Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Johnnie Alexander | Spread the Christmas Joy


The Moments We Treasure

My children never dreamed of a white Christmas. They never found ice skates or sleds or thick woolen mittens under the tree. We didn’t spend the afternoon making snow angels or building snowmen.

You see, my children grew up in the Sunshine State. The thermometer might dip low enough for us to wish we had thick woolen mittens, but the cold spell never lasted long.

Each child eventually asked that all important question: when are the birds going to fly south for the winter?

I’d smile, quite amused, and explain that here, Florida, was where the birds flew to for the winter.

Christmas memories. Family traditions.

These are the moments we treasure in our hearts.

A young Hebrew girl, who was there on that very first Christmas Day, treasured moments in her heart, too.

As much as I love that angels appeared to shepherds and that shepherds worshipped the newborn baby in the manger, the verse I find most enchanting is Luke 2:19. In the NIV, it reads:

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

The word translated treasured is the Greek word syntēreō. In the KJV, the word is translated as kept.

It means both to preserve and to “keep within one's self . . . a thing, lest it be forgotten”(Blue Letter Bible).

Syntēreō is only used in three other places in the New Testament.

We read in Matthew 9:17 and Luke 5:38 that new wine is put in new bottles so “both are preserved.”

Mark 6:20 says “Herod feared John . . . and ‘syntēreō-ed’ him.” The KJV translates the word as observed while the NIV says Herod “was greatly puzzled.”

I picture Mary as being as greatly puzzled by her visit from an angel, by Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy as well as her own, the shepherds, the Magi’s gifts, and Joseph’s dreams as Herod, about thirty years later, was greatly puzzled by his prisoner John.

She pondered these things, wondering what they meant and what the future held for her precious child. She treasured all these moments, hiding them deep into her heart.

In a few weeks, we’ll once again be celebrating Jesus’ birth. As Christmas nears, we’ll be holding onto family traditions or perhaps making new ones. We’ll be creating new memories to be treasured.

Amidst all the celebrating, the worship, the feasting, and the exchanging of gifts, may we pause to treasure the events that Mary treasured and to ponder them in our own hearts.

I wish you a white and snowy Christmas—or a green and sunny one. Just depends on where you live. 😄

_________________
Johnnie Alexander imagines stories while raccoons and foxes occasionally pass by her window. Her debut novel, Where Treasure Hides, was a CBA bestseller. She also wrote Where She Belongs and When Love Arrives (Misty Willow Series), and her novella, The Healing Promise, is in the Courageous Bride Collection. She lives near Memphis with Griff, her happy-go-lucky collie, and Rugby, the princely papillon who trees those pesky raccoons whenever he gets the chance. Join Johnnie at www.johnnie-alexander.com to experience the charm of country living, the love of random travel, and the joy of treasured moments.


*Giveaway*

Johnnie is offering a copy of Where Treasure Hides! Join the giveaway below.

All giveaways run until January 2nd and winners will be announced shortly after. Use the image to the left to share on social media and don't forget the hashtag: #SpreadTheChristmasJoy16

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Riley Ackerman | Spread the Christmas Joy


A Grandmothers Christmas

There has always been something uniquely special about my family at Christmas. I have always been one of those people who sneaks in Christmas socks year-round, sings Christmas carols before my husband allows it, and can't wait to find the perfect Christmas tree to fill our family room! I smother the tree with way too many twinkling lights and all the sentimental ornaments I've managed to fit into tiny DC apartments over the years (a candle holding ballerina from my childhood, beanie baby teddy bear, Green Bay Packers snowman, all the hallmark collectables... you get the idea) and explode with the excitement of seeing family.

Christmas is my favorite holiday. The season is one of joy, filled with music, light, and sparkles. I had a Christmas wedding exactly two years ago, today; it was cozy and bright, filled with so many wonderful memories. But my love of Christmas began years ago, when I understood just how much my grandmother treasured this holiday.

My grandma taught me the joy of Christmas. Every person who entered her home (and even those that couldn’t make it) was special to her, and she welcomed each one of them with the same level of warmth and hospitality and love. Despite any struggles she was facing, she made Christmas, Christmas. The presents were always piled five high and seven rows deep around her vast tree. The pies always overflowed off the counters, almost one for every person. It didn’t matter who you were – if you stepped into her home around the holidays, you were family, and only the very best was given. Whether it was buying you that must-have Christmas gift, making your favorite pie, or just giving you an extra pillow and blanket, my grandma was Christmas to our family. Even as an adult, going to my grandparents’ house was magical. The appreciation for family was always apparent. Every year, it was almost as if Santa had set up shop right there in her house. I never knew how she did it. My grandma’s was home for the holidays.

