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.

Guarding Candy Kane by V.B. Tenery ~ a review

Guarding Candy KaneChristmas novella, Mystery, RomSuspense

This is a wonderful Christmas mystery. I enjoyed reading the mystery driven part of it and the Christmas part of it. Loved the main characters. At points, the suspense was chilling, by the end it was uplifting and filled with Christmas cheer.

I loved the Colorado setting. In one scene we’re walking with the characters through the quaint village of Christmas Tyme, with all its cheerful seasonal decorations. Then in another scene, we’re in the snow-swept Colorado wilderness fearing for the characters’ lives.

The author is a skillful writer who takes the reader through a delightful Christmas mystery and adds that something additional that makes it a read that’s on more than one level. If I had one question to ask the author, it would be: “What’s next?”

Purchase GUARDING CANDY KANE on Amazon

Trinity Widows Group ~a much needed time

Trinity
Trinity Baptist’s large foyer, widows group meets in Next Steps room.

support, laughter, food

My “Florida sunshine” friend Deborah asked me if I’d like to meet her this afternoon at Trinity Baptist Church for it’s widows group. I immediately said, “YES.”

I’d been feeling down in the dumps. Another dear friend who I’ve known for many years (since my time in NYC) is battling cancer and she’s just moved. Packing up the old house, a cancelled flight and an overnight at an airport hotel, arranging for another flight…and when she arrived in Texas, she was hospitalized. She and I had been texting back and forth for over 24-hours and I was emotionally drained.

My husband passed away three years ago on December 8th, so the holidays are bittersweet for me. Even still, on the very year Joseph died, Christmas was a comfort to me. That year, my house had been decorated since the day after Thanksgiving. So, when I arrived back home in Florida after the memorial service in NYC, my little two-bedroom house had its halls fully decked out…and Christmas enveloped me and comforted me. I know it’s not that way for many who have lost loved ones during the holidays, but the spirit of Christmas held me in its arms that year…and it did last year, and I expect it will this year. Of course, this was Jesus expressing Himself in a gentle and tender way through the symbolism and spirit of the holiday we believers choose to celebrate His birthday.

So meanwhile, back to today…when I got to the church Deborah met me in the parking lot. Inside, the tables were decorated with Pilgrim salt and pepper shakers and there was an informal Thanksgiving buffet. The turkey had been ordered, but all of the other dishes were prepared by the women. When we got to our tables, the very first topic of conversation was how good it was to cook again. Nearly every woman at our table, including me, said she hardly cooked anymore since it was cooking only for one. The ladies had enjoyed breaking out cooking chops again and preparing a dish for a large group. I was really a good cook once, and I feel my skills in the kitchen have diminished from lack of use. I do find that disturbing but it is what it is.

Women shared a lot about their grandchildren, trips taken to Israel, Ireland. And then we got to how even years after your husband’s death…you’re going along…and out of the blue something blindsides you and triggers the old feelings of grief. Of course you knew you weren’t over it…but you thought you’d tucked the worst of it away…and then Pow!

It wasn’t a discussion group. Just a gentle back and forth and it was good and it was healing.

‘A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation.’ ~ Psalm 58:5 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

Trinity Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fl  904.596.2400

Trinity Baptist College, Jacksonville, Fl   904.596.2351

Trinity Christian Academy, Jacksonville, FL   904.596.2460

Millie’s Christmas by Kathy McKinsey ~ a Christmas spotlight

Millie's Christmas 2

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

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