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Favorite Christmas Recipes from Theresa Begin

Home for CHRISTmas by Nells Wasilewski

Not Just Another Day by Pat Jeanne Davis

Silent Night, Holy Night.... Searching for Peace this Christmas by Jeanne Doyon

Breaking Down the Walls by Jewell Utt

RUBY Magazine Your voice, your story DECEMBER, 2017

In This Issue of RUBY And a Little Child Shall Lead Them by Gloria Doty

The Ghosts of Christmas Past Come to Dinner by Lisa Radcliff

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! As the Christmas season approaches, our hearts and home are turned to the miracle of God’s redemption through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ as we celebrate His birth. Here at RUBY magazine and community, we wish you and your family a joyous and blessed Christmas. We would love to have you join us in the RUBY community, now on Facebook, so it is really easy for you to connect with us. Here’s the link: Hope to see you there!

Vintage Book Treasure Hunt: Have Yourself a Dickens of a Christmas by Kathryn Ross

Let us know how we can be an encouragement to you today. We would love to hear from you! Contact us at Stop by the RUBY blog and click on the link to purchase your copy of the latest issue of RUBY magazine at http://www,

Discover Hygge for the Holidays by Nina Newton

Senior Editor: Nina Newton Assistant Editor: Beth Brubaker Feature Writers: Sharon L. Patterson, Norma C. Mezoe, Shara Bueler-Repka, Carol Peterson, Susan Paulus, Katherine Corrigan, Donna B. Comeaux, Maryann Lorts, Rejetta Morse, Cynthia Knisley, Joan Leotta, Nancy Frantel, Gloria Doty, Thea Williams, Michele Morin, Kathryn Ross, Sharmelle Olson, Nells Wasilewski, Lisa J. Radcliff, Alicia Ai Keng Lim, Theresa Begin, Miriam Jacob, Pat Jeanne Davis, Kristie L. Beavers, Kathleen McCauley, R.B. Sharpe, Jewell Utt, Mary Dolan Flaherty, Jeanne Doyon, Jennifer Workman, Toni Samuels

Christmas Recipe Memories by Nancy Frantel

Credits and Copyrights All stories and articles are copyright by the authors. All pictures and images are copyright by the authors and / or have been purchased, used by permission or are in the public domain. If any pictures or images have been used inadvertently, and they do not belong in this publication, please email us and we will immediately remove them. Nothing in this issue of RUBY magazine may be reproduced, copied, or shared without the permission of the author. Advertising information is available by contacting us at Questions? Email Nina @ RUBY magazine is published by CreativeLife All submission inquiries should be directed to: Nina Newton, Sr. Editor RUBY magazine

Discover Hygge for the Holidays Nina Newton, Sr. Editor I’m most certainly not an expert on the latest social trends, but I have been reading a lot of articles recently on the concept of “hygge.” The best definition I could find on what “hygge” (pronounced “hoo-gah” or “hue-gah_ depending on who you ask) actually means is: “a Danish and Norwegian word which can be described as a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” With that definition, then, one could reasonably suggest that some of us have been doing that in our homes for a pretty long time. So what does “hygge” actually look like? And why should we consider incorporating some of the “hygge” ideas into our lives this holiday season? One of the first things that seems to be consistent with all of the different articles that try to explain “hygge” is the idea of keeping life and our homes “simple.” I suppose that word can mean lots of different things to lots of different people, but the underlying notion appears to be three-fold: 1. Simplify your life and your home by eliminating unnecessary “stuff.” 2. Slow down and enjoy each moment as a treasure 3. Seek opportunities to create an environment that is “cozy” and nurturing It is interesting to me as a Vintage Mama to see this “new” idea becoming a social trend since that is the way I learned how to live a long time ago. Of course, with all of the activity and accumulations that come with having a family, it is always a challenge to slow down and keep things simple, peaceful, and “cozy” in a home filled with individuals doing all kinds of individual things. Like going to work, going to school (or home schooling for many families), running a business, doing homework, cleaning house, doing laundry, cooking and baking, and any number of activities both inside and outside of the home. Many years ago I read a book called The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer that encouraged women to find joy and contentment in the daily routine of being a home maker. Of course, that was back in the day when those who were “just” wives and mothers were considered incapable of seeking “real” and “meaningful” employment outside of the home. So it was quite an encouragement to me as a young wife and mom to read the words of this book, reminding me that creating a home for my family where there was a sense of nurturing, “coziness,” and peace was a pretty important job. The part that intrigued me in the beginning, when I first discovered this book was the idea of discovering opportunities for artistic expression that can be found in ordinary, everyday life. Seeking creative expression in the moment-by-moment tasks of daily life seemed like an impossibility to me, as I was feeling rather overwhelmed with caring for small children and a large home. Family life can keep one quite busy, so I was hoping that there was a possibility that somewhere in the middle of all the activity of a growing family I could still find ways to express the creativity that God had put into my heart.

I haven’t figured out why there seems to be a rather sudden renewed interest in making our homes places of comfort and “coziness” instead of places for brief and intermittent pit-stops between one breath-taking adventure after another . . . which is how it often felt when my older children were teenagers . . . but I’m really happy to see that some people are once again seeking home as a place of safety, security, and peace. It has been interesting, too, as I have been reading various articles, blogs, and websites on the topic of “hygge” to come across the different perspectives on this. It would, at first glance, seem rather straightforward and well, “simple.” But it appears that even the whole idea of “simplifying” life can become rather complicated. One blogger suggested that it seems somewhat counter-intuitive to invest lots of money, buying lots of things (including beautiful coffee table books on “How to Practice the Art of Hygge”), and filling our homes with more “stuff” that somehow represents “hygge” or simplicity. I guess she has a point. It really is possible to create a home that is cozy and nurturing without buying all those beautiful farm house wall hangings with sayings like “Simplify” or “Let’s Stay Home” or “Improving my inner hygge.” I know because I used to do it with pretty much nothing except what was already in my very modest home. On the other hand, if one is able to invest in a few pretty, simple objects such as candles, pillows, wall hangings, and cozy throw blankets, that would be fun, too. So in the end, I’m suggesting that we all can create “hygge” any way that works for our individual homes and families. Here are few suggestions for discovering hygge for the holidays that I’ve practiced probably long before most of the popular bloggers these days were even born . . . but then, that’s a blog post for another day! 1. STOP! Stop feeling obligated to create the perfect home (even the perfect “hygge” home) and look around at what you already have. 2. TAKE INVENTORY: get rid of all the extra stuff that is keeping you from being peaceful in your own home. 3. REFASHION: “Shop” your own belongings and recreate / refashion some of the items already in your home 4. ORGANIZE: Once you have minimized the amount of stuff you already have, clean and rearrange things. You really will feel much better! 5. PREPARE your heart and your home to celebrate every holiday in simple, meaningful ways. 6. PLAN: If you decorate for the holidays, don’t run yourself ragged with trying to outdo your friends and neighbors. A simple wreath on the front door, perhaps a Christmas tree with a few ornaments that hold sentimental value, a manger scene on the mantle, and a few candles on the dining room table – then take a deep breath and enjoy the holidays 7. START: If you like to do holiday baking, go ahead and make a few batches of Christmas cookies or candy. But have fun! Life isn’t a contest; it’s about celebrating the little things every day.

8. RELAX: Once you get rid of all the extra stuff in your home, maybe add a few new touches to help create an atmosphere of coziness, and plan to keep everything else SIMPLE, you’ll actually be able to slow down long enough to enjoy the holidays. 9. REACH OUT: Once you simplify your own home and holiday activities, you will actually have time to connect with other people in your life. Go out for coffee with a friend, and take a walk on a sunny autumn / winter day. 10. FINALLY: As you sit quietly by a cozy fire with a steaming cup of tea of hot cocoa, wearing your fuzzy “hygge” socks and your cable-knit “hygge” sweater, remember . . . life is what you make it. You don’t need to give a name to whatever you choose to do that makes your life peaceful, pleasant, cozy, and nurturing. If you want to call it “hygge” go ahead as long as you remember what it actually means. Simplify, slow down, and live with the intention of experiencing your days instead of just flying through them and then wondering where all the years went. Practice true “hygge” and discover “hygge” for the holidays by first making a decision to stop following the latest expression of a very old idea and discover the “hidden art of homemaking.” And just in case you do want to buy a book about hygge, here are a few suggestions!

Please join us in the RUBY community, now on Facebook! Connect with other Christian women, share prayer requests, book reviews, blog posts, crafts, recipes, poetry, and parenting advice and encouragement. We even have a home school group where you can share resources with one another! I hope you will take time to visit the RUBY community group and let us know how we can pray for you. I’ll be looking for you, Nina

For inspirational articles by Beth Brubaker, visit her blog at Footprints in the Mud

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The Magnolia Series by Gloria Doty is now available from Amazon!

And a Little Child Shall Lead Them by Gloria Doty Josie was so excited about the upcoming baby shower for her Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Manns. It was going to be at her house and her mom said the other mothers from the church were bringing their daughters, too. It was a couple weeks away, but Josie could hardly wait. She and her good friend, Lydia, talked about it as they walked home from school. “Aren’t you excited about the party, Lydia?” Josie asked, as she skipped backward down the sidewalk. “What are you going to wear? I think I’ll wear my blue dress with the ruffles down the front,” she added without taking a breath or waiting for Lydia’s answer. Vintage Christmas Card, 1951, American Greetings

“Ummm, I don’t know,” Lydia said hesitantly. “I don’t have any nice dresses and Mom hasn’t even mentioned the shower, so maybe we didn’t get an invitation.”

Josie frowned. “Oh, I’m sure it just got lost in the mail or something. Mom said all the ladies from church were coming. I’ll ask her for another one and you can just hand it to your mom, okay?” Lydia nodded, not at all sure it had been lost in the mail. When Josie entered the house, her mom and several of her friends were discussing the cake and the games they were going to play at the shower. As she grabbed a snack from the refrigerator, Josie said, “Hey, Mom, Lydia said her mom’s invitation didn’t come yet, so could you make out another one and I’ll take it to her tomorrow and she can give it to her mother?” She noticed the strange look that the ladies gave one another before her mom said, “I’m sure it just got lost or something, Josie. It’s nothing for you to worry about. Besides, with all the children Mrs. Fearson has and a new baby on the way, I doubt she would be able to come, anyway.” “She only has three kids, Mom. You make it sound as if it was a dozen.” Josie went upstairs to her room and searched through her closet. She was looking for a dress for Lydia to wear. They wore the same size and since they were best friends, she was sure her mother wouldn’t mind if she loaned her one. She started on her homework but couldn’t get Lydia’s family off her mind. She remembered when they came to Lakeville a few months ago and moved into a kind of shabby house several blocks from Josie’s house. The two girls had become good friends immediately. They both liked horses and

