Friday, December 31, 2010

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Wishing you all a happy and prosperous new year! Be safe tonight and enjoy the time you spend with family and friends.

Still six more days to go in the Sharing the Joy event.  I know many consider the season over on New Year's Day, but I continue my Christmas through Twelfth Night on January 6th.  I'm hoping to share some ideas in the coming days for activites, etc. that will be perfect for Rudolph Days (the 25th of each month) in the coming year. 

If you haven't already, be sure to enter my Christmas Book Extravaganza giveaway...open until January 6th at 11:59pm.  Go HERE to enter.  Good luck!

Always in spirit....

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

SHARING THE JOY: REPURPOSE THOSE CHRISTMAS CARDS!

After a much needed recovery hiatus from the hubbub that is Christmas day, I am back to share some more joy with you! I always save all the Christmas cards I receive every year with the intention of using them for a craft or something.  One year, I made my own gift tags for presents.  I used decorative edging scissors, cut out a pretty section of the card, punched a hole, and attached it to the gift with a ribbon.  I wrote the to and from part on the back.  They were so cute! I will share a variation of this below, along with some other creative ideas for repurposing those gorgeous Christmas cards (and boy did I get some beautiful ones this year).

1. Scrap booking

Old Christmas cards are a great free source for images in your scrap booking projects. You can cut out the images and Christmas phrases and glue them into your scrapbook. This is a super easy way to create processional looking scrapbook.

Don’t feel limited to only using the old Christmas cards in the holiday section of your scrapbook. Letters can be cut out and used in any season of your scrapbook.

Areas of solid color can also be cut out and used throughout your scrapbook.

Tissue paper inserts can also be removed from the Christmas cards and repurposed.

2. Christmas Ornaments

You can hang the entire Christmas card on the tree as an ornament or even cut out the words an images and create new Christmas tree ornaments.

Use decoupage to adhere the cut out Christmas images to round, glass Christmas tree ornaments.

You can also decoupage the images to wood bark pieces. Drill a hole in the top of the back and hang it on your Christmas tree.

3. Napkins Rings

Cut out some of the larger images on your old Christmas cards. Glue the cut outs to a nice thick ribbon with some hot glue. Tie the ribbon around the fabric or paper napkins on your dinner table. You can place them bow side down so the Christmas image is face up or even cut the ribbon to size and glue it into a loop that fits your napkins.

You can also cut out large images and leave about an inch tall band on either side. This band should be about three inches long. Glue the band of card together in the back with some hot glue. You can slip your napkins in through the hole.

Cut out words from old Christmas cards in one continual string. Glue the ends of the words together in a loop. Now you have an instant Christmas napkin ring.

4. Christmas Garland

You can cut out images and words form the old Christmas cards to make a simple Christmas tree garland. Punch holes in the left and right sides to the string of words or images. Tie each piece together with pretty ribbon or yarn. Continue this garland every year and soon you will have a great family heirloom that appears every year at Christmas.

You could also string the old Christmas cards together whole. This is a great look for a garland that nags on the fireplace mantel or a doorframe.

--from associatedcontent

MORE IDEAS

Things You'll Need:

old greeting cards
scissors
glue
glitter
paper doilies
small hole punch
ribbon
pinking shears
decorative card stock


image from Hit Stuff!
•1 Make elaborate gift tags for packages by cutting apart greeting cards, especially small designs. Isolate miniature images like poinsettia blossoms, snowmen, flowers, and others by cutting around their edges with a regular pair of scissors. Choose images with noticeable white space to serve as the tag's "blank". Punch a hole in the top and thread with a ribbon or tape directly to the package.

•2 Create elaborate Christmas ornaments by cutting individual images from old Christmas cards. Coat the edge of the image with glue and sprinkle with glitter; highlight certain details in the card with the glue and glitter combination. Punch a small hole in the top and thread with a ribbon for hanging from a tree -- thread multiple images together to form a single ornament using ribbon or metallic thread.

•3 Form new holiday cards by cutting the images and decorating them with glitter and glue, then securing them to folded decorative cardstock to form a new card. Cut the edges or outline the shapes with pinking shears to form decorative edges. Create new envelopes by folding paper doilies in half or into four sections, the biggest one used for the flap.

--from ehow

STILL MORE IDEAS!

Postcards

Christmas cards can be used a second time to send holiday greetings if made into postcards. People using this idea should be sure they don't send a card back to the person they got it from the previous year, however.

1.Cut the front of any Christmas card into 4" by 6" size.

2.Turn the piece sideways and write a message on the back of it.

3.Add a standard postcard stamp and mail.

Note that some Christmas cards do not make for good postcards. This includes ones printed on very heavy stock or ones that are heavily embellished with glitter or other items that can come loose in the mail.

--from love to know-crafts

AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST...

Make an ornament--fancy or simple...

The simplest way to make an ornament is to cut a small circle from a card, hole-punch it, and then put a plastic tie or paper clip through the hole.

For a fancier type of ornament, go to a local craft or hobby store like Michaels.com and buy a 3-D wood star or oval ornament, as well as a special lacquer like mod podge.

1.Using a craft knife, carefully cut the snowmen, trees, churches, birds and pine boughs from old cards. Layer them atop the ornament and brush on the special glue.

2.Keep adding more holiday pictures till there is no more brown showing between photos.

3.Let dry and attach a string if necessary.


image from Old Father Christmas
Make a Sparkly New Bookmark

Holiday cards come with pretty landscapes, lacy snowflakes, and sparkly details that are too lovely to throw away. Cutting cards down to the size of a 6" ruler, then adding a tassel, readily turns greeting cards into bookmarks. The following are complete directions on how to make a personalized bookmark:

Many Materials, Many Uses for a Bookmark

Made from stiff paper, card stock, cardboard and even old Christmas cards, these bookmarks are more than just handsome. They are also customized and good for the environment. Personal bookmarks also make a great gift; to thank a teacher, honor a relative, or show a special friend that their good reading habits are appreciated.

Custom Bookmarks Start Off with Paper or Board

A few other materials are needed as well:

•1 piece of stiff paper, cardboard, scrapbook paper or heavyweight stock (or an old greeting card)
•1 piece of ribbon, length of embroidery string, or purchased tassel
•1 single hole-punch tool and scissor
•1 or more felt-tip markers (optional)
•1 sheet of decorative stickers (optional)
•1 bead or charm (optional)
•1 decorative metal brad (optional)
•1 sheet of contact paper, clear or with a design

Directions for Making Personalized Bookmarks

1.Measure and cut the paper, board or stock to a size that is 1.5" wide and 6" long.

2.If the board/card does not have a design, decorate it now. Use markers or stickers to add pictures and/or words. Or cover the board with stickers, or contact paper that has a design on it.

