12 Days of Christmas – Christmas (Short Stories) with Marcia Laycock

Today I welcome Marcia Lee Laycock back to my blog to share her collection of short stories entitled, Christmas.

Christmas by Marcia Lee Laycock is a collection of short stories that will take you from the far reaches of the galaxy to the edge of the Arctic Circle and the streets of the inner city. The miracle of Christmas is transported from one unusual setting to another, and into your heart as you read.

Here’s an excerpt from Missing Christmas:

Missing Christmas

Sulking and soaking. For me, the two always go together. I know when I’m not fit to be around people, especially the people I’m mad at, so the bathtub is the best place to be. I run the water as hot as I can stand it and stay there until I feel like I can be civil again. That night, the night before Christmas, I thought I might be there till dawn.

Tim had dropped the bomb when he came home from work two days before we were to go home for the holidays. Somehow he’d managed to mess up making the flight reservations. How could he mess up something so important, so essential to my sanity? Bad enough he’d talked me into coming here, to the end of reason and any sign of civilization, just so he could have a “real northern experience.” Bad enough he didn’t once compliment me on how I’d bravely been enduring the minus fifty degree temperatures. Bad enough we still had five more months to live in this town on the edge of the universe. Now we were stuck here for Christmas. And what was his excuse? He thought he’d told the travel agent to book it, but he had only asked her to give him the details. When she didn’t hear back from him, she assumed we’d changed our minds but didn’t bother to check. There are too many people in this town who definitely aren’t the brightest bulbs on the tree.

And speaking of trees. To try and pacify me, Tim dragged a tree home the day before Christmas. I caught him going out the door, downed from neck to ankle, a touque on his head and wool scarf wrapped about six times around his face. When I asked him where on earth he was going, he said something unintelligible and walked out the door. Three hours later I heard him stomping around on the porch. I poked my head out, the cold hitting me like a slap, and all I could see were his eyes. They were laughing. He tugged the scarf down long enough to tell me to wrap up and come out for a minute. Curious, I pulled on my parka and went outside.

He stood there like a little boy who’d just bagged his first bird. Only it was a Christmas tree he held onto. Or rather, it had been a Christmas tree. My mouth fell open and I sputtered through a mouth full of scarf.

Tim pulled his away from his mouth and grinned. “Just call me Charlie Brown,” he said. The tree was almost bare. Tim described how the needles rained down with every blow of the axe. What else did he expect at fifty below?

Then we tried getting it inside. The few needles left on the branches showered the linoleum in the kitchen until it looked like a forest path. We stood it in a corner and stepped back. Tim glanced at me sideways just as I did the same and we both burst out laughing.

“I’ll go buy an artificial one,” I said. Tim didn’t argue.

I trudged off to the only store in town, but of course they were sold out of Christmas trees, artificial or otherwise. Then I went to the grocery store to buy a turkey. No turkeys left either. No cranberry sauce, no fresh vegetables. They had some Caribou steaks on special. Whoopdeedoo.

****

About Marcia

Marcia’s work has been published in magazines, newspapers and anthologies in both Canada and the U.S. and appears frequently on the world wide web. She currently writes a regular devotional column, The Spur, which appears in publications across Canada and goes out by e-mail to avid readers. Marcia’s writing has won many prizes, garnering praise from notable Christian writers like Janette Oke, Mark Buchanan, Phil Callaway and Sigmund Brouwer. She has published four devotional books, six novels and many short stories. Marcia won the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short-listed for a Word award along with her fantasy novel, Journey to a Strong Tower. Marcia is also a sought-after speaker for women’s events. To learn more about Marcia’s writing and speaking ministry visit her online at www.marcialeelaycock.com

To purchase Christmas by Marcia Lee Laycock go to Amazon.com or Amazon.ca

Or, if you live in Canada, order directly from the author by emailing marcia@marcialeelaycock.com


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.


Musical Countdown to Christmas: Silent Night by Joseph Mohr

Christmas Countdown1

Welcome to my musical countdown to Christmas for 2014! In these posts I will share some “behind the scenes” information about the Christmas Carol and composer for the day, as well as a link to a performance of the song. Enjoy!

Who was Joseph Mohr?