reading and playing baseball. They walked to and from school together every day, although Lydia had to walk further after they got to Josie’s house. They saw each other every Sunday at church, too. When Josie asked why they didn’t buy one of the newer houses so they could be neighbors, Lydia shrugged her shoulders and said, “When my dad died suddenly, we had to move and mom used the insurance money to buy this house. This is the one my mom said we could afford. It’s okay…it just needs some paint, maybe.” Josie didn’t know anything about income but she knew her family was probably rich compared to Lydia’s and now there would be another one in their family since her mom was going to have a baby around Christmas time. The day of the shower was getting closer. Josie had asked Lydia if she wanted to borrow a dress but she said, “No, it’s okay. Mom says we won’t be able to come anyway. She’s really busy. You know, getting things ready for the baby and all.” Josie helped her mother clean the house and put up the decorations. It was going to be so much fun. She really wished her best friend would be there. Saturday finally arrived with all the guests and their daughters coming in with beautifully wrapped packages. Mrs. Manns was smiling from ear to ear as she opened one gift after another. Josie wondered if Lydia’s new baby brother or sister would have anything new. Then she had an idea. When everyone was eating cake and visiting, Josie asked, loudly, “Can we do this again for the Fearson’s new baby? I think that would be so awesome. Since they couldn’t come today, maybe we could even make it a surprise.” The room was totally quiet until Mrs. Manns spoke. “Josie, I think that is a loving and sweet idea. Why don’t we let these ladies talk about it and decide if that’s possible. It is getting close to Christmas, you know, and they are all busy with the Christmas Pageant rehearsals. ”When everyone had left and Josie was sitting next to her mother on the couch, she asked, “Mrs. Fearson’s invitation wasn’t lost, was it Mom? You and your friends never sent her one did you?” “It’s hard to explain, Honey” she said as she brushed the hair out of Josie’s eyes. “I don’t see what’s so hard about it. Mrs. Fearson is a nice lady and a good mother. Her house is always clean and she’s a good cook, too. Lydia brings really good lunches to school. The other kids make fun of her sometimes because she never has chips or candy in her lunch sack.” “I don’t know what you want me to do about it, Josie. I think the church is going to take the family a basket of food for Christmas.” Standing up, Josie said, “That’s nice. Every group in town does that at Christmas for families, but the Fearsons go to our church. Aren’t we supposed to do more than a basket of fruit? Why weren’t Lydia and her brothers given parts in the pageant?

As she started to leave the room and fought back the tears, Josie added one more thing. “We keep talking about Mary and Joseph. They were poor and homeless and having a baby, too. I bet Mary wouldn’t have been invited to the shower, either!”

And, why couldn’t she be included today? Isn’t she good enough for your friends? Her mom can’t help it her husband was killed in a car crash. How would you like to raise us kids without Daddy’s help?” As she started to leave the room and fought back the tears, Josie added one more thing. “We keep talking about Mary and Joseph. They were poor and homeless and having a baby, too. I bet Mary wouldn’t have been invited to the shower, either!”

It was the last rehearsal before the Christmas pageant. Josie drug her feet as her mother called, “Come on, Slowpoke. We’re going to be late. This is a special rehearsal. Don’t you want to see everyone in their costumes?” Josie shrugged her shoulders. She had never really recovered her enthusiasm for the pageant or even for the Christmas holidays, after the shower. What good was learning about how much God loved us and sent his Son as a baby, if we never practiced what we preached? That was one of her father’s favorite sayings: practice what you preach. She wished the church ladies believed that saying. Oh well…she had used her allowance and bought Lydia’s new brother a few baby toys. That was all she could do. When they arrived at church, she searched for Lydia. As she entered the room where they would rehearse, she stood with her mouth open. There were blue streamers and decorations everywhere. “What’s going on?” she whispered to her mother. Mrs. Manns came over to her and put her arms around her. “Josie, do you remember what you told your mother about how Mary wouldn’t have been invited to my shower, either?” Josie nodded, not sure if she was going to be scolded for talking to her mom like that. “Well, your mom called all the ladies together and told them what you said. It was absolutely true and made all of us feel ashamed of ourselves. We realized we had forgotten the way that God tells us to treat our neighbors. We’re going to pray about always remembering that, not just at Christmas. So, today, we are going to try to rectify that, a little bit, starting with a shower for the Fearson’s new baby.” “And, we’re going to continue to be more conscious of our actions toward others,” another lady chimed in. Just then, Lydia came in the door and headed to Josie. She didn’t even notice the decorations…”Guess what, Josie? I get to be an angel, my brothers are going to be shepherds in the pageant and my new brother is going to be Baby Jesus!” Josie smiled and said a prayer of thanks. This was going to be a special Christmas.

Mighty Powers of the Newborn King by Rejetta Morse The golden sun bows down as angels pass by the distant stars to welcome the “King of Kings.” In strands of cloth he lays – “Son of the Most High” but his type of power grasps them all and clings. His tiny hands will wipe sad tears from those who cry, and mend the broken hearts and sicknesses it brings. His tiny feet shall lead lost souls as they try to follow his footsteps in regard to all things. His tiny mouth will calm the wicked storms that fly so high, and call the dead to rise - death has no sting. His eyes, so small, will see visions for you and I, – and radiant angels fly on their soft wings. As time passes, the sun rises in the blue sky, Angels Rejoice – “Glory to God” – and wave good-bye.

Or at least attempt to keep me from wearing too many ingredients.

Christmas Recipe Memories by Nancy Frantel

One of my fondest Christmas memories growing up was spending time in the kitchen with my mother. Okay, not counting the opening presents experience. A few weeks before Christmas, she would pull out the holiday recipe cards from the box stored on the top shelf of the cabinet. She removed the traditional recipes, and returned the “maybe next year” stack to the shelf. As a child, I remember watching with anticipation to see which delicious treat would win the prize as the first recipe of the season. Mother made her selection based on the amount of time available to spend in the kitchen. She also took into consideration if she needed or wanted assistance from one or all three of her young children. I volunteered to help the most. As the only girl and youngest child, I usually ended up being the kitchen assistant. I looked forward to seeing the ingredients placed on the counter as an indication of the treat for the day. The popular recipes were written on small index cards, complete with smudges and spills. Her recipe collection had built up over several decades through exchanges with family and friends, church cookbooks, magazines, and her creations. She made sweet and savory holiday treats. However, sweet desserts won the popularity contest with family and friends. When she would pull out my favorite recipe, I remember thinking, “Yeah, she is making chocolate patties.” Knowing how much I enjoyed the confection, she allowed me to help. Before getting started, she put an oversized, “down to the knees” smock on me to keep my regular clothes from getting too messy.

Then I was ready for action. Butter, sugar, vanilla, mint extract, and a little milk were placed in the mixing bowl. Part of the sugar usually missed the bowl and landed on the counter, because of my unsteady, excited hands. After the mixture reached the correct consistency, forming quarter-size patties came next. I didn’t mind this tedious part, because I knew chocolate was not far behind. Plus, it provided an opportunity to taste the sugary batter. The patties were placed on wax paper waiting for chocolate to be poured over them. There was an art to the process, and I was in awe of how quickly mother could place the patty on a fork, spoon chocolate glaze over it until completely covered, slide the patty back onto the wax paper, and pick up the next one. When she allowed me to help, her almost perfect rhythm as a candy maker came to a halt. Placing a patty on the fork wasn’t too hard, but how did she distribute the chocolate so evenly? No matter how gently I tried, numerous patties would drop into the bowl of chocolate. Mother would teach me how to retrieve the drowned treat without creating too much of a mess. She was not always successful. If the patty did not meet her standards, I was right there to claim it. “This one doesn’t look good. I’ll eat it.” Before she could say no, the treat was in my mouth. After the candies received their chocolate bath and allowed time to dry, mother placed the sweets in a sealed container. If time allowed, we worked on another confectionery recipe. After all, if in the sugar mode, might as well stay there. The cheese and sausage biscuits had to wait for another day. As I grew older, I started to understand the deeper meaning of spending time with mother in the kitchen. She enjoyed making specialty candies. But there was so much more to her actions. And the candies she dropped into the chocolate were not always a mistake. Making the edible treats created the opportunity. However, the true recipe was about love.

I just love being a grandmother. Perhaps it is so special to me because I wasn’t supposed to have children, much less grandchildren. Prayer one Wednesday night at church for all the women who were not able to have children changed all that. Fast forward the story some thirty-three years to this past Christmas when God’s additions to the Patterson household gathered noisily in the kitchen for what would prove to be a most extraordinary holiday meal. We normally number twelve, but our youngest son, Jeremy an apache helicopter pilot was in Iraq serving his second deployment. Christmas is always a special time but this year I wanted it to be even more so for our five grandchildren and especially the two without daddy. As I peered at the five extra-large garbage bags holding torn paper, ribbon that absolutely would not survive another year’s use, and discarded directions for putting together toys, I knew we had opened all the packages. Our time together had already fulfilled popular traditions of hot chocolate and orange Danish while reading the Christmas story as well as yielding new memories. The outstanding one of the day caused us to all tear up as our oldest son prayed for his brother to return home safely. What more could we ask for? How about lunch? That was next on the day’s agenda. Both daughters-in-law busied themselves doing all the little things it takes to get the grandchildren ready to sit down to eat Christmas lunch. The grandchildren, four boys and one girl range in age from 15 months to 13 years, so that means preparing everything from sippy cups to picky eaters’ requests for what has not been prepared. I announced that pizza, a family favorite, was excluded from today’s menu. I glanced at the table…it looked both festive and beautiful. I always decorate it early in December for a breakfast I have for my close friends, a tradition for the past fifteen years. Following the breakfast, I replace the name cards of my friends, with those for each member of the family. I leave everything decorated until our Christmas meals together. I love making everyone feel special, so I put out the best china and crystal. It is a great contrast to the paper plates and plastic cups we normally put out when serving one of our hurried food fests.

“Grannah and Pawpaw, You Must Be Rich!” by Sharon L. Patterson

As the girls scurried about, our oldest son, serving double daddy duty, helped the little ones find their marked places. It was quite a noisy affair, with cousins who had not seen each other in a few months all talking at the same time. I had my head in the fridge when I suddenly heard, “We want food, we want food!” I looked up to find four of the youngest ones with fork and knife in hand beating them up and down on the decorated table. Our son began gathering the crystal glasses and the knives and forks saying, “I don’t think we better leave these on the table!” Suddenly, our seven year old grandson Joshua yells out, “Pawpaw, you and Grannah are rich!” We all stopped what we were doing at the declaration. “Why do you say that?” my husband asked. “Because Pawpaw, you and Grannah have gold forks and spoons. You must be rich!” Once we had our round of laughter, Pawpaw seized the moment to tell him that the tableware was only plated, not real gold. Then he added, “Joshua, you are right. Pawpaw and Grannah are rich, not because we have gold forks and spoons, but because we have great gifts from God…an incredible family including you five wonderful grandchildren.” We replaced the gold flatware and china with paper plates and plastic cups, gathered in our traditional family circle, bowed our heads and gave thanks. After lunch was finished we began cleaning up. With a handful of paper plates, I headed in the direction of the stacked garbage bags full of Christmas trash gathered earlier that morning. I grinned at the previous thought that all the packages had been opened. God had just delivered our greatest gift with the words of our grandson: “Pawpaw, you and Grannah must be rich!” My heart responded, “Yes, rich indeed!”