3.Using the hole-punch, make a hole in the top of the bookmark, about 3/4" from the edge.

4.Insert a a tassel, piece of ribbon or string with a bead/charm on it, into the hole. A decorative brad (large paper fastener) can also be used. Secure by tying, looping or spreading the ends of the metal brad.

5.Once the bookmark is complete, it may be covered with clear contact paper, or laminate, to keep it stiff and clean.

Adding Tassels and Finishings to Bookmarks

It is easy to make tassels by wrapping a length of yarn around the hand, about 10 times. Remove from the hand and then tie one end of the string around the long oval. Then cut across the bottom with a scissor. Instead of making tassels, ones can be purchased (try craft and hobby stores like Michael's or AC Moore, or even online at California Paper Goods).

Decorative brads, which look like pretty buttons on the front and have paper-fastener ends in the back, can also be purchased from craft stores and sites. They are another nice way to finish off the bookmark. Try ribbons and cord, too, matching the colors to the papers. Whatever additions are made will help the bookmark show out of the book.

Making this simple craft is a great way to entertain kids. It is also ideal way to personalize books and keep textbooks free of bends and rips. Personalized bookmarks also make a great gift.


A Cute New Wreath for Your Holiday Decor

1.Using a large drinking glass, trace circles onto old cards and cut them out.

2.Remove the middle from a 9" paper plate and glue the circles around it, so they overlap a bit.

3.When dry, add a nice bow to the top or bottom of this little card wreath.

One can also make this project by tracing a child's hands instead of circles, then assembling the same way.Next holiday, when this unique wreath comes out for display, play a little game. See if anyone can remember who sent the different cards that were used in it.

A Novel Photo Frame

Find a nice silvery or gold-foil card for this one. Trace two holiday bells onto the card, including a big round clapper. Cut the bells out, and then two faces from old holiday photos or school pix. Glue the little faces to the circular clapper and, voila, it becomes a handy seasonal photo frame.

--from suite101


I'm planning on making some of these myself before next year...some Rudolph day activities...YAY!

Always in spirit....

Saturday, December 25, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS...AND FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE

I just wanted to wish all of my followers a very Merry Christmas! Have a safe and happy day and enjoy it with your loved ones and friends!

I have for you an extra special treat today.  The lovely Sasha Soren (the author) put together this idea (and provided all the necessities) for this wonderful post.  So please grab some popcorn...or some sugar cookies and milk or eggnog or spiced cider...and enjoy this timeless Christmas tale!



Sasha Soren is the author of the awesome novel, Random Magic.  To find out more about the Sasha and the book, visit the Random Magic tour blog HERE


Friday, December 24, 2010

SHARING THE JOY: MUSIC REVIEW-MIKE CONLEY & FRIENDS, IT'S A CONLEY CHRISTMAS

Mike Conley & Friends
It's a Conley Christmas

I'd like to thank Mike for the opportunity to listen to and review his lovely Christmas CD.  Everyone knows I'm a big fan of Christmas and Christmas music and I really can never have enough Christmas CDs.  My collection hasn't quite reached the magnitude of my books, but give me time...LOL!

Here are the tracks on the CD:
  1. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies
  2. Christmas Time is Here
  3. Little Drummer Boy
  4. My Favorite Things
  5. What Child is This?
  6. O' Holy Night
  7. Bad Boy Christmas
  8. Winter Wonderland
  9. Away in a Manger
  10. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  11. The Christmas Song
  12. We Three Kings
I like Mike's style on this CD.  Some of the songs are very traditional and some have a newer sound and the arrangements are terrific.  I am very pleased to add this CD to my collection.  Here is a list of the songs I like the best:

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies:  The songs from the Nutcracker are truly some of my favorites...especially this one.  It is a short rendition, but no less charming.
Christmas Time is Here:  Again, one of my favorites, ever since the Charlie Brown Christmas.  This version is also featured on Sounds of Christmas, Volume 2 (which I reviewed earlier this month) and is one of my favorites this year.
Little Drummer Boy:  Not much to say.  Always a favorite and a nice version.
My Favorite Things:  I love The Sound of Music and I love when this song is featured on a Christmas album because I used to watch this movie during the holidays every year when I was a girl.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas:  Judy Garland's version is hard to top, but I always seem to love this song in any version. 
The Christmas Song:  Another great version of a traditional favorite.

To learn more about Mike Conley and to purchase his music visit his website HERE

Merry Christmas!

SHARING THE JOY CHRISTMAS BOOK EXTRAVAGANZA GIVEAWAY!


CHRISTMAS BOOK EXTRAVAGANZA GIVEAWAY!
 
Finally...I have for you the book giveaway I promised! I had originally intended to announce this earlier so I could get the books to the winners before Christmas, but then I had to move suddenly and everything went haywire.  But still, they will be great books to read on a Rudolph day during the year, during Christmas in July, or next year for The Christmas Spirit reading challenge.  Thank you so much for bearing with me during this trying time in my family's life.  Here's hoping 2011 will be a much better year for us.

Now...on to the giveaway! Here are the goodies:

TITLES (from top left, moving clockwise)
--When Santa Fell to Earth by Cornelia Funke
(brand new trade paperback)
--The Quiet Little Woman by Louis May Alcott
(brand new hardcover)
--The Christmas Tree by Julie Salamon
(discarded library hardcover, large print)
--The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado
(brand new hardcover)
--A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
(discarded library hardcover, beautifully illustrated)
--The Gift by Nora Roberts 2 in 1
Home for Christmas
All I Want for Christmas
(gently used hardcover)

Giveaway details:
  • Giveaway is open to US and CANADA only.  I'm sorry international friends, but the move during Christmas really strapped me.
  • There will be three winners...first, second, and third place.  When I announce the winners, the first place winner will be emailed and will choose the three they would like, second place will choose the two they would like and third place will get the book that is left.
  • To enter, fill out the FORM BELOW with name and email address.  Extra entries will be given for following here and at The True Book Addict and for following The Christmas Spirit (@thexmasspirit) on Twitter.
  • You must include your email address for entry and winners will have 48 hours to respond after winning.
  • Please do not leave entries in the comments (unless the form is not working), but comments are appreciated.  =O)
  • Giveaway will end on Thursday, January 6th at 11:59 pm.
Good luck and Merry Christmas!

(use the tab key to move through the form)


Thursday, December 23, 2010

SHARING THE JOY: GUEST POST FROM AUTHOR SHEILA ROBERTS

Please join me in welcoming author Sheila Roberts as she shares a lovely post about holiday trimmings and family traditions.

