My Christmas Story ~ 2019

Xmas Angel

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. ~ Luke 2:10-11, King James Version [KJV]

The Christmas season is my favorite time of year. It’s a season that starts with Advent and ends on the 12th Day of Christmas, sometimes called Epiphany or Three Kings Day (January 6). These twelve days are symbolic of the period of time from the birth of Jesus until the Three Magi arrived in Bethlehem bearing giftsfor the baby Jesus.

.Xmas 19 JAX Chick-fil-A 12 Days   Xmas FL 19 JAX Chick-fil-A   JAX Chick-f0;-A Carolers   Xmas 19 JAX Chick-fil-A Cow

My personal Christmas celebration began twelve days before Christmas when the local Chick-fil-A in the Mandarin neighborhood of Jacksonville had their own “12 Days of Christmas” with a percentage of sales going to local charities. I was sooo excited I got my pix taken in the sleigh with the Chick-fil-A cow from the TV commercials…or a kids dressed up like him. He does exist!

Xmas Fl 19 Deb Williams   Xmas Fl 19 Deb Tree #2   Xmas FL Deb Tree #3   Xmas Fl 19 Deb Nativity

Christmas has always been important to me. I believe in the supernatural, and so believe in the Spirit of Christmas. This is how Jesus manifests Himself to me at this time of year through the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s as if He’s wrapped me up in a warm blanket of good cheer, music, glittering lights. ~~  The next stop on my Christmas journey was my good and excellent gal-pal Deborah Williams. (see above) Now she’s a real decorating diva. She invited her good friend Becky Walsh, Valery Riley, a professor at Trinity College and kittie foster mom, and moi for a Christmas luncheon featuring one of her famous chili recipes. Yum.Xmas FL 19

Then Lynn Wood Rix (writing as Dalyn Woods) and Lou Ann Atwood, my JAX reading, writing, lunch/dinner, thrifting friends celebrated Christmas the Friday before with a steak dinner at the Longhorn Steakhouse.

Xmas FL Destiny Kids

Next came the Christmas Sunday service at Destiny Church. Lou Ann Atwood and her adult son Douglas went with me. The children performed a brief skit…more like a skitlet, and then they sang a truly powerful rendition of the Christmas song, “My Gift Is Me.” There was also an amazing saxophone solo when the adult music team sang. I’d already put my phone away and couldn’t get it out and right-side-up fast enough to get a pix of the sax player. (My relationship with cell phones is another blog article.Xmas FL 19 Alaska Logs 2

Every year I do Christmas baking. I always make my mother’s recipe for Alaska Logs which is a huge hit wherever I bring them. Thanks mom!  Last Christmas I gave the recipe on this blog. Click for recipeThis year I also made Cheaters Christmas Stollen which Olivia, a sweetheart of a character in my new release ACTS OF MALICE, baked for guests. Stollen is a German Christmas sweet bread with fruit and possibly also nuts. The cheaters version is a hack that takes half-the-time. It’s the first time I’ve made it, and while it tastes good, I’ll perfect it by next year and give the recipe then. ~~ So, I finished my baking on the day of Christmas Eve. There wasn’t enough time to make a proper Eastern European Christmas Eve dinner for myself (meatless) and also get to a candlelight service. So, I threw family tradition to the wind and grabbed some dinner at Chili’s. Then I drove to the Mandarin Presbyterian Church for their candlelight service which was amazing. I didn’t take any photos of the magnificent church and choir because I was a first-time guest and as the service ended, we were instructed to light our candles and to walk out onto their piazza as a body to sing Christmas carols. At that point, I was juggling candle in one hand, handbag on my other shoulder. And then there’s that proverbial relationship (or lack of one) I have with cell phone…so, no photos.

I went to Lou Ann’s house for Christmas dinner and also didn’t take photos. Again, I was a first time guest. Besides, the good sized house was crammed with family and friends and the joint was jumpin’. And then there’s that relationship I have with cell phones. There’s no pix of it, but trust me, the prime rib was out-of-this world as were the desserts and everything in-between.

Beth, moi JAX Bch 12.18

I want to take a moment to remember and celebrate the life of my dear friend Beth Glash, Beth Ellen on Facebook, writing amazing Christian romance novels as Jenna Victoria. She waged a full assault on advanced triple negative breast cancer for eight years. This awful disease finally took her on December 5th of this year. We were friends while I lived in Brooklyn (NYC) and she lived on Long Island lunching, mall-crawling, going to movies. She visited me in Florida right before Christmas in 2017 and 2018. In 2017, it was so warm in mid-December that we hung out on Jacksonville Beach in short sleeves. She was an accomplished person in her career. As a Long Island RAW member, she organized and directed their annual luncheon at the Fox Hollow Country Club. What a gal! What a friend! I miss her.

Hope You’re Rockin’ Around ~ the Christmas tree

J's Biker Jacket

In the new old fashioned way.