Favorite Christmas Recipes from Theresa Begin at Shoestring Elegance Almond Orange Biscotti I've been making these for the past three or four years and they have been a huge success with my family and friends. So much so, that last year for Christmas a double batch was my gift to my sister and her husband. :) So whether you are starting your holiday baking or just really want to add a yummy new recipe to your repertoire, these are delicious. This was one recipe that, when I started, I must admit I was a little bit intimidated by. Which is just silly because it couldn't be easier. I saw the bakers on that British baking contest show being given Biscotti as a baking challenge and thought, I can do that! You know what - I was right! They used all kinds of different combinations of ingredients and you can personalize this recipe to your own tastes too. I love the combination of almonds and orange together. I just think they are a marriage made in heaven, but if you like something else please adapt this to your liking. However, if you are going to use almonds, may I make a suggestion, that I think makes a gigantic difference?! Don't buy roasted almonds. Just don't. It is SO easy to roast your own and then you are sure to get the flavor and freshness you like. Tell a friend you’re roasting your own almonds! They will think you are a gourmet! It amazes me how many people are surprised by this very easy step. Buy raw almonds at your local Sprouts or whole foods supplier. For this recipe you need at least a cup and a half, maybe a little more. I wait until they go on sale and stock up. They keep well and I roast what I need right before using them in my baking. To roast your almonds, spread them out on a baking/cookie sheet in a single layer, place in a preheated oven at 325*F until you start to smell them. It's heavenly! About 20-25 minutes, depending on how you like them. They will continue to cook a little after you have removed them from the oven so keep that in mind when you are checking them. That's it! No salt. No oil! Nothing. You are using them for baking, so you want them to be simply pure wonderful roasted almond goodness! Biscotti actually means twice cooked (or baked) in Latin. In fact, The word biscotti, in this sense, shares its origin with the British English word "biscuit", which describes what American English-speakers refer to as a "cookie. In modern Italian, the word biscotti refers to any cookie or cracker, just as does the British use of the word "biscuit". The number of bakings or hardness is not relevant to the term. In America, the term "biscotti" refers only to this specific Italian cookie. I know. I'm a bit of a food nerd, but I love to learn!

Cranberry Apple Chutney Do you ever have a combination of flavors in your mind that you just know would be good together? I do. When this happens to me, I can't really rest until I try it. Maybe it's just me, but ever since the subject of Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations came up this year, the when, where, who's home, the what we'll have conversations started circulating, I have had a flavor in mind that I wanted to try. I always make my own Cranberry Sauce. I never have enjoyed the 'canned' versions, and so as an adult, preparing my own feasts for the holidays, I have made my own. Nothing complicated, just fresh 1 -12oz bag of cranberries, the zest of 2 fresh oranges and their juice, some of the chopped up peel popped in while cooking with some sugar and spices. I love it! I love the smell of Christmas it spreads throughout the house. Nothing else quite has that smell. It excites me for the upcoming time with family and friends. That being said, that was not what was on my mind this year. I kept thinking I wanted something a little more. A little more substance, a lot more dimension, more flavors and a bit sturdier, for lack of a better word. I wanted to incorporate more flavors so that it would work for the Thanksgiving and upcoming Christmas feeds but also be wonderful on its own, or for a wonderful appetizer. So, I began with my experimentation on a recipe for a Cranberry Apple Chutney. Just what is chutney, you may ask? Well, it is usually defined as a "sweet or savory but usually spicy condiment, originally from eastern India, made from a variety of fruits and/or vegetables". It is often combined with nuts and used with cheese. Yep, that was what I wanted! The experiment led to this quite yummy recipe that I'm sharing with you today. I can say, from first-hand experience that it is simply divine. As a matter of fact, I had some for lunch today! Yum! If you have never played with your recipes, may I humbly suggest that you do?! You might be surprised at just how good your instincts are. I've created a recipe card that you can save. Please note: these are only the ingredients I used. Please feel free to make it your own and adapt it to your tastes!

What I Needed by Maryann Lorts

In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus… -Traditional African American Spiritual What is it that we are longing for? Are our needs being met? Do we place our wants at the foot of the cross or do we strive to self-satisfy by the world’s standards? As we head into a season of wants, are we seeking to fill the stockings and the space under the tree or are we longing to fill a spiritual need? That was the question I recently posed to the people living in my household as I asked for a Christmas list. As I skimmed it over and saw only a few items this year, I wondered if maybe we, as parents, were doing something right. Not many toys, a handful of books, and a couple of jokes were written in broad pencil strokes. Nothing fancy and nothing expensive. The needs seemed minimal and the wants even less. Something was missing. Something was nagging at me. I found myself digging beneath the hard soil of angst building up in my head and realize that it was not about those who lived under the same roof as me, it was about me. What about my needs and wants? I see them being met in this season of life, but it’s the reflection back to when my parents asked me for those wish-lists all those years ago that I thought about.

I needed Him then. I knew who He was, but my need for the baby in the stable seemed to allude me. The big picture was being missed. All of my childhood wants of doll dream houses and shiny new bikes were fulfilled. All of my spiritual needs passed me by. What I needed was to seek the kingdom of God, and to truly open myself up to what the Advent of the Lord really meant. For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:32-33 ESV As a mother, I am blessed to see my children growing in the knowledge of the Lord. I see them in communion with Jesus as they pray, study and fellowship with other believers. They prioritize God’s Word and live by faith. The baby in the stable is their friend and His Advent is always celebrated. Their needs are met. I have done my job. I don’t want to look back in bitterness at the hole in the middle of Christmas. The Lord placed me on a very specific path and I will never question his motives. His will for my life as a child didn’t include in-depth knowledge because He knew that it would be something I would cling to later in life. My need of him has been since my own birth, but my lack of maturity didn’t allow for me to want it. I needed to grow up in my faith to see the truth of the want.

Everything I asked for and more was waiting for me under the tree. I played with toys, wore new clothes, and read all of those books, but I was always searching for more. It took until I was the one stuffing those stockings to see the truth of what was missing on those glorious mornings of childhood.

Now each and every morning, from the moment I rise, all I want to do is glorify my King. I want to sing to the God who became a baby placed in a manger. My need is of Him; my want is to praise Him all the days of my life.

It was Jesus.

All glory be to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

To the Moon and Back by Kathi Macias Book Review by Miriam Jacob

To the Moon and Back by Kathi Macias is an inspiring story of the love of family in the lives of people with dementia and their caregivers. The compellingly complex characters are extremely well delineated, their overwhelming struggles and extraordinary successes realistically depicted and powerfully portrayed, as Kathi Macias compassionately connects faith, family and Alzheimer’s into an amazing story with great wisdom and incredible insight. A family barely survives a past tragedy, only to be confronted with Alzheimer’s. No one escapes life’s traumatic struggles, and Kathi utters God-given answers through her characters with humble grace and selfless courage. What an amazing love story of a family whose mother has Alzheimer’s, which records their relationship with God. Each new day presents different challenges to overcome, as God showers His abundant grace and mercy into their lives. Kathi Macias presents a novel story portraying the fragility of human relationships and addressing serious health issues, like Alzheimer’s, that devastating stealer of memories, paving the way for a deep-rooted understanding of hope, love, and faith. To the Moon and Back is a realistic true-to-life story, firmly anchored in God’s grace as old as time immemorial. An initial cloud of confusion veils its beginning, with a life-shattering diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, but with remarkable hope, rekindled faith, and reassuring love, Kathi Macias clears the “pea soup” fog of confusion to restore a perfect vision of clarity. This is a poignant, heart moving story, overflowing with saving grace and sustaining hope, to strengthen the unshakable faith that God is at work in our lives. The book skillfully connects with the debilitating issues of disability and dementia, tackled with insightful wisdom and courage. It is the perfect choice for all sufferers and care-givers of Alzheimer’s. After the devastating accident that altered life for Rachel, which she felt was her own fault, nothing ever prepared her for what followed. Unsure of exactly how it first started, the phantom darkness appeared often, making her feel forgetful, fearful, confused and even suspicious at times. Her husband was a semi-invalid, dependent on her. Their only child, Lilly, dealt with her own difficulties, including a divorce, but Rachel was unaware of most of this. Alzheimer’s had mercilessly invaded their home, shattering their fragmented lives into smithereens. Will they ever find healing, or will the darkness destroy them all in its unrelenting onslaught and relentless wake? Unconditional love is their only hope of a way out of this nightmare, if it was indeed possible at all. In this compassionate, care-giving book, Kathi Macias pulls back the veil covering Alzheimer’s, a devastating disease that affects memory. In the midst of insurmountable challenges, Rachel and her family become aware of God, who offers loving comfort and perfect peace in Him, right in the midst of the storm. In the dedication, Kathi gently exhorts us “to take heart. God stands ready to carry you all the way.” Here is a revealing glimpse of dementia from inside the ravaged mind and body of the afflicted, and its radical impact on the family. Kathi Macias captures dementia with rare sensitivity and crystal-clear accuracy. I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to have a deeper understanding of dementia with its myriad, multifaceted angles.

from Vintage Mama’s Cottage There is something truly wonderful about holiday traditions. We have Christmas tree ornaments that are 30 years old; we have several other holiday decorations for our home that we have used every year for many Christmases; and we have those hand-made gifts that children bring home from school year every December. Each and every one is displayed in our home, year after year, and they are treasured for the memories they recall. But this year I thought it would be fun to find a few new ways to prepare our home for the holidays, so I’ve been searching for ideas that are just a little bit different from the usual holiday decor. Here are a few DIY ideas for Christmas that I discovered while visiting some crafty, creative bloggers . . . be sure to visit them for the complete tutorials for their clever holiday projects!

Pink and Blue Christmas Mantle from White House Crafts I’ve never really consider pale pink and baby blue to be holiday colors, but I sure love the way this mantle display pulls those two colors together with the soft ivory of the bowl and pitcher and lamp base. Certainly gives me a new perspective on the various ways one can celebrate the holiday season!

Christmas Mason Jars from Penny’s Vintage Home There’s no doubt that I LOVE all kinds of home decor and organization ideas using Mason jars . . . and this holiday display using the vintage images, again in shades of pink and ivory certainly have given me one more idea for getting our home ready for Christmas!

Learn to Paint Pink Poinsettias from The Painted Apron I took a watercolor painting class one time, many years ago, and it was great fun. But I never really felt that I could master the technique and actually create something that looked good. I’m definitely going to follow the tutorial found here at The Painted Apron and give it a go one more time. Aren’t these pretty pink poinsettias really gorgeous? More pink for my holiday inspiration!

Cinnamon Christmas Tree Ornaments from Homestead Wishing This is one of the easiest, prettiest holiday DIY projects we’ve ever made in our family! This is a little different recipe than the one we used a long time ago, and it is much prettier with the glitter sprinkles that sparkle in the twinkling lights on your Christmas tree. This is the perfect DIY project for the holidays if you have little ones who want to get in on the fun. Visit Homestead Wishing for the recipe and to see all the other designs she created for her homemade Christmas ornaments.

All images and tutorials are the property of the original websites. RUBY magazine does not own any of the images in this article and they are used only as part of a featured collection. To find any of the original articles, please visit the websites which are linked to each image.