HOLIDAY TRIMMINGS

Christmas is, hands down, my favorite holiday. I love everything about it – the parties,
the symbolism of the Advent wreath, candlelight services, family gatherings, the goodies, the
carols, the decorations, the way every town and city dresses up in holiday lights and swags. Love
Christmas. Love, it, love it, love it!

And I start gearing up for the season Thanksgiving weekend, when I haul out the
decorations and set up the tree. (Yes, we have a fake tree. No worries about the needles drying
out and I get to enjoy it all month long.) I have some wonderful decorations, including some my
mother made way back in the fifties. One is a Santa face that makes me smile every time I look
at it. That Santa hung on a wall in our dining room every Christmas. Another is a red stocking
with a homemade doll and a candy cane peeking out the top. Embroidered on the stocking is the
name Tim. You know, as in Tiny Tim, “God bless us, everyone.” That Tim. For some reason no
one ever got that. Kids and adults alike would stare at it and ask, “Who’s Tim?” Clueless. Oh,
and then there are my little angels. Each holds a gold trimmed letter and when lined up they spell
Noel. Of course, every year when I’m not looking some joker rearranges them so they spell Leon
instead. Ha, ha. This is what comes of letting your children watch HOME IMPROVEMENT at
an impressionable age.

This year I put up Mom’s smiling Santa. Every time I look at him I remember my mother
and how special she made the holidays for our family. Our home was festive and filled with
warmth, laughter, music, and good smells. (My, oh, my, could my mother bake!)

I’ve tried to carry on the tradition of making home a special place at Christmas because
I think creating a warm and inviting atmosphere is one way we can celebrate the season and
keep our families close.  Unlike my character Joy in ON STRIKE FOR CHRISTMAS, I have
not gone on strike. As usual, I’ve done it all. And I’m pooped. So the day after Christmas I
will be flopped on the couch, recharging my batteries and watching reruns of WHAT NOT TO
WEAR. Meanwhile, though, I am in major holiday mode, finishing up with baking and wrapping
presents. The house looks great and everywhere I look I see things that bring a smile to my
face: the nativity set my mother-in-law made me years ago, my mom’s handcrafted decorations,
the framed poster for my all-time favorite movie, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, and my snow
globes. Everything has sentimental value, which makes it extra special. As I finish my final
preparations for the holidays, surrounded by mementos from Christmases past, I can’t help but
be grateful for all the special people in my life and the wonderful times we’ve had together and
look forward to future celebrations equally as wonderful.

We all have favorite decorations. I hope whatever you’ve put out is triggering happy
memories and sending you into the holidays with a smile.

Sheila Roberts lives on a lake in the Pacific Northwest. She’s happily married and has three children. Her books have been best-sellers, Amazon top ten romance picks, and have been optioned for film. When she’s not speaking to women’s groups or at conferences she can be found writing about those things near and dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate. (bio from Goodreads)

Sheila's newest novel, The Snow Globe, was released in October 2010.  Visit Sheila at her website, http://www.sheilasplace.com/ 


Thank you, Sheila, for sharing with us today!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

SHARING THE JOY: GUEST POST FROM KATHLEEN AT BLOG O' THE IRISH

I'd like to welcome back Kathleen from Blog O' the Irish today with this lovely guest post.

A Christmas Memory
by Truman Capote

"A Christmas Memory" is a short story by Truman Capote. Originally published in Mademoiselle magazine in December 1956, it was reprinted in The Selected Writings of Truman Capote in 1963. It was issued in a stand-alone hardcover edition by Random House in 1966, and it has been published in many editions and anthologies since.

The largely autobiographical story, which takes place in the 1930s, describes the lives of seven-year-old Buddy and his elderly cousin Sook, who is Buddy's best friend. The evocative narrative focuses on country life, friendship, and the joy of giving during the Christmas season, and it also gently yet poignantly touches on loneliness and loss.

Now a holiday classic, "A Christmas Memory" has been broadcast, recorded, filmed, and staged multiple times, in award-winning productions.

"A Christmas Memory" is about a young boy, referred to as Buddy, and his older cousin, who is unnamed in the story. The boy is the narrator, and his older cousin — who is eccentric and childlike — is his best friend. They live in a house with other relatives, who are authoritative and stern, and have a dog named Queenie.

The family is very poor, but Buddy looks forward to Christmas every year nevertheless, and he and his elderly cousin save their pennies for this occasion. Every year at Christmastime, Buddy and his friend collect pecans and buy whiskey — from a scary American Indian bootlegger named Haha Jones — and many other ingredients to make fruitcakes. They send the cakes to acquaintances they have met only once or twice, and to people they've never met at all, like President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

This year, after the two have finished the elaborate four-day production of making fruitcakes, the elderly cousin decides to celebrate by finishing off the remaining whiskey in the bottle. This leads to the two of them becoming drunk, and being severely reprimanded by angry relatives.

The next day Buddy and his friend go to a faraway grove, which the elderly cousin has proclaimed the best place, by far, to chop down Christmas trees. They manage to take back a large and beautiful tree, despite the arduous trek back home.

They spend the following days making decorations for the tree and presents for the relatives, Queenie, and each other. Buddy and the older cousin keep their gifts to each other a secret, although Buddy assumes his friend has made him a kite, as she has every year. He has made her a kite, too.

Come Christmas morning, the two of them are up at the crack of dawn, anxious to open their presents. Buddy is extremely disappointed, having received the rather dismal gifts of old hand-me-downs and a subscription to a religious magazine. His friend has gotten the somewhat better gifts of Satsuma oranges and hand-knitted scarves. Queenie gets a bone.

Then they exchange their joyful presents to each other: the two kites. In a beautiful hidden meadow, they fly the kites that day in the clear winter sky, while eating the older cousin's Christmas oranges. The elderly cousin thinks of this as heaven, and says that God and heaven must be like this.

It is their last Christmas together. The following year, the boy is sent to military school. Although Buddy and his friend keep up a constant correspondence, this is unable to last because his elderly cousin suffers more and more the ravages of old age, and slips into dementia. Soon, she is unable to remember who Buddy is, and not long after, she passes away.