Two years ago, my grandmother was diagnosed with brain cancer. Two years ago, we thought we wouldn't celebrate another Christmas with her. But God gave us two more years. Two more years of difficulties, crying, and hospital visits. But also, two more years of laughter, togetherness, and shared memories. Two more years of Christmases to be thankful for the abundant joy that overflowed from this woman all year long… but especially at Christmas.

Grandma passed away just a few short months ago, after a long and arduous battle. This Christmas will be different. My eyes swell with the thought of the holidays without her – her pies, her trees, her thoughtfulness, her blankets, and most of all, her caring heart. It will all be missed profoundly and by many. My grandma was the true joy of the season, and I hope that this year, my whole family can step in where she left off.

This season, I hope I can care for others the way she cared for me. I want to make someone’s favorite pie, or put that extra touch of thought into a Christmas gift. I hope that everyone sees the true joy that I feel, to have known what it’s like to experience the love of someone else at the holidays. I hope we all can care for one another the way she did. That we can put the presents five high and seven rows deep around the tree – not because we are a materialistic family, but because we are a giving family and a big family. A family that gives love, support, and most importantly, joy.

This year, despite time and distance, my husband and I will make it home for Christmas. Family is important, and it is what was nearest and dearest to her beautiful heart. There are so many of us, and I want us together to celebrate the joy of the season: the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior, and my grandmother, Evelyn.

Her legacy will live on in us, especially at Christmas.

Riley Ackerman

_____________________
I'm Riley. I grew up in Ohio but now live in Anacostia (East of the River) in our Nation’s Capital, Washington, DC. Despite not being a city girl, I am loving my new home with my husband Aaron and our two rescue pups, Mowgli and Whiskey. I graduated from Miami University (Ohio) and Wright State University with a bachelor in Mass Communications and a Masters of Public Administration. I work as an analyst, but like many, can't actually talk about what I do. I have an irrational fear of sidewalk grates and metal spoons, but I’m slowly getting over one of them. I’m a Navy wife, and am looking forward to our next adventure outside of Washington. My Congenital hypopituitarism brought me to the blogging world in 2016 as well as my infertility journey. Read more at www.spiritualgrowthhormone.blogspot.com

Monday, December 5, 2016

Liz Johnson | Spread the Christmas Joy


Choosing Mary

My niece Julia was four when she decided she wanted to be Mary. I’m not exactly sure where her infatuation started, but somewhere between hearing the Christmas story in Sunday school and playtime with Grandma, it was settled. She was Mary.

And being Mary meant that she had to dress the part. There was a robe and baby doll cradled not-so-gently in her arms. There was a long trip from one side of the house to the other. The trek was so long and so realistic, I’m almost surprised Julia didn’t ask for a donkey. (If she had, I’m pretty sure her doting grandparents would have given in in a heartbeat.)

And then there was Joseph—also known as my mother. Poor Grandma got roped into playing Joseph, and no one else would do. Even if Grandpa or Julia’s dad was around, Grandma was the prime choice to play Mary’s husband, Jesus’s earthly father.

They enacted the story nearly every day for the two weeks that I visited. Sometimes I was invited to participate. (They might have needed a camel, after all.) Sometimes I was told to watch. And I did so studiously.

During one of those many viewings, I sat on the couch and watched as Julia arrived in Bethlehem and sent Joseph to knock on the inn door. There was no room. Only a stable. So she went there to have her baby.

I was more than familiar with the tale. My family had been reading the story from Luke 2 every Christmas morning for as long as I could remember. I’d seen it presented countless times in church programs and films, a hundred different actors playing the parts.

But Julia only ever played one part. She didn’t want to be the innkeeper or the angel or even a shepherd.

Watching my niece, I realized something about the Christmas story. Each of us chooses which of the roles we’ll live every day. Will we be Mary, faithfully saying, “I am the Lord’s servant”? Will we be Joseph, listening to God’s direction and accepting the difficult task of leading his family through turbulent times? Will we be shepherds falling to our knees in praise? Or magi traveling a great distance to follow God’s prompting? Will we be the innkeeper too busy to take note of the still, small voice of God? Or the king afraid of losing his kingdom?

It’s easy to forget in the midst of the hectic Christmas season that we have a choice in how we respond to the unexpected. Before the angel appeared to them, Mary and Joseph didn’t know what was to come. But they chose obedience instead of fear.