Another Monday. Carol contemplated the week ahead and all the things that had to be done. She gazed at the calendar hanging on the wall. She’d bought one with a large box for each date so she could write down what had to be done on any particular day. But it seemed each day blurred into the next and wasn’t much different from yesterday or the day before. Soon it would be winter and the holidays would be upon her. She shrugged off the feeling of being overwhelmed, tightened the band around her long, blond hair and opened the fridge. Time to get on with the day. This morning she must get Annie, Susie, and Alex off to school; get ready for work and drop off John’s shirts and slacks at the cleaners. He would pick them up later. Then after work, she’d stop at the bank to sign the loan papers for the kitchen renovations and then tackle all the tasks awaiting her at home. Maybe she needed to learn to say no once in a while. It was crazy to agree to join the PTA, too. Even weekends seemed to be an endless round of sports, dancing or music lessons, and birthday parties. Not that she minded―she loved the hustle and bustle of family life.

She and John were so blessed. They had four healthy children, a beautiful home, jobs they loved, and most importantly a stable, happy marriage. Still, it felt as though they were like those clichéd ships that passed in the night. There was so little time to spend together. She finished packing lunches as her sixteen-yearold entered the kitchen. Carol wrapped her arms around her daughter. “Good morning.” “Anything special happening this weekend, Mom?” “Just the usual kids’ stuff, you know.” A loud noise from above and Carol headed for the stairs. “See you later, Katie. Love you.” *** John boarded the bus and looked out the window, snow began to fall. Life was busy with both of them trying to juggle work and children. He hoped for a promotion with a salary increase that would help with the kitchen renovations. The extra hours at work were helping the finances but not family life. He couldn’t remember the last time he and Carol had time alone. It would be Christmas soon―the busiest time of the year for them.

He flipped open his laptop. Maybe he was exaggerating, but sometimes it seemed as though they were passing strangers. And even when together, half the time they were so tired that conversation was sacrificed in favor of cuddling up on the sofa and watching a film.

Carol glanced at the calendar, the box filled with her day’s to-do list and then to the date. Her eyes widened. “It’s our anniversary!”

While he wouldn’t change anything, occasionally he felt nostalgic for those long-ago days when it was just Carol and him. He would tell her tonight how much she meant to him. For now he must get on with the day.

“I realized you both forgot,” Kate said, sampling a cookie. “I’m taking the kiddos to dinner and a movie and then we’re spending the night at Nana’s. We’ll be back late tomorrow night.”

John looked down at his ringing cell phone and frowned. He had expected it to be his boss. Instead it was his daughter. “Hi, Katie. No. Nothing planned this weekend.” His phone beeped. His boss was trying to reach him. “Sorry. I’ve got to take this call. I’ll call you later.” *** Late Friday afternoon, Carol put the car in the garage and mentally ran through the to-do list on her calendar. Thankfully nobody had after-school activities today. That meant she could start baking. She frowned. Why had she agreed to bake fourdozen assorted cookies for tomorrow’s PTA fundraiser? She opened the front door, her hands full with shopping bags and drew in the aroma. The unmistakable smell of―cookies? Carol rushed into the kitchen and watched as her daughter took a cookie sheet from the oven. “Katie?” “Hi, Mom.” Kate looked up, grinning.

John pulled her close. “Happy Anniversary.” He pushed back a lock of hair from her face, bent down and kissed her.

“But―” Carol began. “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of the cookies for the fundraiser.” Carol laughed. “Looks like it’s settled. She pecked her daughter on the cheek. “You’re such a sweetie.” Later, after the house was emptied, Carol and John looked at each other across the kitchen table. “I’m so sorry I forgot our anniversary, hon,” he said. “Me, too.” Carol sipped her coffee. “I’ve felt recently that we are― ” “Not spending enough time with each other?” John finished. Carol nodded. “The kids are fantastic. But do you remember when we first got married?” John took her hand into his. “We’d happily spend hours just us two doing nothing special.” Carol went over to the calendar on the wall. “I’ll start scheduling our time together.” She wrote “John and Carol time” in red letters over weekend dates.

Then a pair of strong arms lovingly wrapped around Carol’s waist. Turning, she looked up into John’s smiling face with those adorable laugh lines at the corners of his brown eyes. “Why are you home this early?”

She turned to face her husband. “So what shall we do? Dinner? Movies? Day trip tomorrow?”

John gave a low chuckle. “Because our daughter reminded me about something,” he said, removing her knitted hat and tossing it on a chair.


“I don’t understand.” “What day is it, Mom?” Kate asked. “Friday. So?” “But what Friday?” Kate prompted. “Friday the . . .”

He walked across the room and took the pen out of her hand. “I know the perfect thing.”

He held her close to his chest. “We’re going to do absolutely nothing,” he said, kissing the top of her head. Carol thought about his suggestion for a moment then gazed into his eyes, beaming. That's a fantastic idea. She threw her arms around his neck, stretched up on her toes and kissed him. Happy Anniversary, sweetheart.

New Books from Carol Peterson, Author Stealing Sunlight Author: Carol Peterson Middle Grade Fiction (age 9-12) There is something strange about St. Opal Lightfoot's Academic Residence— silver walls, static electricity and the fact that none of the kids have any memory of their families. The school's strangeness is the least of Bernie Banks' worries though. He's failing almost every class and is in danger of being kicked out of school—the only home he has ever known. When Bernie and his solar project teammates discover an underground world, they learn that both the world above and the world below the surface are in danger from what archaeologist Peter Potstop is doing to the Great Pyramid. Can Bernie and his friends get to Egypt in time to stop both worlds from exploding? Do they even know how? Available in print or Kindle Counting Blessings Author/Illustrator: Carol Peterson Picture Book (ages 2-5) Counting Blessings introduces kids to the numbers 1-10 and the concept of God’s blessings. Kids are encouraged to count the hearts and the named objects on each spread and think about what other blessings God has placed in the world around them. Available in print

I am Rahab (With Faith Like Hers Bible Study Series) Author: Carol Peterson Adult Non-Fiction/Women’s Bible Study Rahab was a Gentile and a prostitute who had heard about the God of the Jewish people. When she learned the Jews planned to attack her city of Jericho, she chose to be on the side of their God. As a result, she and her family were saved and she became part of Jesus’ own lineage. We may not have the same background Rahab did, but we all sin. Many of us have a past we are not proud of. So how might our character or circumstances be similar to the woman God used to help the Jews take over the land He promised them? How might God want to use our lives for His purpose today? This is Rahab’s story. But it is also ours, when we have faith like hers. Available in print or Kindle

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Eclipse by Kristie L. Beavers

People search for unity in various ways. For some it can be defined as a sense of inclusion in shared political preferences, personal beliefs, culture, ethnicity or experiences. The desire for unity may be so intense that people will abandon their news, websites, and protests to gather peaceably to experience something in which they have absolutely no history, input, or control.

When the sun regained its rightful reign once again, people lingered, basking in the residual comradery, joy, and sense of well-being.

On a warm afternoon in late August 2017, millions of people relinquished their normal routines and individual pursuits to experience a phenomenon of nature: a total solar eclipse.

Human intellect too often informs our experiences with explanations and definitions, obscuring the sheer joy and wonder of them.

This rare event is dependent solely on the alignment of the moon between earth and sun. Our voices of reason and argument are futile against the tenuous balance of the laws of nature at this point. As the sky darkened and the temperature cooled, we watched the moon appear to devour the sun’s light and energy. Animals reacted as if night had simply come early, without needing to know the reason why. We saw strange shadows and shapes on the earth and heard the nocturnal songs of insect and bird. And as the last flaming ring of the sun’s brilliance was extinguished, a triumphant shout erupted from the amazed crowd—a shout of joyful surrender, celebration, and trust in the white hot star’s eminent return to its’ former splendor and status.

The universe had performed its magic in front of an appreciative audience, who would not soon forget the anticipation and even hardship of their journey and the resulting sense of unity and peace.

Yet, it is when we stand together, shameless in our naked desire to be seduced by the magnificent, that we receive the full gift of creation. We risk vulnerability, are drawn to the temptation to let down our shields, remove our cardboard protection, our sense of balance and control, as we look upward, to a power greater than ourselves. And God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night… And God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth…and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1: 16-18). Image courtesy of Keely Beal

Sliver of Silence by Kathleen McCauley I awake to the silence of the morning… It is strange…no crickets, no morning song of the birds ---- just silence. It is still, stagnant as if a blanket is laying over nature absorbing earth’s sounds. With nothing external to call my attention, the sounds of my internal world beckon. I can chose to follow the familiar call of my minds chatter or I can follow the quiet rustling of my soul, which shares in that silent sound which surrounds me. But the silence of my soul has a richness to it – it draws me in, in such a gentle, welcoming way. And as I approach, I feel the stress of my life release and a calmness take over my body. There are very few words to describe this – nor do any words enter into my being. Silence is not manmade. Silence is only formed in the absence – in the negation of all. Can I enter into it more with the absence of self as well? The vacuum of this silence is sometimes uncomfortable, but what emanates from it is so powerful, almost foreign. It is then that I recognized the origin of the silence and the energy……God. Help me to see and feel, that when I am within the sliver of silence, which is so quiet, so holy and somewhat awkward,… I am then in the presence of God.

Thea, Thea by Thea Williams “Are You kidding me, Lord?” The words form in my head before I can edit them. Even in the midst of holiday hoopla, I know I’m conversing with omnipotence; there’s a certain decorum to such encounters. I smile, realizing I'm also communing with omniscience. Why sweat it? This is, after all, Christmas Eve, and I know the Almighty realizes it’s a hugely busy day for those He came to die for. I’ve already obeyed Him several times this morning. I woke early, then spent quality time with Him and a few dear friends He laid on my heart. Isn't it about time to get to my chores? “No, you heard me right, Thea,” He whispers back. “You can choose to ignore Me… but is that really how you want to commemorate My birth?” I reluctantly seat myself at the keyboard, shooing away fragments of to do lists that are cluttering my brain. The food and presents will have to wait. The reason I must sit down and write is because the message He’s giving me really concerns all the mania of this time of year. I’ve been mentally checked out most of the week at work (I’ve come to refer to this phenomenon as “Christmas brain”). Task piles upon task as I strive to “get Christmas right,” and I almost resent having to show up at the place that not only represents my livelihood, but also a strong sense of purpose for my existence. More thoughts arrive unbidden. “You’ve got another hour, Lord. Then Elise and Aaron arrive, then her father, and he's never been to the house before, and the bathroom isn’t clean yet, and then we go to Anita’s, and then …” Breathe. I had a divine encounter at the super market yesterday. I met up with my son and daughter-in-law to grab the cholesterol and sugar, er, ingredients, needed for today’s festivities. It was the most peace I’ve had all week. Despite the crowds and shortage of parking (we had three vehicles between us), my heart surged with joy to be sharing such madness with two of the dearest people on earth to me. We divvied up the list and finished in short order. I told them I enjoyed every moment of our trip, and I meant it. I’m ashamed to admit, though, that one thing marred my happiness. While scrambling to hunt down my share of the goodies, I bumped into a friend. I haven’t known her long, but there’s a certain depth to our acquaintance that comes from shared struggles. She had been a frequent texting correspondent some months ago, but has fallen off the radar of late and not responded when I contacted her. That’s never a good sign.

