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.

Millie’s Christmas by Kathy McKinsey ~ a Christmas spotlight

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A kitten’s first Christmas

It’s wonderful having Kathy McKinsey here for an interview. I’ve come to admire and respect Kathy as the editor of two of my murder mystery novels. So, it’s a treat to learn about her children’s Christmas book.

Nike:  What brought you to write this book/series?

Kathy:  I was looking for a project to force myself to write every day. God gave me this gift, one of my favorite of my own stories.

Nike:  What do you want the reader to take-away from this novel/series?

Kathy:  No matter the troubles we face, we can find joy and comfort from the loving presence of Jesus.

Nike:  What’s next for you? What are you working on now?

Kathy: I normally write women’s fiction. I am currently working on another collection of novellas. The stories include a couple of writing challenges I’m giving myself.

Bullet/Fun Questions:

Q:  What is your fav vacay spot?

Kathy:  Visiting my mother and daughters in Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri.

Q:  What is your fav thing to eat?

Kathy:  A hamburger with all the vegetables I can get on it.

Q:  You can live anywhere while you write a novel set there. Where is that? Why?

Kathy:  Hawaii. Not as a tourist.

Millie’s Christmas in a nut shell…

Ruthie says Millie will love Christmas. Ruthie is Millie’s best friend, so she’s sure Ruthie’s right, but why does Millie keep finding Ruthie and her brother Jake crying?
Millie, an orange ktten, shares about her first Christmas. Her best friend Ruthie, six years old, teaches Millie about Christmas—food, decorations, music, presents, and Jesus!

Millie’s friend Bruce, the family dog, also helps her celebrate Christmas, and sometimes gets her in trouble.

When Ruthie’s big brother Jake breaks his ankle, Millie learns about sad things, like divorce, when Jake can’t visit his mommy for Christmas. Millie watches Ruthie’s family love each other through the sadness and find joy in Christmas.

Kathy McKinney

Author Bio:

Kathy McKinsey grew up on a pig farm in Missouri, and although she’s lived in cities for nearly 40 years, she still considers herself a farm girl. She’s been married to Murray for 32 years, and they have five adult children.

She’s had two careers before writing—stay-at-home-Mom and rehabilitation teacher for the blind. She lives in Lakewood, Ohio with her husband and two of her children.

Besides writing, she enjoys activities with her church, editing for other writers, braille transcribing, crocheting, knitting, and playing with the cat and dog.

Purchase MILLIE’S CHRISTMAS on Amazon

Kathy’s Website

Kathy on Facebook

Kathy on Twitter

Dream a Little Christmas Dream ~ celebrate

Xmas Orn 2013 (2)
My late husband Joseph and I picked this up in Key Largo and It’s hung on the tree since.

I start to dream just a tad more during the Christmas holiday season. For me it starts the day after Thanksgiving. To me, that day has never been Black Friday. It’s always been more of a Christmas Fantasy Friday. Although I love all the lights and tinsel (especially the lights), I don’t want to get caught up in it. I have to always remember the One who is the divine dream giver. He has a purpose and a plan for me and for you.

 

V Xmas Cookies 2 Go
My daughter Vicky’s Christmas cookie to go.

So, while I’m firmly aware of Who is the author of my dreams, I find myself leafing through pages of ladies magazines, looking for holiday food and Christmas decorating ideas. Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Journal is terrific for gathering ideas. I also surf the web for delish Christmas recipes. I started on my own low cal/carb style of eating (not a diet) and lost a substantial amount of weight over the last five years. And I’ve kept it off. So, I will indulge (somewhat) in holiday desserts and other high cal treats, but won’t overdo it. It takes some intentionality, but that’s my new buzz word: intentionality! That’s why I’m so thrilled at how easy it is to find truly healthy Christmas recipes that look and taste marvelous.

I also love Christmas decorating shows on the various cable networks. I love to watch instructions on how to make Christmas crafts. Love the old classical and the new innovative ways to deck the halls. I’m afraid I’ve become an HGTV and a DIY Network addict. I’ll have to go to 12-Step meetings in January. “Hello, my name is Nike, and I’m addicted to home improvement cable channels.”

It seems this year there is much less of a war against Christmas. Oh, there are still Scrooges and Grinches out there, and they take great pleasure at bringing all Christmas celebrants down a notch or two. Don’t let them. Pity them and pray for them. And then get on with Christmas cheer. Celebrate ground retaken.