  • Born in Salzburg on December 11, 1792
  • His soldier father deserted the family when he discovered Joseph’s mother was pregnant
  • Considered a social outcast because he was born out of wedlock
  • His mother raised him, earning money by spinning and knitting
  • Johann Hiernle, a church choir master, recognized Joseph’s musical ability and made sure he received a proper education
  • Played guitar, violin, and organ
  • Ordained as a priest in 1812

The story behind Silent Night

  • Written in 1816 while Joseph Mohr was serving as an assistant priest in Mariapfarr in Lungau
  • In 1818, Joseph Mohr approached his organist friend, Franz Xaver Gruber, asking him to compose a melody which fit the text and could be performed by a choir accompanied by guitar
  • On December 24, 1818 Franz Gruber brought his composition to Joseph Mohr
  • The carol was first performed at Christmas Mass on December 24, 1818 with Joseph Mohr singing tenor while playing guitar and Gruber singing bass to an audience consisting of mostly shipping labourers and boat builders
  • An original autographed copy of Silent Night (Stille Nacht) was discovered in 1995!

http://youtu.be/wLsFrHLzHIg

Historical Context of the Song

  • Written just after the Napoleonic wars of 1792-1815
  • Salzburg had just lost its status as an independent country
  • Oberndorf was separated from Laufen (across the new official border of the Salzach River)
  • The local economy, which had been dependent on salt trade, was depressed by the war
  • Many of the boat builders and labourers faced uncertainty and possible unemployment

Looking for more details?

My Gift for today:

Leave a comment below for your chance to win a free copy of the new DVD from Focus on the Family  – Irreplaceable: What is Family?

Irreplaceable Movie

 

 


God delights in you

Zephaniah 3:17 #Snapit: a Big God

I love the image (#Snapit: a Big God) this verse portrays. First we are told: God is with us. That’s what we celebrate at Christmas time – Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus came in a form we could relate to and confined Himself to our limitations. However, the verse goes on to remind us that God is our mighty warrior who saves us. At Easter time we celebrate not only the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, but also His resurrection. God fought the greatest battle of all time on the cross and defeated Satan. God is strong, He is mighty to save, but He is also gentle. He delights in us! Even with all our foibles and failures, God DELIGHTS in us. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour, our mighty warrior, God looks at us and sees Jesus. We are covered with the righteousness of Christ. God no longer has to rebuke us, because we are clean. Instead, he rejoices over us. We make His heart sing.

No more labels, only love!

http://http://youtu.be/j1rptZB0ydQ


Blog Tour for the Kathi Macias 12 Days of Christmas

12 Days of Christmas Blog Tour LogoIn preparation for the official launch of the Kathi Macias 12 Days of Christmas paperback on Thursday, May 29th, many of the 12 authors are participating in a blog tour. I invite you to come along as we get to know other authors who participated in the collection. Here is the blog tour schedule, along with links to the authors’ blogs:

Kathi Macias 12 Days of Christmas Blog Tour

May 19 – Ruth L. Snyder at http://ruthlsnyder.com/

May 20 – Anne Baxter Campbell at http://pewperspective.blogspot.com/

May 21 – Marcia Lee Laycock at www.writer-lee.blogspot.ca

May 22 – Mishael Witty at http://bluebrownbooks.com/

May 23 – Christine Lindsay at www.christinelindsay.com/

May 24 – Sheila Seiler Lagrand at http://sheilalagrand.com/

May 26 – Jessica Ferguson at http://jessyferguson.blogspot.com

May 27 – Kathy Bruins at  http://www.kathybruins.com/writing-speaking-and-other-interests/

May 28 – Peg Phifer at http://www.whispersinpurple.com

May 29 – Jeanette Hanscome at http://jeanettehanscome.com/

What Does Christmas mean to you?

What do you think of when you hear the word “Christmas”? Snow? Turkey? Family get-togethers? Gifts? Celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ? Decorations? Sleigh Rides? Church? Caroling?

Sometimes we don’t stop and think about what it would be like to celebrate Christmas in a different country, on a different continent. In Cecile’s Christmas Miracle, my main character, Cecile, is spending her first Christmas in the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. There is no snow. In fact, the temperature is hovering in the high 30 degree range (Celsius). She is hot, and sweaty and dealing with bugs and poverty and corruption. There is no air conditioning. There is no turkey, or family to get together with, or decorations. Obviously, without snow, there are no sleigh rides, and many of the Christmas songs she grew up singing don’t fit. Well, maybe I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas does. Although the people she serves have strong beliefs, most of them don’t believe in Jesus Christ because they’ve never had the opportunity to hear about His birth, life and death. They have no Bibles. In fact, many of them don’t know how to read.