She followed along as I shuffled through the peanut butter aisle. At first we chatted about trivialities, but all of a sudden she shared something from the heart. I’m an experienced selective listener (most multi-taskers are), but the down side of only paying partial attention is you can miss important tidbits when you’re in deep speculation about weighty matters like which jar of honey has the best unit price. I did a mental double take, forced my gaze away from the food fest that had been consuming my attention, and looked her in the eye. In all honesty, I really didn’t have time for an in-depth conversation in that setting and with that company. BUT it behooved me to MAKE time to share my love and concern for her wellbeing, and to let her know I was praying for her. That was all I had to give in that instant, and it had to be enough. I claimed the promise of 2 Corinthians 8:12 “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have” – and left the results in God’s hands. Jesus told a story in John 6 of a young boy who had a small lunch, which he was asked to share with a great multitude. It wasn’t nearly enough, of course – a couple of fish and a paltry amount of bread. Still, what he had he shared willingly, and at day’s end, thousands left satisfied. Do I dare offer any less? The phone rings as I type that last sentence. When my son's number appears on caller ID, I know it means he and his wife are on their way and my time to write is slipping away. And I haven't wrapped one present yet. I think of a long-ago party such as the one I'm helping to host today. An important guest was expected, one who had never graced that home before and maybe never would again. When the visitor arrived, one hostess served with gusto, growing more and more resentful of her sister, who chose instead to soak in the presence of their prestigious company. It’s worth examining Luke 10:38-42, where Jesus rebukes Martha, the complainer, and commends Mary, the listener: Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore, tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” May each of us put the Savior at the top of our Christmas list this holiday season!

Opposite of Wishing: Morning Star Prayer by Joan Leotta Early morning often finds me lightly treading down my driveway in search of the morning paper. As I return to my door, I raise my eyes for one last glimpse of the waning moon and often catch the morning star bursting with glory in the pre-dawn sky before the blazing sun hides her away. While of course I know the rhyme That claims night's first star for wishing I claim this bright morning star, last glory of the night, first star of day even before the sun shows her face, I find it more a reassurance than a whimsy maker a reminder of God's daily grace. So instead of wishing on this star, on the morning star I give thanks for what God is giving me— another day to plot my path along His map's coordinates; another twenty-four hours to celebrate goodness in my life by showing love to others. Morning star is for gratitude

The Greatest Gift by Norma C. Mezoe Five dollars for a Christmas gift! It was almost too good to be true, but that’s what my brother told me he had paid for my present. During my childhood years in the 1940s, my family’s income was limited. Our needs were met, but luxuries were few. That’s why I was excited about my brother’s gift. Each day before Christmas, I picked up the small square box wrapped in last year’s smoothed-out paper and give it a shake. What could it be? Finally, Christmas Day arrived, and I could at last unwrap that wonderful gift. Can you imagine my disappointment when I discovered a trinket worth far less than my brother had promised me? He had misled me about the actual cost. In Old Testament scriptures, prophets of long ago wrote of a most precious Gift which God would give to the world. This Gift is described in Isaiah 9:6 as, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. It would be a gift of righteousness and unearned grace. When this Gift, Jesus Christ, arrived, he was all that God through the prophets had promised. Unlike my present of long ago, this Gift had an unfathomable price –free to all who will, through faith, accept Him. Romans 6:23 states, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. As we rush about buying gifts during this beautiful Christmas season, may we pause to thank our God for his free gift of love and salvation. And as we decorate our homes with tinsel, glitter and pine-scented greenery, may we also decorate our hearts with “Welcome, Lord Jesus.”

Dashing Christmas by Sharmelle Olson We'll have a Dashing Christmas this year filled with not just presents... but God's presence. That brings quite a bit of Christmas cheer in these spectacular moments. A Dashing Christmas here we come with splendid time with our family in this wonderful, beautiful dome which makes everything blessed. A dashing Christmas Blessing is coming your way as he praises our families for their gatherings in God's grateful spaces.

The Ghosts of Christmas Past Come to Dinner by Lisa Radcliff I’m pretty sure my family is like most families. Growing up, we did all the usual holiday stuff—decorating the house with a crèche that included a wise man whose head had been glued back on, putting up a Christmas tree, hanging a wreath on the front door (and rehanging it every time the door was closed a little too hard), and balancing plastic candles on the window sills. We would pick up my favorite great aunt from the train station a few days before Christmas. Her sisters always introduced her the same way, “This is my sister, Lucy, who never married.” She never seemed to mind the label and always had a smile and dollar bill for every child in her circumference. We went to the Christmas Eve service and sang Silent Night, as we switched on our battery-operated candles. I would go to sleep that night with the window candle still burning, casting a warm, quiet glow across my room, as I drifted off to sleep in heavenly peace. And then Christmas morning came. My mother wouldn’t let my sister and I downstairs until she, my grandmother, and great aunt were ready—teeth brushed and everything. I think they dragged it out as long as possible. That’s where the heavenly peace ended. We raced down the stairs, ripping our stockings from where they had been hung with care. Then off to the tree, diving into the pile of presents waiting there. We enjoyed our gifts for a short time before the rest of the family arrived. Then the real chaos ensued. As they burst through the door, it was like a marching band was performing in our living room. More gifts were exchanged before getting to the biggest event of the day—Christmas dinner. The ham and sweet potatoes were passed around the table, as the conversation reached decibels which threatened to shatter the water glasses. Laughter punctuated the breaks in conversation. Then came the oohs and ahhs over my mother’s apple and lemon meringue pies. The ghosts showed up as we scarfed down pie. It would start innocently enough. Someone would ask a simple question, “What year did Vince retire?” And that’s all it took. The answer was, “Well, Mary died in ’78, and he was still working, and Ike died in ’81, and he was retired then. So, around ’79-’80.” Every event in our family’s life was marked on the timeline of dead relatives. The ghosts naturally brought with them skeletons. And things got interesting. It seemed that each generation remembered events slightly differently, but the ghosts remained the same. And with each passing generation, the ghosts and their stories grew. During one gathering, the conversation turned to Mom’s new thyroid medication. She said, “Auntie Alma took this medication.” Auntie Alma had died in her 5’s, around my 16th birthday. “Oh, I didn’t know that.” “Yeah, she would still be on it if she had lived her whole life.” There was a pause before I said, “Mom, you know, when she died, she did live her whole life.” Another pause and everyone burst into uncontrolled laughter.

My generation was determined not to mark our life events by the deaths of our relatives, but we just can’t help it. Jason was born the year Aunt Edna died. Lori got married the year Mom and Aunt Harriet died. But now those conversations end with a chuckle and “if she had lived her whole life.” We’ll get together this Christmas and all the ghosts of Christmas past will join us around the dinner table. I can’t wait to say, “Mom would be 85 this year, if she had lived her whole life.” And my sister and cousins will laugh and chime in with their own dead relative events. And we’ll all enjoy a little more pie and sweet memories of family ghosts. Maybe we aren’t like most families after all. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Real Christmas Joy by Kathleen McCauley At some point in our lives we all experience this and ask these questions: Where is my Joy – of Christmas – of Advent? Where is the Joy? That which I knew for so long, for all my Christmas’s past. Joy that embodied motion and elation. It was abundant, infinite – but now as maturity takes hold, it seems fleeting. It feels like a void, a vacuum, instead of exuberance. I began to fear joy was gone, but I realized I did not recognize its mature look and behaviors. It’s deeper now – like a deep river which runs quietly, contrasting to the youthful brook which rambles in its beauty. Joy finds it’s fullness in the calm – like the calm of the Silent Night. It is now a resilient JOY not one fleeting like in my youth. Find more vintage sheet music at Vintage Verses

5 Character Traits for Blending Family Traditions by R. G. Sharpe She was a master of the arts when it came to wrapping Christmas presents. Each gift was beautifully wrapped. Prints were centered with ribbons and bows adorning the surprise waiting inside the box. Instead of the traditional Christmas tree, a beautiful arrangement was made in front of the faux fireplace that had been seasonally decorated. It was a sight to behold! It was evident to all that Mom loved Christmas. Let me rephrase this: she loved Jesus. She loved to celebrate His birth and demonstrated her love by putting excellence into everything she touched. It was her way. As a devout woman of faith, I wish I could say my life has always been as neatly packaged as those precious gifts. Instead, blending a family of seven often feels like I’m reusing wrinkled wrapping paper and taping the wrong ends of the box upside down. For families who have experienced divorce and remarriage, bringing two families together can be a challenge. If you are a mom, like me, struggling to make ends meet and striving to blend your beloved family without frayed ribbons or crushed bows, I have words of encouragement for you: life isn’t perfect and doesn’t have to be. For all of us trying to make this a memorable Christmas, perhaps shifting our focus from the cares of this world to building our character is more helpful than perfection.

Here are five character traits for blending family traditions that will transform your holiday season this year: 1. Resilience – In order to carry out the Lord’s plan and purpose for her life, young Mary had to lower her expectations and accept change as a way of life. Imagine the conflicting emotions she likely experienced: honor at being chosen by the Lord to carry the Promised One, fear of being divorced from her betrothed, exhaustion from traveling for the census, anxiety in finding a place for childbirth, joy at Jesus’ arrival, and disappointment at never having a formal wedding celebration. Mary’s obedience to the Lord meant she had to be resilient and strong in the face of unmet expectations. Facing the holidays after divorce and remarriage may be difficult for a while. Realizing there will be changes and preparing for them will make this season more enjoyable. 2. Compromise – According to Hebrews 12:14 (NLT), we should “work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.” It can be hard giving up cherished holiday traditions when life is altered due to divorce and remarriage. Remember that it’s just as hard for your spouse and their children as it is for you and yours. One way to handle this is to make a list of your favorite traditions together and see which ones everyone will enjoy. In fact, use this time to create new family traditions.

For our first Christmas as a blended family we bought all new Christmas stockings for the children. It was something small but meaningful that we can use year after year. 3. Patience – One of the biggest struggles we face is sharing the holidays with the other parents. If you have a blended family, you will understand the hassle and, at times, the frustration. Sometimes plans change at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances – a child’s illness or the weather, for example – and it takes patience and understanding to reset our sails. Just as Mary had to travel to Bethlehem in her last trimester of pregnancy and give birth in a stable, so we must be willing to lay down our lives (our wishes, our plans, and our traditions) for the good of the family. It will be worth it in the end. 4. Flexibility – My husband and I have learned that our immediate family needs come first. We are both divorced with children from our previous marriage, so we deal with custody arrangements on both sides. We have found this sometimes interferes with our extended family obligations. We may have plans with grandparents, aunts, or cousins, but then something arises and those plans have to be altered.

Most of the time this is due to circumstances beyond our control: a sports game or event pops up, a lastminute school project that needs completed for school the next day, an emotional outburst, sibling rivalry, and so on. Hopefully you have a supportive extended family who will understand your family is a priority and be flexible with your change in plans. It may take some time, but eventually they will come around. 5. Communication – I can’t stress this enough: include your children in the plans you are making for the family’s holiday events. Let them make suggestions and write them down. Use the ones that are feasible for your family. Also notify your extended family of any changes in custody arrangements. This is important when schedules change year to year. Also keep in mind that while Christmastime should be a joyful season, it often raises anxiety in children who have been through a divorce. They will recall memories of past Christmases when both of their parents were still together. Be aware and sensitive to their emotional needs and address them, even if it means being late to a party. You may feel guilty (we do), but remember your children need your presence more than the presents.