As Buddy says later: "And when that happens, I know it. A message saying so merely confirms a piece of news some secret vein had already received, severing me from an irreplaceable part of myself, letting it loose like a kite string. That is why, walking across a school campus on this particular December morning, I keep searching the sky. As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying towards heaven."

source: Wiki

Thanks so much, Kathleen! This is one of my favorites.  I especially love the TV movie version which starred Patty Duke as Sook.  A wonderful Christmas story!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

VIRTUAL ADVENT TOUR: A MEMORY OF CHRISTMASES PAST

When my sister and I were growing up in the 70s and 80s, we had three Christmas albums we listened to each year.  One was the Partridge Family Christmas album and the other two were more traditional with standard carols sung by a childrens' choir and the like.  Around Christmas time 1976, she was five and I was eight, we started putting on yearly Christmas pageants for our parents.  We would choose five or six songs from the three albums and then would make up dance routines and sing and dance to the songs.  The costuming wasn't elaborate.  Just a red or green sweater and jeans.  Later, I think we added Santa hats.  Several years later, we added a couple more Christmas albums (cassette tapes by this time).  The Beach Boys Christmas and The Chipmunks Christmas.  We continued these pageants up until 1984, the Christmas before my parents split up.  By this time, I was sixteen and Tracy was thirteen.  My sister had a best friend that was practically like our sister and she joined us for that last pageant.  We had been putting on the shows for my parents for eight years! When we get together (Tracy lives in Michigan and I'm in Tennessee), whether it's the holidays or not, we always talk about those times and how much fun Christmas always was for us.  We didn't have any other family around us growing up in Michigan so it was just the four of us...Mom, Dad, Tracy, and myself.  But we had so much fun every Christmas and the pageants just added to the fun.  I'm not sure what happened to all those Christmas albums/tapes, but I do still have the Partridge Family Christmas album, though it's just a keepsake...it's so scratched up now.  That album was our tradition, whether it was during the pageants or just listening to it while we decorated or made cookies.  Luckily, I came across the CD several years ago at Walgreens and I bought two copies so I will always have a back-up.  And it has come full circle because that record is a favorite of my sons now.  No pageants from my dear boys yet, but a mom can hope...can't she?!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Monday, December 20, 2010

SHARING THE JOY: GUEST POST FROM AUTHOR MOLLY ROE

An Old-Fashioned Christmas at Pardee Square
by Molly Roe

“A tree? In the house?” Pat and James laughed when I shook my head at the doings in the parlor. Mrs. Pardee had ordered the strongest servants to remove some heavy pieces of furniture to make room for a ten foot tree.

“The ways of the wealthy are strange, Katie. When you have too much money it scrambles your brain,” said James.

“Guess my senses will never be addled then,” I said.

“Mrs. Pardee imported all the decorations and candle-holders from Germany. Christmas trees are a popular tradition there,” said Pat.

“Here, here, get to work and stop gossiping about your betters,” said Mrs. Lane, who had only heard Pat’s last comment. Mrs. Lane directed the staff in decorating the branches with candles, glass balls, and tin ornaments. James’s towering height and long arms were needed to reach the highest branches. The candles sat on the boughs in cleverly designed pendulum holders that were balanced by weighted stars. With the candles lit, the dangling glass balls and tin ornaments reflected a soft radiance. Baby Frank reached out a chubby hand to grasp the colorful objects, but his nursery maid whisked him out of range. Once the evergreen was in place, I had to admit the piney aroma and cheerful appearance was a welcome change from the parlor’s usual stuffy atmosphere. A Christmas tree was a lot of work, but the finished product was lovely. As I stepped back to admire the effect, small fists tugged on my uniform skirt.

“Katie, Katie, look how I stayed in the lines!” Six-year-old Bart Pardee and his older brother, Izzie, were helping to decorate, cutting out Thomas Nast’s newspaper sketches of Santa Claus and coloring them. I complimented the boys and cut pieces of tinsel garland to tie their artwork onto the tree.

My favorite display was the three-tiered pyramid contraption on a side table. The draft created by small red candles moved wooden paddle blades, and a carved Nativity scene twirled before my fascinated eyes. I wished my sisters could see the delights. At least I was able to take the stubs when the candles were replaced. I would send them to Murphy’s Patch so a candle would remain burning in our window through the Christmas season.

One afternoon Mrs. Pardee announced a shopping trip to the Kristkindlmarkt in Pottsville. The outside fair would feature imported gift items for Christmas. German cuckoo clocks, Moravian stars, creche scenes, and intricate toys for the younger children were among the items for sale.

Mrs. P. planned to buy a large ceramic stein. She started planning a trip by train to the city. The most exciting news was that I would attend Mrs. Pardee and the children.

On the day of departure, we hustled to the station with enough luggage for several days. Porters carried the bags onto the train, but I would be in charge of everything once we were on board. A reddish-brown car with crisp gold lettering was already pulled up at the siding. I was more excited than Izzie and Bart since we were traveling in a luxury box with soft leather seats and plush velvet hangings for privacy. Our tickets gave us access to the lounge car and other exclusive areas that I had never seen before. To give Mrs. Pardee some quiet time, I took the two children for a walk through the cars to the observation deck.

“Oh, look at the horses in the field… and the hex sign on that barn.” I pointed out the green-glazed windows at highlights of the landscape to keep the children occupied. When we went back to our berth, we played counting and memory games until the children were lulled into naps. The lurching of the train stopping at Pottsville station awoke the children, and we gathered our possessions and left the car.

A coachman was waiting for us at the brick P&R station when we alit from the train amidst a cloud of steam, and he swept us by carriage to Pennsylvania Hall where a luxury suite was set aside for the Pardees. Visiting coal barons to the Schuylkill County seat always stayed in the hotel’s deluxe accommodations. Even my room, on the least exclusive floor, was delightful. I bounced onto the wide bed and giggled as I was almost launched off the other side.

I freshened up and had a cold luncheon before going to the outdoor market with Mrs. Pardee and her sons. The street scene was bustling with excitement. Large kegs at the intersections blocked out traffic to provide safe travel for pedestrians through small wooden booths and canvas-covered displays.

Mrs. Pardee examined and ordered many items. Some were to be personalized or created especially to her taste. The children wove between people in the crowd and raced each other from booth to booth.

“Boys, stop!” I chased them down a crowded lane and scolded them. “Your mother is looking for you.”

“Mother, can I buy something?” asked Bart, pointing at a toy display.

“Nothing for yourself, but you may purchase something for your brothers and sister.”

Mrs. Pardee took note of their choices for Christmas gifts. The long day was beginning to wear on the boys, and they started to push each other and bicker.

“Time to return to the hotel,” said Mrs. Pardee amidst complaints from her sons.

Once Izzie and Bart were settled with a maid from the hotel to oversee their supper, Mrs. Pardee and I returned to the market to choose items for the children. By five o’clock the vendors had fires and lamps lit to allow their customers to see their merchandise. The festive scene was very enjoyable and since I was wearing my warmest outer garments, including gloves and scarf, the bite of the cold air did not affect my pleasure. Every breath filled my lungs with the smell of chestnuts, pretzels or spicy sausages roasting on open grates. Candles, incense, toasted candied peanuts, gingerbread, and other exotic scents mingled in the air. Laughter and music met my ears. It was as much a social event as it was a market.