I’m happy to revel in the Christmas spirit, you see because over two thousand years ago in the city of Bethlehem an angel burst forth with great joy announcing the Good News, “Peace on earth. Good will toward men.” [Luke 2:14] Jesus was born. He has decked the halls of my heart ever since the day I first invited Him in.

 

Christmas is Coming ~ and I feel like a little child

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My bins are Christmas green.

Thanksgiving Day is gone, though thanksgiving continues as a way of life for me. So, now I’m thankful that Christmas is coming. For me the day after Thanksgiving is the “official start of the Christmas season” which doesn’t end on December 26th. No, I also celebrate the 12-Days of Christmas and end the season on December 6th with Epiphany.

In my house, the day after Thanksgiving is the day for taking out my large plastic “Christmas bins.”

This year I did some research and I found out surveys show that people who celebrate Christmas early tend to be happy people. All I know on a personal level is that I feel great when I jump into the Christmas season with both feet.

Isaiah 9:6For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. ~ New American Standard Bible [NASB]

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My baker’s rack in happy disarray as I put away “year round” object ‘d art and start putting up the Christmas stuff.

My feeling is that “Christmasy people” enjoy the “Light” the season brings. Even the non religious feel the light piercing the darkness and they like it. I don’t decry the  overabundance of lights on houses as commercialism. Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph don’t upset me. I know Santa Claus isn’t the baby Jesus. I also know the real St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop who gave gifts to the poor. I don’t mistake my Santa figurines as “the reason for the season.” Not for one second. But Santa does make me smile. Still, I know if there had never been a Jesus, there would not have been a Santa Claus.

I love to see smiles breaking out on the faces of children when they sit on Santa’s lap. Too often our children are fretful, feeling the anxiety and weight of the world in this angry time. Laughing when they see Frosty or Rudolph is a welcome break. It’s the Light breaking through the darkness. It’s children being allowed to be children, even for a short time. It’s the joy of the season breaking out. It can’t be contained. Darkness can’t hold it back.

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Turkey chili sustains me as I decorate.

I’m a firm believer that you can’t decorate on an empty stomach.

It is up to the church to tell the story of the baby Jesus. If we tell the age-old glorious story, they will listen. We must tell them.

The Birth of Jesus ~ ~ Luke 2 ~ New Living Translation [NLT]

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

The Shepherds and Angels

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

 

Olde Faux Trees the Best? ~ transitions

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I ‘drug’ my old and once quite expensive fake Christmas tree from Brooklyn to northeastern coastal Florida. Nearly twenty years ago, my husband and I went to one of those upscale Christmas stores AFTER the season and bought one of their larger and fuller display trees. At that time and with the end of season sale it was still over $200.

Joseph is gone, and though I’m still 39 (yeah, right), I’m no spring chicken. Last year, when I hauled the tree out of my shed and put it up in my tiny two-bedroom house in Florida, I swore I’d never do that again! It was too heavy for me to drag in and then at the end of the season drage out. Putting it up and taking it down was too much work. It’s one of those that must be assemebled branch-by-branch. Yet, this year I got it out again and managed to get it up with a ton of whining and murmuring. As some of you might know, I’ve had a rep for having perfected whining to an art form. However, totally through the grace of God, I’ve been able to knock a lot of that nonsense off.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing ~ Philippians 2:14 [NSB]

 

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A good start.

When I say it’s work to put the tree up, that’s what I mean. The trunk has to be assembled. long the trunk letters Have been printed (A, B, C, D, E, F, G) and they are color coded. The branches also have those letters printed on them in the corresponding color. Twenty years ago, those letters were easy to read, not so much now.

 

In Brooklyn, we’d assembled a layer of boughs, then layer lights in a cirsle around the tree at that level. We’d continue…a layer of boughs topped by a layer of lights until we reached the top. By the time we were done, we might have three hundred lights on the tree. Of course, there were two or more of us decorating. Now there’s just me. I love decorating. I love everything about Christmas. Decorations are a symbolic tribute to the babe who was born in a manger over 2000 years ago. The many lights abounding in every home, business, and thoroughfare mere representation of the Light that entered the world.

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Coming along. A long way to go yet.

 

I hope to make another transition in 2018 and enter a new season in my life. I plan to move to an apartment where yard work will be handled by management. I’d like to have a swimming pool for exercise and to keep limber. And so I have caught myself muttering, I’m not going to take that tree. It’s going to Goodwill. Sounds a lot like what I was saying last year. Will the tree go with me? Only time will tell.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. ~ Isaiah 9: 6-7 [KJV]

 

Nativity

 

 

 

I Don’t Dream ~ and I don’t cry

Emil Navor, WWII
Emil Michael Navor,  WWII, US Army, Pacific Arena

Yet, this morning I woke up dreaming about my dad’s memorial service, eighteen years ago, when I couldn’t stop crying. I don’t usually do either of those things: dream in my sleep that I can recall, or often cry.