Willing Hearts by Norma C. Mezoe And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:16 (NIV) Several months before Christmas, Connie lost her job. A single mother of two whose husband had deserted her, she wondered how she would pay her rent. For Connie, it seemed that Christmas might be a heartbreaking time. Then, two weeks before Christmas, a stranger appeared at the door. After being assured that she had the correct address, the woman thrust an envelope into Connie’s hand and quickly left. When she opened the envelope, Connie discovered $250 tucked inside. It was enough money to pay the rent and also to purchase a few inexpensive presents for her young children. God chooses many ways to meet people’s needs. Very often, it is through touching the hearts of others to reach out. As God speaks to us today, will we respond to his leading? Perhaps we will be asked to send a card, visit a shut-in, or to give money. Or perhaps we will be asked to listen to someone’s problems or to pass along a smile. Will we be like Connie’s caring stranger and respond to God’s leading?

Breaking Down the Walls by Jewell Utt Scripture reading: Ephesians 2:13-15 Recently, I spoke at a retreat in Vermont. I attempted to prepare four meaningful sessions to an audience I didn't know, but God knew. My husband and I were invited to stay at the pastor's home instead of a hotel. It turned into a weekend where I learned more than I taught and received more than I gave. I saw Christ revealed in ways the walls we build up around ourselves prevent.

To begin, the retreat was attended by the rich and poor: in spirit, biblical knowledge, finances, and life experiences. I witnessed women, whose lives would rarely cross, praising the Lord together. Recovered addicts, church goers, community members, and rehab residents stood side-by-side, with no walls or haughtiness between them. They understood Christ is not a respecter of persons and that He loves and values each one. Experiencing the presence of God in this tangible way made me grateful He brought me along for the ride. I was humbled by His mighty power. The second blessing was to experience the ministry of the pastor and his wife. These two people worked so well together serving both their church and community. We were welcomed into their home as naturally as if we were family. It was evident they both had the gift of hospitality and the effects were far reaching. The third blessing came on our last day, when the pastor took us to a Rescue Mission where he volunteers several days a week, despite the long distance from his home. As a result, women from the center attended the retreat. Accepting and being accepted because that was the example set forth by their Shepherd. The message and music fell on soft hearts God had prepared beforehand. The retreat was a great experience, but the Rescue Mission left the deepest impact on me. Seeing how God worked through willing people who build bridges rather than walls was remarkable. The multi-faceted mission is funded and staffed by numerous churches of all denominations. Putting aside their differences enabled them to do a mighty work for a common cause; to reach out into their community and help their fellow man by meeting tangible needs. Christ was not burdened by man-made formality or church ritual, nor should we, especially when we are acting as His hands and feet. As we plan for the holidays, may we keep our hearts and minds open to people outside our circle of comfort.

Home for CHRISTmas by Nells Wasilewski Oh, how I remember that Christmas Eve! I spent one CHRISTmas apart from my parents while they were alive. I was lonely, out of sorts, and determined to be as miserable as I could be. I can’t remember why it was not possible to go to Tennessee that year, but we stayed in Texas. My children were disappointed too. We all walked around with long faces and teary eyes. There was no cheer to be found anywhere. My teenage daughter, Jessica Leigh sighed and lamented about her cousins she would miss seeing. My five-year-old son, Richard, cried for Mama and Papa. Of course we all knew how much we were going to miss Mama’s Christmas dinner. We decorated the house as usual, but there was no magic in the air. Everything looked as dreary as we all felt. Hoping to cheer everyone up, we drove over to Preston Woods Forrest, to see millions of bright Christmas lights. The entire subdivision was decked out in many themes for the season. This was, as a rule, an upbeat time for our family, however this year we failed to get in the spirit with the occasion. Christmas Eve came and we had our usual country ham and homemade biscuits with hot cocoa dinner. We normally did that the week before Christmas Eve, but this year was different, as we were not leaving Texas to go home. Oh, joy I thought soon this travesty of a Christmas will be over, and things will be back to normal. When dinner was finished, it was time to open gifts. No one was very enthusiastic about doing so, except Richard. He jumped around the tree and squealed with excitement. “Oh, boy,” he cried out, “We are going to open gifts, and we get to stay at our house and play with our new stuff. We’re staying home, and I love my home and family,” he said with glee. His eyes were wide with anticipation. Richard’s excitement was contagious. The three of us looked around at each other with tears welling in our eyes, and before we knew it, we were singing Christmas songs, and laughing together. Things became a bit brighter as cheer filled our hearts. We were home! We had everything we needed. It took a five-yea- old child to remind us of why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. It is about expectation and the wonder of Jesus’ birth and the love we have for each other. CHRISTmas morning we were gathered around the tree; Santa had definitely been there. Smiles replaced long faces and eyes twinkled with magic and the promise of Jesus. We had overcome disappointment and turned what started out to be the worst Christmas into the best CHRISTmas ever!

Something to think about and pray about this Christmas season . . .

Destiny Rescue

Destiny Rescue exists to Rescue, Restore, Protect, Empower and be a Voice for the Voiceless. Our vision is to see the sexual exploitation and trafficking of children end in our lifetime. Rescue the sexually exploited and enslaved Destiny Rescue rescues children from red light districts, brothels and sexually abusive situations. Restore the abused Destiny Rescue provides rescued children the intensive care and love they need to recover from the traumatic effects of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. We provide them medical help, counseling, schooling, vocational training and all daily needs required to be integrated back into society successfully. In addition, we provide a safe protective place for them to live, grow and experience the unconditional love of God – a place where they can feel valued and esteemed; a place where they can be kids again. Protect the vulnerable Destiny Rescue offers programs that help at-risk children and families reduce their children’s chances of being sold, lured or trafficked into the sex-trade. Empower the poor Destiny Rescue believes in empowering the poor and giving them a hand up in life, not a handout. Our philosophy and goal is to help them become self-sustaining through one of our many assistance programs. Simply put, we don’t want to create a welfare system where children and families become dependent on our organization, but rather have a chance to become profitable through hard work and common sense. Be a Voice for the voiceless Destiny Rescue is committed to being a voice for the sexually exploited, vulnerable and poor who, in most cases, can’t speak up for themselves. We believe everyone has a right to be heard, especially those crying out for justice. Many times they are overlooked or tossed aside by society, but we are determined to be their voice – motivating and inspiring influencers to get involved and make a difference in the lives of the voiceless.

When Ponnleu* came to Cambodia’s Restore Home, she felt relieved to finally be in a safe place. She was 16 years old when she entered our care after working at a karaoke bar for some time. She said it was a scary place to be, but felt she had no choice.

Broken to Beautiful An Empowered Life Ponnleu’s Story

Ponnleu, like many Khmer girls in the sex trade, felt responsible for her family and wanted to provide for them as they were drowning in debt and making unwise decisions. Even though she didn’t understand right away why Restore Home would take her in, she felt sure she could trust the Destiny Rescue staff. At first she was quiet and had very low self-esteem, but our staff encouraged her and told her she was beautiful and didn’t have to pretend to be someone she wasn’t. By the time she left our program, she saw herself as valuable and capable; she believed in her ability to take care of herself and to continue making good life choices. She also realized that she can’t make her family change and that it’s not solely her responsibility to support them - this was freeing for her as she now sees that she doesn’t have to be complicit in their poor choices. Ponnleu now hopes to help them by setting a good example of how to live well. Ponnleu only completed formal education through Grade Two, but she didn’t want to go back to school. She was interested in learning to sew, so we encouraged her in that area. With her natural talent and determination to succeed, Ponnleu learned very quickly, though because she hadn’t completed her schooling, some of the math involved in sewing was challenging for her. But Ponnleu put in extra work, asking for help from the teacher and studying math while the other girls played. Now Ponnleu works for Outland Denim, an Australian organization that makes jeans and other denim products in a sewing workshop near Restore Home. She is living independently and shares a rented room with a friend from work. Ponnleu is an excellent role model for other girls in her village, and on her reintegration day in August, the village leader commended her for her hard work to create a better future for herself. She prays often for her family as they are still struggling, but Ponnleu is very happy with her independence. She feels grown-up and responsible because she makes a good income and can take care of herself and help her family. She has goals to become a shift-supervisor at Outland Denim, and we are so proud of Ponnleu’s determination and growth. *Name changed to protect her identity

To learn more about Destiny Rescue and how you can be involved in their ministry, visit their website at

Breaking Tradition by Mary Dolan Flaherty Last Christmas I stopped doing something I had done my whole life. My mother did it before me and hers before her. In fact, almost every person who celebrates Christmas probably has the same tradition and puts it into practice without fail. Every child looks forward to it. But last year, I decided to end it. I didn’t put up a tree. “You have to have a tree!” my son exclaimed. “I don’t have to do anything,” I replied. “Especially since you’re a grown man. You want a tree, you put your own up. I don’t want one.” It’s not that I didn’t want the responsibility of watering the thing or cleaning pine needles off the floor. If that was the case, I’d lug the artificial tree out of its box in the basement. It wasn’t even that I didn’t want to take the time to decorate it. I’d switched over from macaroni wreath-like picture frames encircling the awkward school photo to red bows and silver balls a few years ago. But that seemed cold and sterile, too much like a retail store. It was all those things and none of them. The truth is, I have more memories of unhappy Christmases than I do of joyful ones. Holidays that were filled with those closest to me—the ones who were supposed to share my joy—letting me down. Pictures with phony smiles that tried to hide the pain were all too available for me to pick up and remember year after year. My absent father. My lonely California Christmas. My ex-husband holding a can of beer in his hand and a child in his lap. I can look at those pictures and relive the exact emotions, and one more Christmas seems too difficult to endure. And there’s always a tree in the background. “How would you feel if we didn’t have a tree this year?” I asked my husband. “I have something else in mind.” He didn’t care. He was on-board with the project and only wanted me to be happy. I decided to put up a ladder instead. I’d seen a picture and was determined to re-create it in my living room. And there wasn’t enough space for both. The response was underwhelming. “A ladder?” People expected a tree, not a ladder. “Where will you put the presents?” I found an old wooden stepladder at a garage sale and painted it red. I bought wood and had it cut into five sections of varying lengths and painted them white. When I placed the sections of wood on the ladder rungs, they formed the shape of a tree. And I now had somewhere to put all those porcelain houses I collect that I call my village. I added some batting and white lights. I had created a Christmas ladder-shelftree! There was even plenty of floor space for gifts. The family loved it. The absence of a Christmas tree removed a lot of unwelcomed sadness. It’s not just a symbol for me. Or maybe it is just that. A Christmas tree in my home had become a painful reminder of times I’d rather forget. Sure, there were great holidays—lots of them. They weren’t all bad. But when I figured out the trigger to the great sadness that overtook me every year, I was able to break tradition and create a new one. And finally celebrate—and feel—those things that our Savior brought for all: Joy. Love. Hope. Peace.

by Carol Peterson I confess I didn’t get around to reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation until about 12 years ago. Getting through several thousand years of people and places with names we can’t pronounce is daunting. The first year I committed to reading the Bible in a year, I gave myself a break and spent that year reading Eugene Peterson’s contemporary Bible interpretation, The Message. Admittedly, The Message is not a scholarly translation, but the reading was enjoyable and although I still stumbled over some of those names, I didn’t stumble over the understanding. The next year I returned to reading my tried and true NIV Bible. It took nearly twice as long to finish but I was no longer daunted. I thus went on to reread the NIV version each year for the next ten years. Last year, a woman in our Bible study group read aloud from her New Living Translation. It felt fresh and gentle to my ears. Therefore, I spent this year reading through my own New Living Translation. I could not ignore the new understanding I received from reading the same Scripture with slightly different words. Nor could I ignore how much I enjoyed it. I had often heard of the value of reading Scripture in more than one translation. I’ve even given that advice to others struggling with Bible reading. I am happy to report, I have finally followed my own advice. And it has proven to be a wonderful experience. In preparation for 2018, I started digging through my bookshelf and found over a dozen versions of the Bible sitting patiently on those shelves. Enough to keep me filled with new understandings and increased love of Scripture for many years to come. My book recommendation for Carol’s Book Club this month is to read the Bible each day from beginning to end. You might find, however that varying the version you read will help you read with excited expectation at what new application you will come to understand. God does not fail to surprise. EDITOR’S NOTE: We have recently discovered the She Reads Truth Bible which is also a great option for starting off the New Year with a Bible reading plan. Now available from RUBY’S Reading Corner.