My employer smiled and discussed the merchandise with the vendors, but her good mood disappeared when time came to order. Spoiled by the constant pandering of merchants in Hazleton and Philadelphia, Mrs. Pardee was dumbstruck that she would have to wait for some of the items.

Turning to me with a stern look she said, “You’ll have to stay in the city two extra days to collect my purchases and ensure their quality.”

“Yes, M’am.” I answered in a demure way, but beneath my composed face I was delighted.

Annoyed that she would have to take the trip back without my help, Mrs. P. pushed a purse into my hands and gave me last minute instructions. The money was to pay for the orders, for cab fare and tips, and for the return trip to Hazleton. She and the children bustled off to the station to catch the train home.

Early the next morning I set out on my mission. One of the bellboys was especially friendly. He called a cab and refused the tip I offered.

“Sure you need the money more than I do, darlin’. Buy yourself something at the fair.”

The cab lurched off before I could refuse the bellboy’s generosity, but I had an idea of what I’d buy with the unexpected spending money. The leather seat sighed as I settled into it.

I paid the driver and stepped onto the slate sidewalk. I thought about what I could buy my parents and sisters at the market. The small drawstring bag in which I kept my money clinked as I jiggled it. I wished that I had more money. It would be difficult to stretch the funds four ways.

Just as the thought entered my mind, I had a brainstorm. The ticket! I searched through my bag and located the return ticket that Mrs. Pardee pushed into my hand last night. It was a first class seat! My emotions soared. I could exchange the expensive ticket for a cheap seat in a combination car. I didn’t mind traveling with the ordinary passengers and baggage, especially since it meant several extra dollars in my purse.

I sallied off to the street fair feeling like a wealthy capitalist. My first purchase was simple. I decided to purchase some fragrant spices and a cookie press shaped like an angel for my mother, the baker.

The next stall has wonderful three-tiered pyramids like the one at Pardee Square. The carving and paintwork on the tiny figures was exquisite, but the prices were far beyond my pocketbook. Fortunately a little farther along I came to a booth with small German woodcarvings. One piece, depicting a trio of girls playing Ring a-ring o’roses, reminded me of my sisters and me in early childhood. My father would appreciate both the subject and the quality of the piece, so I added that gift to my basket.

My sisters would be happy with some candy, but should it be fudge, sugar mice, parma violets, barley toy candy, or rock candy strings? Apothecary-style jars lined the open shelves in the rear of the stand with more choices than I had ever seen in one place. The colorful and tempting plate of broken candy for sampling helped with my decision. Red and green barley pops finished my shopping list.

I swung the string-wrapped parcels and imagined my family’s delight on Christmas morning. I collected the merchandise for Mrs. Pardee and returned to the hotel. Passing my friend the bellboy, I smiled and told him that my little sisters would appreciate his kindness on Christmas morning.

MOLLY ROE (pen name for Mary Garrity Slaby) is the author of “Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires” and a contributor to “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk High School.” She is a veteran language arts & reading teacher at Lake-Lehman Junior Senior High School. Mary holds a Ph.D. in education from Temple University, and Pennsylvania teaching certification in six areas. She has pursued the hobby of genealogy for the past decade. Mary was born in Philadelphia, raised in Schuylkill County, and currently lives in Dallas, Pennsylvania with her husband, John. They are parents of two grown children, Melissa and John Garrett, cover illustrator of “Call Me Kate.” Digging into the past has given Mary newfound respect for her ancestors and a better understanding of history. Call Me Kate is the first in the author’s trilogy of historical novels loosely based on the lives of the strong women who preceded her.


Thank you, Molly, for this lovely holiday story from the wonderful "Call Me Kate"...a very nostalgic story indeed!

Friday, December 17, 2010

SHARING THE JOY: GUEST POST FROM LISA AT LIT AND LIFE

Please join me today in welcoming again Lisa from Lit and Life as she shares her Christmas tradition of making Christmas goodies with her family.

With families that change and shift over the years, it’s not always easy to develop traditions with your kids. Over the years, the exact day we celebrate Christmas with each side of the family has changed, the sizes of the families have changed, the menus have changed and even the day we celebrate Christmas with just the five of us has changed. One tradition I have insisted on with my children is that we make Christmas goodies together. Even this year when it means getting my son to come in from out of town, we are going to be frosting cookies, decorating pretzels, making mints and mixing puppy chow together.

When they were all much younger, it often wasn’t all that much fun. It was messy, the kids often got so wound up they had to be sent to time out, and it was a lot more work than it would have been to just do it myself. In fact, I was known to get a little cranky at times. Now we all look back at those times and laugh. At least once during the festivities, someone will jokingly tell one of the kids that they need to go to the steps for a time out. We’ll all tease my husband about his insistence that we shouldn’t put too much frosting on the cookies (no one eats his sparingly frosted cookies until the others are all gone every year but he still tries to make us go easy). It’s even a tradition now for my daughter to, at least once while frosting cookies, shake entirely too much colored sugar on the cookie she’s working on.

Except for the cookies, figuring out how to make some of the other goodies into a family event was tricky. But over the years, we developed “jobs” that each person has for each treat that we make. And everybody gets to take a turn shaking the bag when we’re making puppy chow. Why is that so much fun? Long ago I decided we didn’t need quite as many Christmas treats as my mom always made and I gradually cut back. Now the only things that get made are the things we can do together.

Over the years, there have occasionally been other people with us when we did the cookies. At first, I wasn’t very happy about it. I mean, it was supposed to be a thing for the five of us. But eventually I realized that it was an okay thing for the kids friends to see us all having a good time together and including them in family traditions is one of the reasons that so many of them call my husband and me “Mom” and “Dad.” So bring on the extra kids. Just make sure that they know that it just might be one of them that gets sent to the steps.

What a great tradition and a wonderful anecdote about it! Thank you for sharing, Lisa.  I too have this tradition with my sons and I have been known to get cranky as well, but that's just part of being a family.  And I'm with you...the more the merrier.  Why not share the joy with other children who may not have this tradition in their own families.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

SHARING THE JOY: GUEST POST FROM KEN AT THE SOUNDS OF CHRISTMAS

Please join me in welcoming today Ken from the Sounds of Christmas.  Ken is as passionate about Christmas...and Christmas music...as I am! I hope you enjoy what he has to say....

Hi!

First, I'd like to thank Michelle for inviting me to stop by and take over her blog today. Like Michelle, I'm a Christmas fanatic, and if there's anything I love more than Christmas, it's hanging out with other people who love Christmas!

I run the Sounds of Christmas, an Internet Christmas radio station. For those who haven't discovered Internet radio, yet, it simply means it's like a radio station, but available online instead of through a traditional radio.