Here in North America, it’s easy to lose sight of the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Often we get caught up in the commercialism of pretty wrapping paper, exquisite decorations, expensive gifts, and lavish meals. There is nothing wrong with any of these things. However, we need to remember who and why we’re celebrating. Jesus Christ, the God-man was born in a humble cattle shed and laid in a manger. He left the splendor of Heaven and laid aside His rights to take on the form of a servant. He walked this earth, ministered to people, and lived a sinless life. Then, He chose to walk the road to Calvary where He willingly gave His life as the Lamb of God. He took my place and yours on the cross. He accepted our punishment so that we can have a personal relationship with God. Then He rose again. Some day He’s coming back to earth to gather all who believe in and follow Him so that we can spend eternity together in Heaven.

It’s my hope that Cecile’s Christmas Miracle will show you what it’s like to celebrate Christmas in a different country. It’s also my hope that you will remember people you know who are overseas, whether in the military, as missionaries, or for work. Make time to send them a care package, or schedule a Skype visit with them. Better yet, go visit them and take a “walk in their shoes”. The first Christmas was about giving. Will you follow in Jesus’ footsteps and give what you can to make the lives of others better?

Enter a comment below for your chance to win a free paperback copy of the Kathi Macias 12 Days of Christmas. I will be making the draw on Thursday, May 29th and will announce the winner on my Facebook Author Page at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRuthL.Snyder. NOTE: You must be 18 years or older to participate in the draw.


Expectations and Cecile’s Christmas Miracle

Book Cover for Cecile's Christmas Miracle by Kathi MaciasWe all have expectations, whether we realize it or not. Here in North America we expect, even demand, comfort, food and water whenever we want them, freedom to choose where we go and what we do, money to spend on our whims, and the list goes on. In many other countries, people do not have the same expectations. In fact, in some countries people expect to die, expect to do what others tell them to do, and expect very little in the way of human comforts.

With access to information on the internet, we understand more about what life is like in other countries. We hear about airplanes going missing and not being found. We advocate for girls kidnapped from school in places like Nigeria. However, the adage that we don’t really understand someone until we’ve walked a mile in their shoes, is still true.

My main character, Cecile, from my novella, Cecile’s Christmas Miracle, has expectations too. She, like many of us, doesn’t realize what some of her expectations are until they aren’t met. She knows she volunteered to serve people in a third world country, but she doesn’t expect the ignorance of basic hygiene. She knows she’ll be away from her parents and other family members, but she doesn’t expect the overwhelming feelings of loneliness, especially when she’s surrounded by many people. She knows the culture and language will be different, but she doesn’t grasp how different it will be spending her first Christmas in the heat and dust of the Kalahari Desert. One of the reasons I wrote this story was to show people in North America how different life is overseas and to remind all of us to think of others while we are celebrating Christmas with our lavish feasts and expensive gifts.

Paperback cover for Kathi Macias' 12 Days of Christmas which includes Cecile's Christmas Miracle by Ruth L. Snyder

Cecile’s Christmas Miracle has been available in e-book format since early December 2013. (You can purchase the e-book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.) This month my novella is being released in paperback, along with 11 other Christmas stories in the Kathi Macias 12 Days of Christmas. (You may purchase your copy on Amazon or by contacting me at sun dot beam3 at Yahoo dot com.)

To celebrate the release, several of us who have stories in the 12 Days of Christmas collection are participating in a blog tour. At the end of the tour there will be a draw for some free copies of the paperback collection. I’ll be posting details of the tour and the draw later this week. Stay tuned!


Coming Soon: Kathi Macias’ 12 Days of Christmas in paperback!

Paperback cover for Kathi Macias' 12 Days of Christmas which includes Cecile's Christmas Miracle by Ruth L. SnyderOfficial release date: Thursday, May 29th

Includes: Cecile’s Christmas Miracle by Ruth L. Snyder

Individual Christmas stories that cover a 12-day period – to be celebrated all year long! That’s the heart of this unique Christmas collection, compiled by best-selling author Kathi Macias and including historical, contemporary, romantic, mysterious, and even Amish tales that will warm your heart, whether sipping hot cocoa while sitting in front of the fireplace in winter or under the shade tree in the summer, nursing a frosty glass of iced tea or lemonade. Beginning with a scene set 12 days before Christmas, these stories move readers, one day at a time, toward that spiritual hush of Christmas Eve, where anything is possible. Authors from various geographical locations and walks of life have spun tales that will enchant readers, even as they are drawn closer to the greatest Gift ever given. And each story, though vastly different from the others, makes the same offer: will you make room in your heart for the Christ-child as He shows up in  your life and beckons you to join Him?

Available from Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble or your favorite retail outlet. You make also purchase copies from me. (Send an e-mail to sun dot beam3 at yahoo dot com).

NOTE: This book is available for Kindle and Nook as well.