That morning, the tears seemed to come up from my toes. I dremt an exact recall of how my BFF childhood girlfriend Christine Sloat White comforted me on the way out of the sanctuary. Christine died way too early of ovarian cancer, and as was her own personal style, carried herself with extreme dignity, right tot he end thinking of others.

 

Christine Sloat White

Christine Sloat White, Titusville, Fl

 

 

 

 

I only have one digital photo of my dad. So, I dragged out the two boxes of photos I have in my house in NYC, thinking I’d try to take a digital shot of an old snapshot. However, I couldn’t find any. Most of my photos (copious amounts of them) were shipped to Florida, as I’m in transition for a retirement move south. Likewise I only have one digital shot of Christine stored in my computer.

 

As I got out of bed this morning, I flashed to my father’s hospital bedside after the stroke that left him speechless in 1997. My dad had spent a lifetime angry at God over the very early death of his own father, which thrust his mother, sister, and himself into years of hardship. Using the GI Bill, he turned to education and philosophy for answers and obtained a college degree. Much later in life he added two masters degrees. He spoke three languages. None of this made him less angry with God. He spent the overwhelming portion of his adult life as a highly vocal agnostic. Honesty was his strong suit, and he freely admitted thinking about death made him very uneasy.

I visited my dad in the Catholic hospital in upstate New York, following his stroke. He couldn’t speak, but he had full use of his hands. A retired English high school teacher, speech teacher, debate coach, and high school senior play director, he had no trouble using words. He described on paper how he had been drawn to a particular statue of a baby, actually what appeared to be a Middle Eastern mother, father, and infant. He’d ask the nurses or aides to push his wheelchair into the waiting room where the wooden statue was displayed. He’d sit there gazing at it, he said, in a total peace he had never felt before. He wrote on his notepad, “Why do you think that is?”

I asked my dad, “Do you know who is depicted in that statue?” He didn’t know. So, I told him it was the Holy Family. The baby he was so drawn to, the one where gazing upon the infant carved in wood gave him such peace, was in fact, the baby Jesus. He was nonplussed. A shy smile crossed his face.

He also told me in writing how a particular nun who worked in the hospital would come to see him every day and something happened. She lit up the room. He couldn’t wait to see her. I later sought this nun out in her office to thank her for such kindness to my father. I was overwhelmed. I explained to her he’d been an agnostic most of his life and somehow he’d seen light in her. I told her how he had been drawn to the statue of the baby Jesus, and how I believed he’d had a profound experience of the Savior. For the first time in his life, he had experienced the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.

That little visit didn’t go well. She was shocked and horrified. I came to believe, she saw  a man who was going to hell if he didn’t get baptized, make his First Communion and get confirmed. Born again Christians might say she had a religious spirit. That’s a spirit of man-made religious stuff that’s not in the Bible. I’m not being antiCatholic. Christians have in the past, and some still do, make up all kinds of stuff that’s not in the Bible, such as you can’t dance or drink alcohol.

My Bible says Jesus turned water into wine for his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. I’ll bet there was plenty of dancing at that wedding. Jews always dance at weddings. I lived next to a religious Jewish family in Brooklyn for over 13 years. It would be quite usual on Friday evenings and on Saturday for friends to come over to celebrate the Sabbath. I’d often hear them laughing, singing, and feet-stompin’ dancing. And let’s not forget Jesus changed water into wine. That was after the guests at the wedding at Cana had consumed all the wine the host provided. The Bible says wine enough to fill six, large, stone purification water jars. These jars usually held 20 – 30 gallons. That’s a lot of wine. Some Christians insist the ‘wine’ they drank was really grape juice. I take my Bible literally. If it says wine, it means wine. It also says, the headwaiter told the bridegroom this last wine was the best. I’ve never been at any kind of social occasion where anyone has said, “This last grape juice was the best.” However, there have been endless hours spent talking about the merits of one particular wine vs. another.

But I digress. I believe, this precious nun was dismayed because she saw in my dad, a man going to hell. I was so grateful to her for being a representative of Jesus, walking into his room. I was grateful to the nurses and aides who pushed my dad’s wheelchair into the waiting room where he could spend time with the Holy Spirit who obviously did a work in him. I saw a man who had had an encounter with the living God who loved him, offered him peace, and extended an invitation to one day go to heaven.