Being a huge fan of Christmas, naturally, I am also a huge fan of Christmas music. I always have been. I've been in radio for years, and initially loved working close to Christmas, playing Christmas music and feeling like I was getting to spend that special time of year with so many of my friends (and so many friends that I hadn't met, yet).

That waned over the years, as radio worked itself into a groove (or rut), and began to rely on a tired list of about 100 Christmas songs, which got played over and over. And over. I think this is the main reason some people say they hate Christmas music. As much as I love it, it's hard to take hearing the same songs over and over. And over.

There's a station in the town where I live that went all-Christmas just before Thanksgiving. The other day, I went out to run some errands. I heard Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" FOUR TIMES!

Regardless of how you feel about that song, or even about Mariah Carey, it just seems a little ridiculous. Sixteen years ago, Mariah put out a pretty good Christmas collection, and there are more songs on that than just the one that seems to get played.

But this seems to be what traditional radio has decided to do.

Year after year, they seem to roll out the same 100 songs right around Thanksgiving, and play them all over and over until Christmas Day. It's no wonder that so many people groan when this begins each November. And now, many of these stations are starting closer to the beginning than the end of November (yet still playing that same tired list of songs).

There are tons of great Christmas CDs out there, and most seem to get ignored, while Bing's "White Christmas" and Nat's "Christmas Song" get featured seemingly every hour.

Don't get me wrong, I love Bing Crosby and Nat "King" Cole. I love Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Andy Williams, Judy Garland, Johnny Mathis and the Chipmunks, too. But there's a lot more than just those standards, and I can't be the only one that loves all the rest of the Christmas music.

Well, I'm not. Last year was my station's third season, and I reached an audience of 4.5 million. This year, I had already reached listeners in all 50 states, as well as over 100 other countries before Thanksgiving!

And I play a lot of Christmas music!

In total, the Sounds of Christmas playlist is now just under 6000 tracks (and that's without adding all the new music that is continuing to flood in). As much as I love Bing's "White Christmas", having such a wide and diverse playlist means it doesn't get played every hour on the hour. Besides, Bing has lots of other great Christmas songs. In fact, almost every artist I play has more than just one Christmas song. Even SpongeBob.

It has always seemed to me to be really short-sighted, and a dis-service to Christmas music fans, to ignore that and just play the same ones over and over.

After all, if you love one particular Christmas song that much, odds are you own it and can play it whenever you want, right?

Of course, I didn't stop there.

Just over a year ago, I have also launched a record label, focusing on Christmas music. One of our first releases was a compilation to benefit William Shatner's Hollywood Charity Horse Show. I had just read his biography, learned about the charity and thought it was a very worthwhile cause.

I also figured that he would give me his Christmas song if I made his charity the beneficiary of the release. He did a version of "Good King Wenceslas" for a rock station about twenty years ago, and it was never released. Until last year, that is.

Having Shatner on board helped me get songs from many others, including Dennis DeYoung, Richard Marx, Stephen Bishop and Huey Lewis!

This year, I partnered with a musicians' charity called Sweet Relief, and produced a new compilation featuring unreleased and exclusive Christmas songs from Vertical Horizon, Belinda Carlisle, Dave Stewart, Kathy Sledge and Little Feat!

I don't mean to be a name-dropper (much). I'm just really excited to get to work with music that I love so much, and I feel like I'm actually a part of something that might help make a difference, too!

You can listen to my station, the Sounds of Christmas, for free, at my website --> www.SoundsofChristmas.com

And, if you're so moved and would like to get some really good Christmas CDs (or digital downloads), you can look for my stuff on iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, CDBaby, Napster, etc. Or just get them from my label's site --> www.socmusic.net (where you can also listen to clips of every single song)!

It's a real thrill for me to be able to do what I do, and I hope that in at least some small way, what I'm doing brings a little bit of holiday joy to everyone that tunes in or buys a song or CD.

Merry Christmas! And may you always believe in Santa Claus!

Ken

Thanks, Ken, for such a wonderful post! We need more people like you working at the radio stations during the holiday season!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

SHARING THE JOY...DOUBLE DOSE: A CRAFT AND A CAROL

Mitten Clips

These mittens won't warm chilled hands, but they will generate good cheer when clipped to gift tags. Cut a mitten shape from cardboard, and trace it onto a piece of felt. Cut along the lines, and glue the felt to the cardboard with clear-drying white craft glue. Adorn the felt side of the mitten with bits of felt in complementary colors -- dots made with a hole punch, a monogram, felt trim edged with decorative shears, or a Christmas tree cut out with a decorative craft punch. Glue a standard wooden clothespin to cardboard, then glue a magnet to the back of the clothespin. After the gifts have been opened, use your mittens to display greeting cards on the refrigerator.

From Martha Stewart Living, December/January 1998/1999-- Read more at Marthastewart.com: Mitten Clips - Martha Stewart Holidays





Ding Dong! Merrily on High

This Christmas carol matches a 16th-century tune with more modern lyrics.  The French folk melody was printed first by Thoinot Arbeau, the nom de plume of French priest Jehan Tabourot (1520-95), in his Orchesographie, a treatise on dancing in 1588, where it was called "Branle de l'officiel" ("Dance of the Official").  George Ratcliffe Woodward (1848-1934), an English carol writer and collector, added verses early in the 20th century.

Ding! dong! merrily on high
In heav'n the bells are ringing
Ding! dong! verily the sky
Is riv'n with angel singing.

Gloria! Hosanna in excelsis!

E'en so here below, below,
Let steeple bells be swungen,
And "Io, io, io!"
By priest and people sungen.

Refrain

Pray you, dutifully prime
Your matin chime, ye ringers!
May you beautifully rime
Your evetime song, ye singers!

Refrain

--from The World Encyclopedia of Christmas by Gerry Bowler

Celtic Woman singing Ding Dong! Merrily on High



Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 13, 2010

JUST A NOTE TO FOLLOWERS AND READING CHALLENGE PARTICIPANTS

I hope everyone is having a lovely and fun holiday season! I just wanted to take a minute and let you all know a couple of things.  First, I have updated the Everything Christmas tab (page).  It is now current up until today.  I apologize for falling behind on that...it is supposed to be an Advent of sorts after all.  Second, to those of you participating in The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge, I hope you are all enjoying yourselves.  I'm sorry I have been remiss in stopping by and welcoming everyone.  Please know that your participation is very much appreciated! Also, I know that your reviews are coming in fast and I will try to get by and comment on all of them. 