When I got up to feed the strays it was 40 degrees in Jacksonville (with a feels like of 38). That’s when Floridians start thinking of wintering in the Caribbean. It had dropped to the mid 30s overnight. It was cold and damp…a breeze coming off the Atlantic and up the St. John’s River. I’m closer to the river than the beach.

I had been meaning to give my late husband Joseph’s biker jacket to Goodwill since I only wore it once last year. That was right before Christmas, when I went to see Deck the Chairs in Jacksonville Beach with my daughter Victoria and Lynn Woods Rix writing as Dalyn Woods. It was cold that night This year, I wanted to let someone get some use out of the jacket, but Joseph had loved it even though he didn’t have a Harley, not even a motor scooter. It made him feel a little like James Dean. I must confess, when I wear it some of that James Dean spirit rubs off on me too. There’s just something about a well-worn, broken in biker jacket.

Joseph passed away on December 8th three years ago. I’m seeing a lot of memes about how to treat a person who is mourning at Christmas. Should you bring up the loved one who is gone? Should you tip-toe around it? If you care for your loved one who is in mourning, they will know you care. You might say the wrong thing. If you’re a believer, you might say, “He/she’s in heaven with Jesus,” when all your loved one wants is for them to be back here, even for a moment. We all say the wrong thing in situations like this. Your loved one knows that. Your loved one has also said the wrong things. It means you’re human.

So, what should you do? What should you say at Christmas to a loved one who’s heart is aching (and mourning goes on for years)? Say, “I love you lots.” Call them, tweet them, private message them, email them, send them cute, light-hearted memes, send them a Christmas card. For a person in mourning, the hours can creep slowly by, feeling empty. Fill some of that empty space up…in a gentle, gentle way saying “I love you.” “I’m thinking of you.” Don’t pressure them to be part of the holly-jolly spirit of Christmas, but leave the door open to them if they’d like to join in. You might be surprised. They might have no place to celebrate and would love to be part of your Christmas.

…casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. ~ 1 Peter 5:7 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. ~ Deuteronomy 31:6 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

JDC Xmas 2013-3
Joseph, Christmas morning 2012, before coffee
JDC Waldorf Astoria-Boca
Boca Raton, vacay 2011

Jacksonville ~ Is Christmas Town

JAX Chick-fil-A 19

First Coast All About Christmas

A neighbor in my condo complex wanted to see the local  Mandarin Chick-fil-A’s Twelve Nights of Christmas, again. Mandarin is our neighborhood in the geographically huge city of Jacksonville.

She’d been there the night before to support her daughter’s school. Each night if customers mentioned the name of the particular local not-for-profit showcased, the organization received a percentage of the price of the meal. So, I said, “Why take two cars, I’ll drive.”JAX Xmas Tree 3

We had our chicken sandwich meal and the place was packed with families. Squirming, laughing children couldn’t wait to rush over to the the outside decorated area and see what was going on. Many of the not-for-profits had decorated a tree.

JAX Chick-fil-A 19 2

We were early-birds and the singing presentation would be quite a bit later. We didn’t stay for it. We did listen to the teenagers rehearsing their Christmas carols. They sounded great.JAX Chick-f0;-A Carolers

Jacksonville is on the First Coast (called thus because St. Augustine was the first permanent settlement by Europeans in the Americas) and the First Coast is very Christmasy. Nothing can compare to it.  It seems every single church is having a presentation of some type (classical Christmas music, Christmas worship music, children’s presentations, a series of family-friendly Christmas movies, and much more). There are local neighborhood Christmas crafts fairs, food fairs, and the like.

JAX Chick-fil-A Cow

I did get to meet the Chick-fil-A cow from the television commercials. He is real.

The Jacksonville Historical Society has an extraordinary Gingerbread Extravaganza display every year. Grade school classes contribute displays as well as professional bakers.

Jacksonville Beach has Deck the Chairs every year. I went last year and it was spectacular…forty decorated lifeguard chairs.

When I lived in NYC, my husband and I went many times to see “the tree” and huge lighted angels at Rockefeller Center. Each time it was wonderful. But, let me tell you, St. Augustine’s Night of Lights at Christmas has NYC beat by a mile. You have not seen a Christmas light display like this. It’s not to be missed.

My Christmas Mug ‘O ~ tea!!!

Christmas Mug TeaHo, ho, ho. You thought I was going to have something thrilling, with kick, spiked even.

I pulled one of my Christmas mugs out today. I have six, purchased in various places: Christmas fairs, while on vacation.

It’s mid-morning and tea was in order. My usual brew is Lipton Organic Tea. It’s warming, inviting, has a lovely aroma and taste. Highly underrated, IMO. Note: I am not a spokesperson, have no relationship to the company at all.

I’m a black tea drinker. I’ll drink Irish Breakfast, English Breakfast, Darjeeling. But Lipton is what I keep in my airtight tea caddy and is my go to. It brings up comfy feelings that hearken back to my childhood. If a cold was threatening, my mom made me a cup of Lipton tea with honey and lemon. I still do that if my sinuses are clogging except, that I might add a shot of Bourbon.