Julia chose to be Mary. I want to make the same choice.

___________
Liz Johnson is the bestselling author of eleven books and a handful of short stories. When she’s not writing, she’s the director of marketing for a Christian radio network. She makes her home in Tucson, Arizona, where she loves to dote on her nieces and nephews. She shares about her adventures in writing at www.LizJohnsonBooks.com.



*Giveaway*

Liz is offering a copy of Hazardous Holiday as a giveaway! Enter below.

All giveaways run until January 2nd and winners will be announced shortly after. Use the image to the left to share on social media and don't forget the hashtag: #SpreadTheChristmasJoy16

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Ralene Burke | Spread the Christmas Joy


Joy in All Situations

When I was a kid, my dad was in the army. In the middle of my sophomore year, he received PCS orders for Fort Knox, Kentucky. When were we moving? Christmas break.

Now Christmas is, and always has been, my favorite time of the year. I love celebrating Christ’s birth. I cherish the family traditions—from decorating the tree to fixing monkey bread for breakfast to hearing the Christmas story one more time. How were we going to maintain those traditions if we were “on the road”?

Not only that, but I was leaving my friends, my school, everything that was familiar to me. We had been lucky, my family and I, as we had been in the same place for 9 years. As a high school student, you can imagine the overdramatic reaction I had to the idea of leaving.

Over 2000 years ago, a young man faced a situation he dreaded as well. Joseph found out he was engaged to a woman who was already with child, a mark of shame in their culture. He struggled with the idea of marrying her.

But God had plans for this perceived scandal.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[d] (which means “God with us”).
Matthew 1:20-23

An angel appeared to Joseph and revealed the joy in his situation. This baby was the answer to the prophecies of old. His destiny would be to save the nations from sin. I’ll bet that gave Joseph a whole new perspective!
As for me, my parents made the trip memorable. They gave my sisters and I a set of small ornaments and strung a wire around the interior of our van—our mobile Christmas tree. They stocked up on Christmas CDs, goodies, and a couple of presents. We got to spend two weeks visiting family, both in Kansas and Virginia.

What I had anticipated to be a horrible holiday turned into one of the best. Even in the darkest of moments, there is joy to be found. Is your heart searching for those possibilities?

______________
Whether she’s wielding a fantasy writer’s pen, a freelance editor’s sword, or a social media wand, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to help everyone SHINE BEYOND! Her first novel, Bellanok, is available on Amazon!

When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . .

You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website.


 *Giveaway*

Ralene has offered up a copy of Bellanok! Enter today.

All giveaways run until January 2nd and winners will be announced shortly after. Use the image to the left to share on social media and don't forget the hashtag: #SpreadTheChristmasJoy16


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Friday, December 2, 2016

DiAnn Mills | Spread the Christmas Joy

Christmas Through the Eyes of a Child

Christmas makes children out of all of us. Actually, writers are kids who failed to get the memo that it was time to color between the lines. We write and worship during this season with the same enthusiasm as a child.

I remember the Christmas I was three years old. The vivid accounting could not possibly be true—or could it?

As a lively three-year-old, I often woke during the night for a drink of orange juice. My parents soon learned to keep a small glass in the refrigerator.

On Christmas Eve, I woke to make the trek to the refrigerator for my OJ. The lights from the tree lit a pathway across the living room to the kitchen causing the darkness not to be so ominous. I remembered Santa was coming and quickly drank my juice then set the empty glass back inside the fridge.

On the way to my snug and warm bed, I passed by the Christmas tree. Oh, how I loved the twinkling lights, mesmerized by their quiet beauty. Still do. They remind me of the star that guided the wise men to the baby Jesus. I paused in front of a large window to gaze up at the starlit sky. To my amazement, Santa in his red and gold sleigh led by eight reindeer flew high above me.

My little heart pounded, and I raced back to bed for fear Santa would stop at my house and find me awake. The next morning, I scrambled from my bed to make sure he’d brought my toys. To my joy, the toys I’d dreamed about were under the tree.

A child’s imagination for a future writer? Or a magical happening to a wee child?

This Christmas explore the season filled with wonder. Take time to journal what this special day means to you. Perhaps it will be a birth of renewed commitment to God and the special gift of writing that He’s given you.

Be blessed!
____________
-->DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Suspense Sister, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson. She teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.            


*Giveaway* 

DiAnn has graciously offered up a copy of Deadly Encounter.