Some of you already know why I'm so behind, but for those of you who don't, my family and I found ourselves having to move right during the holidays.  We are partially in our new apartment, but we still have A LOT to move and we don't even have our tree or decorations up yet. *sob*  This blog is the only thing Christmassy in my life right now (besides music and television). 

Bear with me and expect more daily Christmas content and guest posts.  On that note, a special shout out to everyone who has been helping me with guest posts.  Thank you so much!

SHARING THE JOY: GUEST POST FROM KATHLEEN AT BLOG O' THE IRISH

Please join me in welcoming my friend Kathleen from Blog O' the Irish and CelticLady's Reviews.  Today, Kathleen is sharing with us some lovely Christmas facts and quotes.  Enjoy!

Did you know that....
  • America’s first recipe for Christmas cakes dates back to 1796.
  • In Australia, the turkey is eaten cold.
  • In the old times, sugar was very expensive; therefore, Christmas cakes were a luxury.
  • In Denmark, they put hot porridge outside for the pixies on Christmas Eve.
  • The first gingerbread man is credited to the court of Queen Elizabeth I, who favored important visitors with charming gingerbread likenesses of themselves.

Top Ten: Christmas Quotes

Christmas creates a happy and pleasant atmosphere for most people, but the Christmas atmosphere can be hard to describe in words. Here you have a series of great quotes about Christmas phrased by famous people.

1. Agnes M. Pharo
What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.

2. Carol Nelson
Christmas is a time when you get homesick - even when you're home.

3. Helen Keller
The only blind person at Christmastime is he who has not Christmas in his heart.

4. Harlan Miller
Probably the reason we all go so haywire at Christmas time with the endless unrestrained and often silly buying of gifts is that we don't quite know how to put our love into words.

5. Shirley Temple
I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.

6. Norman Vincent Peale
Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.

7. Mary Ellen Chase
Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.
Unknown

8. W.J. Cameron
There has been only one Christmas - the rest are anniversaries.

9. Larry Wilde
Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.

10. Charles Dickens
I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.

source: All Things Christmas

Thanks for sharing, Kathleen! I just love the fact about the Gingerbread Men...it's just SO Elizabeth I, isn't it?  And I'm such a big fan of Christmas quotes.  Can't get enough of them!

Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

SHARING THE JOY: GUEST POST FROM RYAN AT WORDSMITHONIA


Please join me in welcoming my good friend and fellow book blogger, Ryan from Wordsmithonia.  Today, Ryan is sharing the music of Christmas.  Enjoy!

(Note:  I tried to embed the video of the song from YouTube, where possible.  Otherwise, Ryan has provided a link to the video on YouTube)

What is Christmas without the music?  How can you truly enjoy the season without getting to hear "Jingle Bells", "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", or "Silent Night"?  There is something to be said for doing your Christmas shopping with songs of the season at full blast in your car or on your iPod.  What's wrapping presents or putting up your tree without Bing Crosby belting out "White Christmas" or Linda Eder singing "Do You Hear What I Hear?"  There is something about the music that lets you escape into a world filled with joy and laughter.  It transports you to that place you were as a kid, totally in love with everything Christmas.

What I really wanted to talk about though are some of my favorite songs that don't seem to get the radio play that they deserve.  They are all true classics, all by legendary singers, that deserve to be heard more often than they are.

One of the most moving songs, if sung right is "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and nobody sings it better than Judy Garland.  She brings such a depth of emotion to that song that you can almost physically feel the emotions that are overflowing from her.  I'm gong to admit right now that I've never seen the movies this is from but every time I hear her sing this, I am saddened that I've never seen "Meet Me In St. Louis"http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5g4lY8Y3eoo

At first glance, you wouldn't think that "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" would have one of the most uplifting, get yourself back on your feet Christmas songs.  But "Hard Candy Christmas" as sang by Dolly Parton, makes you realize that no matter how bad things may be at the time that life will get better and that yes, you will get through it.  It's an emotional tribute to everyone who gets up every day, facing life as it comes. 


Whenever I hear Loreena Mckennitt sing "Good King Wenceslas", I imagine what it would have been like to hear the song when it was first written.  She has such a wonderful, old world quality to her voice that captivates me anytime I hear it, but I love it even more when she sings Christmas carols.
 



Some of you may know that one of my favorite movies of all time is "Auntie Mame" with the beautiful Rosalind Russell.  What you may not know is that I can't stand the musical version, especially the movie version with Lucille Ball and Bea Arthur.  What is better though is the stage version with Angela Lansbury as the title character.  Angela Lansbury has the better voice for it and when she sings "We Need A Little Christmas" you can feel the desire to have a great Christmas despite having lost all her money.  This is another song about making the most out of what you have and enjoying Christmas despite what you may not have.


The last song I'm going to mention is one that I've loved for as long as I can remember and it's by a woman who had one of the best voices ever.  Kay Starr is one of those singers that makes me happy to have ears to hear with.  There is something so unique about her sound that I can't help but be captivated every time I hear her.  One of my favorite songs of hers is "Everybodys Waiting For (The Man With The Bag".  I feel like a kid everytime I hear it.


Now I could have gone on and on because my love for this stuff is neverending, but I just wanted to share with you a few songs that you may not be as familiar with.  If you need more suggestions though, please let me know.  I still have songs by the likes of Julie London, Peggy Lee, Dean Martin, Nancy Wilson, and a host of others to talk about.

I hope you all have a wonderfully Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Thank you so much, Ryan! What a great bunch of songs...some of my favorites as well.  You can visit Ryan at his Wordsmithonia book blog HERE.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

SHARING THE JOY: GUEST POST FROM LISA AT LIT AND LIFE

Please join me in welcoming my friend Lisa from Lit and Life.  Today, Lisa is sharing with us her...

Top Ten Christmas Books - According to Mama Shepp's Family

There's almost nothing more dangerous than a book addict but when a book addict combines with a Christmas addict AND a mom, things can get really out of hand!  At one point my Christmas book library for children reached 70 books.  Even reading three books a night, there was hardly time to get through them all in the season.  As my children have grown (and outgrown the books), I've edited the collection down to about 25-30.  Most of them won't get read again this year but I'm holding out hope that one day they'll be read to grandchildren.  Ten books I absolutely can't get rid of because my children loved them so are:

1. The Amazing Christmas Extravaganza by David Shannon - When Mr. Merriweather decides to decorate more than just the tree one year, he gets more than a little carried away.

2. Olive, the other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh - When a little dog named "Olive" misunderstands the lyrics of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," she decides she must be a reindeer and heads off to the North Pole, turning out to be a great help to Santa.

3. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger - the traditional story about what it truly means to give accompanied by the most beautiful watercolor illustrations.

4. Nine Days To Christmas: A Story of Mexico by Marie Hall Ets and Aurora Labastida - my son and his aunt share a birthday...nine days before Christmas...so this wonderful book about celebrations in another country holds a special place in our home.