Yes, black tea has the health benefits of antioxidants and I am into health. But I pulled out a Christmas mug and brewed a cuppa for myself today because in this wonderful holiday season it brings up a lovely memory of my mom.

Flying Solo ~ so, what’s that about?

Fighter Piolot

Party of One.

Flying Solo doesn’t mean there are no other people around. It means you alone are in the cockpit flying the craft. The fighter pilot has a ground crew, yet, when he’s at the controls, it must often feel as if he is alone. As believers, we are in the army of God, and for some of us who have lost a mate, who have prayed for a mate and are still single, whose mate has repeatedly and consistently been unfaithful or alcoholic or drug addicted or addicted to pornography, those who have outlived all their relatives and friends, or for some other reason are living alone…the reality might be we are flying solo. And we really are. It’s not just a cute statement. We go home and we’re cooking for one, watching TV alone, sleeping alone in the bed. An individual can be in assisted living or in a nursing home surrounded by people and still be solo.

Flying Solo also doesn’t mean that there is no radar system. As believers, we have the Holy Spirit and we must develop a closer relationship with God. That’s an absolute if you are flying solo. You need the best guidance system you can possibly have and that starts with making Jesus the Lord of your life, and getting into the manufacturer’s manual…the Bible.

I’ve been a widow for nearly four years, yet it was only about six months ago that it hit me, as if I’d slammed into a wall, that I was flying solo and what that really meant. I wish I could say I handled it in a delightfully pretty and delectably appropriate manner. I didn’t. Still, I’m pretty stoic. I kept functioning. My house was clean, I fed my strays every morning and my inside cats, walked Sophie the Wonder Dog twice a day and fed her. Published my latest murder mystery release by the deadline. But, but…emotionally, I was messy, messy, messy.

Of course, I went to ‘my’ default. Whining. I whined to friends and associates. And mostly, I whined to God. And I heard very clearly in my spirit that I should pay attention to my feelings and actions because God had given me the gift of writing and my assignment was to write about flying solo for the purpose of helping other people. So, I whined about THAT to God. I’m pretty sure the Bible says, “Whining endureth for a season.” It’s probably in the Taylor Swift translation.

So, what have I learned about flying solo in the last six months? To go back to the basics.

PRAY. Pray for yourself, bless your house, your pets, put a prayerful hedge or protection around yourself and what’s yours. Talk to God. It’s okay to have an out-loud, running convo with God. Talk to Him as if He’s an older, wiser friend, a father, a brother. He’s all that. Pray for others. Pray for their healing, prosperity, the health and protection of their children. Pray for the nation. Keep it up and soon you’ll become a prayer warrior without even trying.

KEEP AFTER THE DETAILS. Get up, get dressed, eat nutritious meals. Keep your home/surroundings in good order. God loves you. Take care of yourself. And, as much as you can, surround yourself with the things you love.

KEEP IN TOUCH. You have a phone, so use it. Phone, text, and/or email friends and associates. Get involved on social media. Facebook has groups you can join. So do other social media platforms.

GO OUT. Don’t stay trapped in your home. Go to church…and also to the mid-week service. Don’t have a church? Go church shopping for a few weeks or months until you find one that’s warm, comfy, and welcoming for this stage of your life. Get your hair cut and/or styled regularly and start a convo with your stylist. Go to the library, sit, read some magazines, recipe books, holiday decorating books, health and beauty books. Ask the librarian to guide you. Start a dialog, but a quiet one…it’s the library.

I hope this is helpful. I’ll be praying for everyone who subscribes and /or reads this blog.

The Softest Breath (Echoes of the Heart Book 2) by Naomi Musch ~ a review

AAA The Softest Breath

Historical Romance

What I really love about this novel, well aside from the fact that the author captures the post WWI era perfectly, is that her characters are multidimensional. It’s not the often reworked scenario where the flapper has a heart of gold, but that Gwendolyn Smith has a deep interior life.

The saddest thing was Gwen’s early life. She was abandoned by her mother, befriended by Hugh Phelps, an older man who purported to be father-like, but used her incredible singing ability to make a lot of money for himself. He controlled and intimidated her, holding her emotionally and financially captive, and even physically abused her on occasion.

Jacob Hessman doesn’t have a way with women. From what I gathered in backstory, he had his heart and his pride smashed to smithereens in the previous novel in the series. I started with this novel because I like the Roaring Twenties era so much. He completely misreads Gwen when she actually physically runs into him at the St. Paul train station as she frantically tries to find a train she can board to run away from Phelps. She follows Jacob onto a train and to a small town where he helps her partially out of Christian kindness and partially out of an intense instant attraction.

This novel is well worth the read. I recommend it to anyone who loves the 1920s era in American history as much as I do.

Purchase The Softest Breath On Amazon