard a little girl (Annie Morgan) singing a song he’d never heard before. She was dirty and wearing tattered clothes, but sang the song beautifully. The tune caught his attention because of the haunting melody.
  • She told him it had been passed on to her by her mother who heard it from her mother, etc.
  • Annie Morgan repeated the song seven times for Niles in exchange for a quarter
  • John Jacob Niles took the fragment of song he collected and used it to compose I Wonder as I Wander, consisting of a melody of four lines with three different stanzas
  • He completed the song on October 4, 1933 and first performed it on December 19, 1933
  • Listen to the recording below of I Wonder as I Wander as recorded by John Jacob Niles

Historical Context – What happened in 1933?

  • It was the worst year of the Great Depression
  • One in four people was unemployed
  • Adolf Hitler opened the first concentration camp at Dachau
  • A loaf of bread cost 7 cents; The average labourer earned $20/week
  • The Prohibition was repealed
  • Strong winds formed dust bowls in the Midwest
  • The vaccine for diphtheria was introduced in the United States

Looking for more details?

My Gift for today:

Enter a comment below for an opportunity to receive the 1,000 piece puzzle.

Puzzle


Musical Countdown to Christmas: Hallelujah Chorus by George Frideric Handel

Musical Christmas9

Welcome to Day 9 in my musical countdown to Christmas. Only three more days until we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ!

Who was George Frideric Handel?

  • Born February 23, 1685 in Halle, Germany, the son of a barber/surgeon
  • Wanted to take music lessons; Was opposed by his father, but encouraged by his mother
  • Played the organ for Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow at age 7 and was accepted as his pupil
  • Composed for organ, oboe, and violin by age 10
  • His father died when George was 11 years old
  • At age 18 accepted a position as violinist with Hamburg Opera’s Goosemarket Theater and also taught private music lessons
  • Attended Halle University
  • Produced his first opera, Almira, in 1704
  • Wrote and produced operas in Germany, Italy, and England
  • Moved to England in 1726 and became an English citizen
  • Started the New Royal Academy of Music and produced successful operas for the next 10 years
  • Began writing oratorios after the opera was no longer popular

The Story behind the Hallelujah Chorus

  • Handel wrote the Messiah (oratorio) in 1741 under the commission of Dublin’s Lord Lieutenant, based on a biblical libretto assembled by art patron Charles Jennens
  • The complete Messiah was written in a mere 23 days!
  • In April 1742, Messiah debuted at New Music Hall in Dublin
  • The Hallelujah Chorus occurs at the end of the 2nd part of the Messiah, which focuses on the Passion
  • The chorus presents both a single melody and then two or more melodies (polyphonic) at the same time
  • The chorus ends with the presentation of “And He shall reign” arranged in the style of a fugue, a popular form of music in the Baroque period
  • After Handel’s death, the Messiah was adapted for performance by a larger orchestra and choir

And just for fun – a flash mob version 🙂

Historical Context

  • A British fleet reached Cartagena de Indias (Colombia)
  • Captain Bering discovered Mount St. Elias in Alaska
  • Anders Celsius, an astronomer, introduced the Centigrade temperature scale

Looking for more details?

My Gift for today:

Leave a comment below for an opportunity to win a paperback copy of The San Francisco Wedding Planner Complete Series I, which I wrote with four other authors: Jen Cudmore, Mishael Austin Witty, Sheila Seiler Lagrand, and Patti J. Smith.

Cover for San Francisco Wedding Planner Series 1 Complete


Musical Countdown to Christmas: We Three Kings by John H. Hopkins Jr.

Musical Christmas8

Welcome to Day 8 in my musical countdown to Christmas. Today we take a look at We Three Kings by John H. Hopkins, Jr.

Who was John H. Hopkins Jr.?

  • Born October 28, 1820 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • His father was Bishop of Vermont
  • Graduated from the University of Vermont
  • Worked as a reporter, intending to go on to law school
  • Attended General Theological Seminary instead
  • Taught music at General Theological Seminary
  • Was a writer and poet, book illustrator, and stained glass window designer
  • Also worked as editor, deacon, priest, and rector

The Story behind We Three Kings

  • Originally titled The Quest of the Magi
  • Written in 1857 for a Christmas pageant at General Theological Seminary
  • Based on the biblical story of the Magi and their journey to worship the promised Messiah (Matthew 2:1,2)

Historical Context

  • Stephen Douglas founded a Baptist Seminary in Chicago
  • The United States Supreme Court ruled that Africans could not become citizens
  • Mark Twain began a two year apprenticeship to become a riverboat pilot
  • Joseph Gayetty invented commercial toilet paper
  • James Buchanan became the 15th President of the United States of America
  • The Ohio Life Insurance and Trust (New York Branch) failed, causing widespread financial panic
  • Queen Victoria chose Ottawa as the capital of Canada

Looking for more details?

My Gift for today:

Leave a comment below for your opportunity to win a CD with two Focus on the Family radio interviews with Mr. Tim Sisarich.

Tim Sisarich


Musical Countdown to Christmas: Go Tell it on the Mountain by John W. Work Jr.

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Welcome to Day 7 of my Musical countdown to Christmas. Today we’re going to take a look at Go Tell it on the Mountain, shared with the world by John W. Work, Jr.

Who was John W. Work, Jr.?

  • Born on June 15, 1901 in Tullahoma, Tennessee
  • Son of a church choir director
  • Grew up in Nashville
  • Earned his Master’s degree in Latin
  • Taught Latin and Greek
  • A professor at Fisk University
  • A professional musician who published more than 50 compositions
  • Decided to collect songs sung by American slaves

The Story Behind Go Tell it on the Mountain

  • The song was sung by American slaves as far back as 1865
  • In 1960 John W. Work III published Folk Songs of the American Negro, which included the song called, Go Tell it on the Mountain (author unknown)
  • Peter, Paul & Mary changed the lyrics and renamed the song, Tell it on the Mountain
  • Paul Schlossal rewrote the lyrics for children and named the song, Go Tell it on the Swingset
  • The song has been recorded by over 20 popular artists through the years

Historical Context

  • 1955 – Winston Churchill was defeated
  • 1955 – First transistor radio was produced by Sony
  • 1956 – Elvis Presley released his first song
  • 1957 – Soviet Union launched the Sputnik
  • 1958 – NASA was founded
  • 1959 – Xerox produced the first commercial photocopier
  • 1960 – Students protested segregation in Greensboro, North Carolina

Looking for more details?

My Gift for today:

A paperback copy of the Kathi Macias’ 12 Days of Christmas, which contains 12 stories by 12 different authors. My story, Cecile’s Christmas Miracle, is number seven in this series.

12 Days of Christmas Cover