5. The First Christmas Pop-Up Book - This book folds out to become the manger scene with the full array of paper figures to complete the scene and a small book to tell the true story of Christmas.  My kids loved moving the characters into the scene as the story unfolded.

6. The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore, illustrated by Jan Brett - you can hardly go wrong when you combine this beloved poem with Jan Brett's delightful illustrations. 

7. Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol fully illustrated by Michael Cole - A graphic novel take on the Dickens' classic, it makes a wonderful way to introduce children to the story of Mr. Scrooge.

8. If You Take A Mouse To The Movies by Laura Numeroff - My children loved all of the books by Numeroff so it was obvious that this one would become a Christmas favorite.

9. Babar And Father Christmas by Jean De Brunhoff - Everyone's favorite elephant sets off in search of Father Christmas to ask him to visit the Elephant Country.

10. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg - a marvelous story about the special magic that children find in Christmas.

Great list, Lisa! I know what you mean about being a Christmas book addict.  I probably have 200 books in my Christmas library, adult and children's! Most of these on your list are also favorites of myself and my sons and we also have them in our Christmas library.  Thank you so much for sharing and helping me out!

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

SHARING THE JOY: GUEST POST FROM AUTHOR ELLEN CHAKSIL

Please join me in welcoming today author Ellen Chaksil to the Sharing the Joy Event.

Shouldering the Cross at Christmas
by Ellen Chaksil

With the approach of Christmas, I confided a terrible, heartbreaking suspicion to my cousin, Ann. My son David had been staying with me temporarily, and he was planning to once more get an apartment of his own. I had undertaken the chore of helping clear out some of his things. In the process of doing so, I had come across an abundance of pills in one of his bureau drawers. Since it was not the first time I had found them, I really became alarmed, thinking, Could he possibly be addicted to those pills?

“Oh, come on!” Ann interrupted. “I don’t think so. You did say they’re prescription drugs. Maybe that old football injury is kicking up. Then, too, he’s had a few minor accidents since then, so he might need them for pain.”

After a bit more discussion, I was ashamed of myself for having shared that ugly suspicion with Ann. When she got up to leave, I felt even worse that I had burdened her, for I could see that she was becoming more and more incapacitated by her rheumatoid arthritis, yet I marveled at how she almost never complained or made reference to her pain.

After Ann left, I prayed, asking the Lord to give her the strength she needed to cope; especially with the Christmas season upon us, there was so much to do. I also petitioned the Lord, asking Him to protect David. I so hoped Ann was right in her assessment, that he couldn’t be addicted to those pain pills, yet I had my doubts, as for some time I had known that all was not right in his life.

During the Christmas holidays, I invited Ann to dinner. When we finished eating, we retired to the living room and sat before the blazing fire in the fireplace. At first its warmth and charm failed to alter her sad mood. With folded arms, appearing totally dejected, she stared down at her misshapen feet and sounded even unhappier, saying, “Ellen, thanks for inviting me over; if you hadn’t called I would probably be lying down, hoping I could fall asleep. It seems that’s all I want to do anymore.”

In an effort to change her mood, I responded, “Ann, please don’t talk that way; God had given you a beautiful family and they desperately need you.”

“Oh, come on, Ellen,” she answered, releasing a well of tears. “Just take a good look at me.” Almost inaudibly she added, “Sometimes, even though I know better, I feel God doesn’t even exist. Or if He does, He has forgotten all about me.”

Hearing her, I began to understand her quiet demeanor; she had kept all that pain buried within herself.

I responded immediately. “Ann, I know how drastically your life has changed because of this illness, but you can’t just give up on life or on God. With and in Him you can find the peace and comfort you need to carry on.” A shiver of determination went through my body as I reached for my Bible. “You may not be up to it right now,” I said. “But let’s see if the Lord has a Word for us, one to lift us up.”

She gave no sign of either objection or agreement, so I simply went ahead and randomly opened the Bible. My eyes fell upon Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 16; in briefly scanning it, I considered it a most appropriate passage for us in that moment in time.

Before I began reading, I silently thanked God, knowing the scripture had opened to that exact page only through the guidance of His Holy Spirit:

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to be a follower of Mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow Me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lost it; but anyone who loses his life for My sake will find it. What then will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life?”

Reading from the accompanying reference notes, I added, “Ann, here we read that the word ‘life’ means the life of our soul as well as that of our person. Jesus is telling us that even if we possess the entire world, we are not able to buy an extra second of life on Earth. And that’s okay, because what we must be concerned about is the life of our soul, our spirit, because it lives on after physical death. And we cannot risk the loss of our soul by turning away from God.”

“In that Scripture reading, Jesus is telling us to accept our burden, to carry our cross, whatever it might be. He did, after all, lay out the pattern for us; we need only follow in His Way and we will find the strength we need to persevere.”

I could see the tears running down Ann’s cheeks and I handed her a tissue to dry her eyes. I also needed one for myself. It grieved me to see my beloved cousin suffering so much. After a few moments had passed, I said, “Ann, I know it’s difficult to accept this hope-filled message, especially when you are suffering as much as you are, but remember Jesus promised that when we accept and carry our cross, it will be lightened. C’mon, what do you say? Let’s continue getting together to pray, read, and learn about the Way He offers.”

I was so pleased when I saw her nod her head in agreement.

In the following months, I was even happier as I watched an almost miraculous change take place in Ann. While her physical condition continued to worsen, she no longer appeared to be depressed. Once again we could see her beautiful dimples, because she smiled more often.

ELLEN CHAKSIL (pen name for Helen Silvestri) is the author of “With God There Is Hope: Hope for Humanity.” She is a member of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Charismatic Prayer Group in Scranton, Pa. She began receiving messages from God in 1978. She needed to share what she experienced with church officials. Her quest led her from her home in Northeast Pennsylvania to the Vatican. After numerous attempts, she was able to make contact. In 1992, she met Pope John Paul II and in 1996 she received official recognition that he had read her letter detailing the prophecy she received from God. Ellen also contacted Boguslaw Lipinski, Ph.D of Harvard Medical School. He provided hypothetical proof of the concept that when people gather to pray, energy is emitted. Now Ellen’s goal is to help unite the world in prayer to generate the power great enough to forestall catastrophe and enable humanity’s continued existence. She hopes her book will be an instrument to raise awareness of the power of prayer.


Visit Ellen’s blog at: catholiccharismaticprophecies.blogspot.com


Visit Ellen’s Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000344651305&ref=name
 
 
I would like to thank Ellen and Nicole at Tribute Books for this wonderful guest post.
 
Happy Holidays!

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