All giveaways run until January 2nd and winners will be announced shortly after. Use the image to the left to share on social media and don't forget the hashtag: #SpreadTheChristmasJoy16
           
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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Kristy Cambron | Spread the Christmas Joy 2016


Christmas Yesteryears

You can’t listen to 1940s Billie Holiday tunes and not expect to start thinking completely nostalgic thoughts.

It’s what I’m doing today. Billie’s belting out the notes and I’m tucked away in a coffee shop corner, ear buds in place, lost in the mountain of memories that are Christmases past. (Not to sound all Charles Dickens’ ghost about it, but it’s true.)

I’m drawn back to the days when photos like this were taken. Circa 1984, Christmas felt simple. Like Billie’s voice– it's sweet around the edges, fragile in its beauty, and all these years later, still completely unforgettable.

In my mind’s eye, there’s a gentle snow drifting down outside that window. The tree is twinkling in the front room. I’m eating sugar cookies, listening to my dad play the guitar, and snuggling in that absolutely fabulous 1980s sweater as a fire crackles on the hearth.

That girl may not be a girl any more, but she remembers a few things about Christmas from yesteryear. The tiny brunette writer gal in the front is a bit taller now, and a whole lot blonder. (Ahem…) And she still watches It’s a Wonderful Life, quoting the famous line: “Every time a bell rings, and angel gets its wings” every Christmas Eve.

A mom now, she keenly remembers the magic of Christmas at that age. She remembers how incredible a real balsam pine smells. How she could never seem to fall sleep on Christmas Eve. How Christmas in her childhood was always, always about Jesus. She loved unwrapping the old Christmas ornaments– a few that used to hang on her grandparents’ trees in the 1940s and 50s– and still hang in her home today.

She’ll tell you she misses her Dad something fierce. She’ll tell you that the memories, the music, the classic movies and the 1980s sweaters have become so engraved on her heart that she couldn’t imagine a December without them. (Okay, she’s left the 1980s sweaters behind. Sorry. That was a must to get through the 90s.)

Billie's music and the twinkling tree in the coffee shop reminds me that yesteryear really isn't that far away. As long as we share the memories, they keep going. Keep blessing. Keep Christmas joy from being bottled in one heart. And that's what we're doing.

I’m delighted to be a part of a community of writers who are sharing their heart for Christmas – for nostalgia and the incredible gift of Jesus Christ to the world – and sharing it all month long. And we're kicking it off, right here!

#SpreadtheChristmasJOY16 kicks off today -- a CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY with 20+ authors, all sharing our Christmas memories in the month of December.

I hope you’ll stick with us to the end of the tour. I hope you'll grab your own mug of cozy, turn on the tree lights, and snuggle in to share the joy. After all, there’s more than enough sugar cookies and Billie Holiday songs to go around. And we’re making new memories here. Together. Because before we know it, today will be tomorrow's yesteryear.

With love & Christmas nostalgia,




_____________

Kristy Cambron has a background in art and design, but she fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller. She is the author of The Ringmaster’s Wife, named to Publishers Weekly Spring 2016 Religion & Spirituality TOP 10. Her novels have been named to Library Journal Reviews’ Best Books and RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards Best lists, and received a 2015 INSPY Awards nomination for best debut novel. The Illusionist’s Apprentice (HarperCollins, 2017) is her fourth novel.

Kristy holds a degree in Art History from Indiana University and has 15 years of experience in instructional design, corporate training, and communications for a Fortune-100 Corporation. Kristy lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons, where she can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good read.

Connect with Kristy:
Facebook: Kristy Cambron | Twitter: @KCambronAuthor | Instagram: kristycambron
Pinterest: KCambronAuthor | Web: KristyCambron.com



*GIVEAWAY*

I will be offering a "Joy to the World" bookmark from my Etsy shop (see image here).

All giveaways run until January 2nd and winners will be announced shortly after. Use the image to the left to share on social media and don't forget the hashtag: #SpreadTheChristmasJoy16

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Joanne Bischof {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Joanne...

A Carol Award and three-time Christy Award-finalist, Joanne Bischof writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the reader’s heartstrings. She was honored to receive the SDCWG Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon Writer’s conference. That same year, her historical novella, This Quiet Sky, broke precedent as the first self-released title to final for the Christy Awards. To Get to You, her 2015 release, was the second. Joanne’s 2016 novel, The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from Romantic Times Book Reviews and she’s pretty sure it’s Charlie’s fault. She is represented by Sandra Bishop of Transatlantic Literary Agency.

Connect with Joanne...

Website: www.joannebischof.com 
Blog: www.joannebischof.com/blog
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2935695.Joanne_Bischof
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joannebischof/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoanneBischof
Instagram: @masonjarbooks


Get to know Joanne...

Emilie here: I am so honored to have Joanne on the blog today! I've got her book sitting on my nightstand and it's coming up in my review line up soon (and I cannot wait!). She has been such an encouragement to me and I am so glad I get to "share her" with you all! You'll see tons of pictures of her new release The Lady and the Lionheart on my Instagram too because this book is soooo photogenic!

You and Writing 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and writing...

When people find out that I homeschool three children, they often ask how I have time to write. The easy answer is that I really don’t! But with a little bit of creative scheduling, the help of some wonderful loved ones, and a love of late-night writing sessions, I’ve been blessed to be able to do both. I write stories to speak into the broken places of this world and to dig out the beauty that is our hope in Christ. The way he changes us, encourages us, and walks with us…each and every step of the way.

Emilie here: Ah yes! Late night writing - I'm a fan as well. And amen, friend. What a fantastic reason to write!


Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book...

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
There’s a reason that Charlie Lionheart shows up on page two of the novel. It was all I could do to even wait *that* long. ;) Once readers meet him, they’ll know why it was best not to wait there. He’s the heart and soul of The Lady and the Lionheart in a way that guides every page along, touches every life within the novel, including the readers. He is hands down my favorite character not just in this book, but to date. He’s both charming and mysterious, but running deeper through that are Christ-like qualities that truly propel both the story and his life. It’s a heroism that gives hope to Ella, the heroine in the surface-level story (a romance within the Victorian-era circus), and underneath that lives an allegory depicting the love that Christ has for his bride, the church.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
I think the take-away really lies within the epigraph: “Permanent may be the scars that we bear, but there is a love that makes all things new.” (tweet this) We all have scars in some form or another. Some may be physical and others may be internal. Both Ella and Charlie bear scars in a different way and it’s been incredible to receive notes and letters from readers who have shared with me their own life scars and how by watching the way Charlie guides Ella toward hope and peace, they felt the same unfolding of freedom. As an author, there is no greater gift than that.

What's the most random thing you had to Google for the story?
Probably when the electric tattoo needle was invented! It was invented at the exact time of this book and plays a key role in the story beginning with the words of Carpe Diem tattooed onto the side of Charlie’s hand. This was an enormous taboo during the Victorian-era so a lot of research and study went into the history and culture of tattooing then. I found it absolutely fascinating.

Emilie here: *Considers her next tattoo* hehe!

What made you choose the setting for the book?
What made this experience extra fun was that the setting chose itself. I knew very little about the circus, had never been to the circus, and was rather turned off by the entire notion of going there. But what kept circling my mind as this idea took root, were the vintage, black and white photographs I’d seen over time of the historic circus. There was something so evocative about them. And in a way, heartrending. It made me want to dig in my heels, and turn around and face this notion that had never quite sat well with me. The people that lived these lives…the animals that called this place home…it was their stories that I suddenly wanted to tell, and what fell away were the walls I had built up against the circus, and suddenly, I was stepping inside with my whole heart, eager to discover the tales to be told. Now, it holds a very, very special place in my heart.

Emilie here: Have I mentioned recently how much I LOVE the idea of the circus? Because I do lol! And I'm not even sure why...

What does your writing process look like?
My writing process is really laid back and organic. I come at it with very little planning and organization. A few visual inspirations, a favorite playlist trickling from the speakers, a heart-full of characters and the story they have to tell…and I dive right in. Sometimes this way of writing gets me into a little bit of a trouble, but for the most part, I let the story evolve as freely as it wants to. I think that’s why I’m most drawn to writing character-driven fiction. It sort of feels like people-watching at its most fun. I can see the characters in my mind and I never plan out their personalities. I simply try to pay close attention to who they are and what shapes them as the story progresses and find that it works wonderfully for me. It also means that I hold a HIGH level of respect for authors who do plan and plot more extensively than I do. Some of my favorite fiction is written this way and I think that’s one thing that makes reading so special—all the unique experiences and methods that are out there to be enjoyed.

Emilie here: Love your process! I feel like I do something similar and always feel like maybe I should plan more...but that takes the fun out of it for me! 
Thank you so much for this lovely interview and I am so excited to offer my readers a chance to win a copy of your lovely book. Enter below friends and help spread the news about this fantastic book! 

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