Silent Night, Holy Night.... Searching for Peace this Christmas by Jeanne Doyon I feel heavenly peace today as I watch the snow fall outside my window while listening to the hiss of the woodstove. Add a cup of tea and a copy of Jan Karon’s Mitford stories like A Light in the Window and it’s so COZY. Like the Mitford folks, we long for family and belonging in a gentler setting. Yet, the holidays can be a difficult time for those who have lost loved ones or have divisions in their family. We can look at the quiet scenes on Christmas cards and read idyllic Christmas stories and wonder how we missed that life. Life isn't always peaceful. Some would say it’s never peaceful. Yet, Christmas reminds us of the Prince of Peace who came to reconcile us to God. When we have room for Him, peace reigns even in the midst of our chaos. Prepare Him Room December is here and we are knocking on the door of a new year. I’ve done a bit of holiday planning—in my head at least. I got my first Christmas card in the mail—a telltale sign that I’m not prepared for Christmas at all, at least in the practical sense. December can bring out the angst in people. Rushing, driving, shopping, planning…feeling like they’ll never catch up. The neighbor’s house has been lit like K-Mart’s parking lot for days and I haven’t managed to put my artificial wreath on the door. A friend has been baking cookies and putting them in the freezer since before Thanksgiving and I’m trying to figure out what to make for dinner tonight. I realize comparisons are not healthy. I am not my neighbor. I am not my friend. I am me. And Christmas, My Style is what I am doing this year. I may not be sending hundreds of Christmas cards (just a few mailed to date) or baking all kinds of yummy treats (not good for the waistline), but I’m simplifying and hoping not to rush through December.

The first Christmas was like that too. For hundreds of years the prophets proclaimed and set the stage for the Messiah’s coming—their words said to follow a star in the east; a baby to be born in Bethlehem; born of a virgin; found in a manger. His name will be Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace—God with us. Emmanuel. I wonder if they were ready for His arrival. Did life cloud the signs? If the events we read about in Luke and Matthew are any indication, stress was a problem then too. Mary, pregnant out of wedlock; Joseph wanting to divorce her; the stares from the village; traveling to Bethlehem for the census; no room in the inn for Mary to give birth. This was definitely not idyllic. In the midst of the chaos, God’s plan unfolded. The shepherds told of heavenly hosts and discovered an infant in a feeding trough just as the angel said. Anna and Simeon recognized Jesus in the temple after his birth. And, Mary pondered all these things in her heart. Jesus. Born as a baby, He lived quietly as a carpenter’s son until the fullness of time. Prophets foretold. People waited. Jesus came. And, life went on while Mary and Joseph focused on raising the Son of God. Focusing on Christ in Christmas As I prepare, I’m taking steps to keep my focus simple. Here are a few things I did to keep from allowing the chaos of the Christmas season to take over my life and keep me from pondering all that the birth of Jesus means: Rather than getting caught up in the frantic shopping, I did my gift buying online. This enabled me to ship directly to family members who live out of state. I made some Sugar Cookie and Cranberry Biscotti mixes using mason jars. They look festive and they were fun to put together. These handmade gifts bring a homey feel to my day.

I “wrapped” gifts using festive gift bags and pretty tissue. Not only are they pretty but I can recycle them. My back thanked me when I didn’t need to stand for hours cutting, wrapping, taping and tagging my gift items. And, most importantly, I’m reading the Christmas story slowly so I can ponder its message. I am being intentional, making room for the unexpected and watching for His wonders in the midst of my day. I may not live in Mitford, but peace can fall fresh on me when I take time to enjoy the small delights of the season. And my heart, when not cluttered with the unnecessary, can prepare room to focus on Him. As I focus on keeping Christ the center this Christmas, I am mindful that He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He brings Light to a dark world and the hope of eternity. Like Mary, I want to ponder the treasures of the Christmas story. Jesus came, born as a baby. In our mind we like to keep in the manger, but He came to show us who God is and how much He loves us. He showed forgiveness and grace to all He met.

And, then went to the cross because we needed a Savior, a perfect lamb, sacrificed once for all to cover sin with His blood. His purpose for coming was to die. John 3:16 tells us, God loved us so much, He sent His Son, and anyone who believes who He is will have eternal life. Christmas is a perfect time to ask the questions: Do you know Him? Have you made room for Him in your life? He is the One who brings Peace to a chaotic world and an unsettled heart.

The Perfect Gift by Norma C. Mezoe Lord Jesus, Holy Child, Help me to dwell more on Your coming and why--to worry less about the presents I must buy. Remind me, Lord Jesus, of why You came to this earth. Touch my soul to marvel at Your miraculous birth.

Vintage Book Treasure Hunt: Have Yourself a Dickens of a Christmas by Kathryn Ross Charles Dickens. A name synonymous with Christmas and the staple of literary characters related to the season: Ebenezer Scrooge, Jacob Marley, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim. I have my collected editions of A Christmas Carol displayed for the festivities this year, as always. In a quiet moment during the holidays, I steal aside to my reading corner with a cuppa tea or hot chocolate, and browse through the varied editions: from pop-up book to annotated and illustrated to original handwritten facsimile to antique volumes. Dickens is credited with penning the imagery of the idyllic Victorian celebration of Christmas, a day he took great joy in with his own family. His accounts in many of his works include similar recordings of wassail bowls, after-dinner games, pantomimes, dancing, gift-giving, and the warmth of family gatherings. Victorian readers first experienced a Dickens Christmas in the book that propelled him to world-wide fame: The Pickwick Papers. Published in 1836-1837 as a monthly serial narrative filled with trademark character types, settings, satirical wit, and humor, Dickens introduced literacy and a love of literature to the lower classes. His accurate depictions of life lived in the streets, in debtor’s prisons, in middle class homes, and among the upper crust in society appealed to the masses, be they high or low-born. Societal injustice did not escape the sharpness of his pen which sketched, through story, harsh truths as it attempted to resolve them through profound Christian charity. The world at the time, for all its error, still functioned within a biblical worldview. High and low-born happily plunked down a half-penny for a periodical to follow the continued exploits of Mr. Pickwick and his intrepid trio of gentlemen friends making their way through the countryside, while keeping a sporting journal of their epic travels and misadventures. Reading aloud Dickens’ work among the illiterate stirred desires to become self-proficient in the skill. Installments were eagerly anticipated, and fans developed throughout Britain and across the sea in America. It is of consequential note to recognize that Dickens never wrote “down” to his audiences. His elevated language and vocabulary would not be altered for a perceived target audience with little literary prowess. For instance, the premise of The Pickwick Papers regards the noble Samuel Pickwick, Esquire, esteemed leader of the Society of the Pickwick Club, who determined it to be appropriate to “entertain a lively sense of the inestimable benefits which must inevitably result from carrying the speculations of that learned man into a wider field, from extending his travels, and consequently enlarging his sphere of observation; to the advancement of knowledge, and the diffusion of learning.” The quoted excerpt above is only half of a full sentence made up of 94 words in Dickensian splendor. A loquacious writer, to be sure, and with good reason. His works were published in weekly periodicals, a chapter at a time; his payment forthcoming per word. At the conclusion of the series, all the chapters were bound into one volume and sold as a novel in bookstores.

Six years after his mad success with The Pickwick Papers, he penned a five-chapter ditty as a special serial published in November and December of 1843, A Christmas Carol. It has been a recurring holiday favorite, falling out of vogue only during the traumatic years of World War I and the heyday of the 1920s. It gained an invigorated new life in the 1930s when it was first made into a film and the world rediscovered Victorian England and Charles Dickens, once again. However, I share here his first descriptions of Christmas in The Pickwick Papers. He enjoyed a generous use of personification even then, referencing Christmas as a living person, rather than a mere day or event. This would be thoroughly explored in A Christmas Carol in the various Spirits of Christmas. In fact, it is a very biblical way of presenting it, since Christmas is the embodiment of Jesus Christ, God made flesh and dwelling among us—the Gift of God sent to repair lost mankind from the death penalty of sin. Christmas is cause for remembrance and celebration! And Dickens pens nostalgia and festivity in such a way that you are drawn into the action at once, with every sense tickled and delighted. Here’s a small portion of the Christmas chapter from The Pickwick Papers—in which even the title of the chapter appears to be worth at least a tuppence: Chapter XXVIII A Good-Humoured Christmas Chapter Containing an Account of a Wedding, and Some Other Sports beside Which Although In Their Way, Even As Good Customs as Marriage Itself, Are Not Quite So Religiously Kept Up, In These Degenerate Times Christmas was close at hand in all his bluff and hearty honesty; it was the season of hospitality, merriment, and open-heartedness; the old year was preparing, like an ancient philosopher, to call his friends around him, and amidst the sound of feasting and revelry, to pass gently and calmly away. Gay and merry was the time . . . And numerous indeed are the hearts to which Christmas brings a brief season of happiness and enjoyment. How many families whose members have been dispersed and scattered far and wide, in the restless struggles of life, are then re-united, and meet once again in that happy state of companionship and mutual good-will, which is a source of such pure and unalloyed delight, and one so incompatible with the cares and sorrows of the world, that the religious belief of the most civilized nations, and the rude traditions of the roughest savages, alike number it among the first joys of a future state of existence, provided for the blest and happy! How many old recollections, and how many dormant sympathies, does Christmas time awaken!

. . . Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days, that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the sailor and the traveler, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home! . . . When they were all tired of blind-man’s bluff, there was a great game at snap-dragon, and when fingers enough were burned with that, and all the raisins gone, they sat down by the huge fire of blazing logs to a substantial supper, and a mighty bowl of wassail, something smaller than an ordinary wash-house copper, in which the hot apples were hissing and bubbling with a rich look, and a jolly sound, that were perfectly irresistible. “This,” said Mr. Pickwick, looking round home, “this is, indeed, comfort.” “Our invariable custom,” replied Mr. Wardle. “Everybody sits down with us on Christmas eve, as you see them now—servants and all; and here we wait till the clock strikes twelve, to usher Christmas in, and wile away the time with forfeits and old stories. Trundle, my boy, rake up the fire.” Up flew the bright sparks in myriads as the logs were stirred, and the deep red blaze sent forth a rich glow, that penetrated into the furthest corner of the room, and cast its cheerful tint on every face. “Come,” said Wardle, “a song—a Christmas song. I’ll give you one, in default of a better.” “Bravo,” said Mr. Pickwick. “Fill up,” cried Wardle. “It will be two hours good, before you see the bottom of the bowl through the deep rich colour of the wassail. Fill up all round, and now for the song.” Thus saying, the merry old gentleman, in a good, round, sturdy voice, commenced without more ado— A Christmas Carol I care not for Spring; on his fickle wing Let the blossoms and buds be borne: He woos them amain with his treacherous rain, And he scatters them ere the morn. An inconstant elf, he knows not himself, Or his own changing mind an hour, He’ll smile in your face, and, with wry grimace, He’ll wither your youngest flower. Let the Summer sun to his bright home run, He shall never be sought by me: When he’s dimmed by a cloud I can laugh aloud, And care not how sulky he be; For his darling child is the madness wild

That sports in fierce fever’s train; And when love is too strong, it don’t last long, As many have found to their pain. A mild harvest night, by the tranquil light Of the modest and gentle moon, Has a far sweeter sheen for me, I ween, Than the broad and unblushing noon. But every leaf awakens my grief, As it lieth beneath the tree; So let Autumn air be never so fair, It by no means agrees with me. But my song I troll out, for Christmas stout, The hearty, the true, and the bold; A bumper I drain, and with might and main Give three cheers for this Christmas old. We’ll usher him in with a merry din That shall gladden his joyous heart, And we’ll keep him up while there’s bite or sup, And in fellowship good, we’ll part. In his fine honest pride, he scorns to hide One jot of his hard-weather cars; They’re no disgrace, for there’s much the same trace On the cheeks of our bravest tars. Then again I sing ‘till the roof doth ring, And it echoes from wall to wall— To the stout old weight, fair welcome to-night, As the King of the Seasons all! This song was tumultuously applauded, for friends and dependents make a capital audience; and the poor relations especially were in perfect ecstasies of rapture. Again was the fire replenished, and again went the wassail round. ******* And again, as we welcome Christmas some 180 years after Mr. Pickwick and his party joined the Wardle family for Christmas festivities in an English country manor house, the hope of the season burns bright, warming our hearts from the cold grit of current events like the crackling fire in Wardle’s hearth, saying, “Peace on earth, good will to men. God IS on His throne and all will be righted in this weary world.” Want to hear more? Visit Miss Kathy at and click on the PODCASTS page, where you’ll find the link to this article audio dramatization in Episode #22 plus don’t miss more Miss Kathy podcast audio stories for Christmas provided in the links in the post. Great resources for teaching and learning our American Christian History.

All about Love by Cynthia Knisley

Shambles and brambles, Rambles and gambles. Life is a curvy, precarious ride. With families untied, old ways set aside, We bumble along and take things in stride. Alas……the outcome need not be so bad. Fresh ideas, new ventures, and friends to be had. When LOVE, above all, rules over the maze We find that God’s blessings bring joy to our days. Many of us are struck by the sadness that comes with divorce, broken relationships, and the passing of loved ones. Loss comes in many forms and is especially difficult during the holiday season, when the world projects smiles and brightness. Many just feel like crying----not knowing where they will sit down for Christmas dinner, who will or won’t send greeting cards, how to spread out the small pile of gifts under the tree to seem abundant. They may worry about being alone at one place while the rest of the family is together somewhere else. The traditional Norman Rockwell image of Christmas happiness is nowhere to be found. For me, it took a long time. Suddenly one day I realized that joy is possible, even in the face of painful loss--- the gritty stuff of life. Joy appears when the mold of convention is broken. It grows out of the freedom to move beyond old expectations and try something new. It is there for us as a gift from God, if we only relax and wait expectantly to discover it.

By cutting loose the strings that kept pulling me back to the past, I realized that it might be a good thing to go to an Indian restaurant for Thanksgiving or drive eight hours to be with a stranded friend who couldn’t come home for the holidays…….to volunteer at a homeless shelter on Christmas Eve or ring in the New Year while quietly sewing a quilt for a new baby in the family… plan a potluck supper with others who are also navigating a pathway of change in their lives. My new standard became love, rather than tradition. I began to make decisions based simply on the most loving thing to do, whether for family, friend, stranger, or myself, and suddenly a new protocol had been established. Here find a few hints:          

Reach outward rather than inward. Do things differently. Act more and think less. Be creative. Plan ahead. Initiate a service project with a few friends. Volunteer to help decorate the church or local library. Bake cookies for an elderly neighbor. Look for simple joys each day and give thanks. Pray more.

Yes, a longing for former days may return from time to time, but release from old expectations that can no longer be fulfilled brings about an amazing change. A new, healthier outlook sprouts up with its blessings of freedom to decide, opportunities to think creatively, and focus on love. After all, God’s gift to us at Christmas was all about love. Wishing you happiness this Christmas---and new, unexpected joys!

I Did It My Way … BAD Idea! by Shara Bueler-Repka “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him”— James 1: 5. The Lord speaks to us in many ways: His Word (the Bible), dreams, visions, a “still small voice,” and on the rare occasion, audibly—just to name a few. He also “speaks” through everyday circumstances. He taught me a thing or two through this latter type of communication. My husband Bruce and I rode with our friend, Bo, for one of the ranches in northern Nevada. Our job was to help drive six bulls across the pastures, through a gate, and “kick” them up a canyon. We gathered the bulls and drove them along the fence line. “Can you get the gate?” Bo called over the sagebrush. “Sure,” I called back, trotting my horse to the gate. Dismounting, I tried to unlatch it. Two wire loops, attached to the main fence, were wrapped around the end post of the gate—one over the top, one around the bottom. Simple, right? I thought so. Besides, we have this kind of gate all over Texas. Trying to pop off the top loop first, I grabbed hold of the post and pushed ... nothing. I pushed as hard as I could ... still nothing. Then I commenced to pulling that post ... nothing! Frustrated and scolding myself for getting soft in the muscle, I’m not sorry to say, I also called for angelic help. The urgency? Six HUGE bulls were trotting up the trail toward me, and that gate wasn’t budging. As the minutes ticked by, Bo figured there was something wrong and sent Bruce to help me. Bruce stepped off his horse, grabbed a hold of a metal lever (that I didn’t see), and cleanly and simply popped it up—releasing the loop around the top of the post. Gate open, the bulls charged through, and we chased them into the canyon. I had to chuckle at myself. Apparently, this handy metal lever is called a “Lady’s Aid”—this advantageous invention was lost on me!

As we rode back to the ranch, the Lord spoke to me in that still, small voice of His, revealing a couple of lessons to be learned: Lesson One: sometimes, when told to do something, we jump in and tackle the project the way we’ve always done it or how we think it should be done. After all, from a glance, we assume the situation resembles what we’ve dealt with in the past, and we use the same old strategy that worked before. The problem is, we assumed. We try to accomplish the task in our own strength and knowledge. The Lord tries to tell us He has provided a better, easier way. But we’re so focused on our opinion, we ignore Him and end up making it harder on ourselves. (Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”) He told me, “You cannot do what I’ve called you to do in your own strength. You may succeed a little (I did get the wire loop pushed up near the top of the post), but you’ll never get the job fully done.” Lesson Two: unity. I couldn’t figure out that gate, but Bruce could because he had the knowledge. We need to let others help us—there are no Lone Rangers in the Kingdom of God. We are all called to uplift, encourage, and exhort one another, helping in each other’s destinies. (1 Corinthians 12:1-11) Thank you, Lord, for caring enough to speak our language when we need a little “tunin’ up!”

Shine for Jesus by Jennifer Workman Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16, NKJV).” Light is a wonderful and effective energy source because it allows us to light our houses, churches, schools and various other buildings. Without it, it would be impossible for us to maneuver in darkness or find our way. It also brings with it a happier outlook and is usually synonymous with positive energy, happiness, joy, and hope, whereas, darkness implies impending doom, wickedness and evil. As we take an extensive look at “light” and its meaning, it would be foolish not to look at the biblical interpretation of what light means. The Bible tells us fervently to “let our lights so shine before men, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16, NKJV).” The “light” that the Bible talks about I believe is letting our lives be exemplary of righteous living and one that is pleasing to God. And, also one that incorporates daily prayer, quiet time and communication with the Heavenly Father, likewise, how we conduct ourselves amongst people , exemplifying love to all, walking in forgiveness and otherwise. Not only are these things indispensable, but we additionally make it our focus to evangelize, witness and win others to Christ. People need a relationship with God and we need to appropriately represent God through our lives so we can be good examples to draw others to him. So again, what are some ways in which we shine for Jesus? 1.) Living spiritually transformed lives through the work of the Holy Spirit. 2.) Walking in Love and Forgiveness towards others. 3.) Holy in Our Conduct. 4.) Faithfully Evangelizing and witnesses for Jesus. 5.) Spending Time with God through prayer, quiet time, and utilizing other spiritual disciplines. These are various ways in which we grow in Christ daily and are effectively able to let our lives shine for Jesus!

It’s Time!

Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones Book Review by Michele Morin Sure, the angels told the shepherds that Jesus had been born, but when John said, “We beheld His glory,” it would seem that there’s an implicit invitation to use our imaginations a bit, and Sally Lloyd-Jones has accepted that invitation! Song of the Stars pictures the occasion of Jesus’ birth as an evening of breathless anticipation and enthusiastic sharing of the news: “It’s time! It’s time!” Everyone from barn owls to great white whales and “every single blade of grass” makes the announcement, causing me to think, “Yes, this is what the earnest expectation of the creation would really look like — if only we took time to notice.” It’s difficult to say who will be more enthralled with Alison Jay’s “cracked oil” illustrations — tiny lovers of board books or their folk art loving parents. With pointy-headed bears sniffing the air and primitive, squared-off sheep nuzzling their lambs with dreams of The Good Shepherd, Song of the Stars is a delight for the eyes as well as for the heart. The suspense builds with each turn of the page until its resolution in a little shed as the animals gather around the manger and hear the pronouncement: “The One who made us has come to live with us!” Now, there’s enough theology to fill a much larger volume and to overflow into a warm celebration of Advent for any family who is watching the calendar, crossing off the days, and waiting in breathless anticipation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones is now available from RUBY’S Reading Corner

Shopping for inspirational, family-friendly Christmas gifts? Visit

RUBY’S Reading Corner where you will find a selection of Christian books, Bibles, children’s books, and so much more.

His Birth by Susan Paulus Smells from the over-crowded inn are unpleasant: dirty bodies unwashed clothing heavily spiced foods cooking over a smoking fire In the quiet of the stable, the odor becomes even more unpleasant The hush is welcome, The clean straw a place for her baby to be born Silence broken by her moans and finally, by the cries of her newborn. Shepherds doze in the cold countryside sheep settle for the night quiet conversation can be heard above the crackling fire Darkness and silence surrender to the glorious light and song of the angels. Shepherds tremble at the news: Angels tell them “Fear not! The Holy Child - the Savior, the Messiah - is born tonight in the overcrowded village of Bethlehem.” On their knees, they hear God’s heavens ring the angel’s chorus “Glory to God!! Glory to God in the highest! Peace on earth and goodwill to men.” The rocks, the hills, the whole earth – created in the beginning by this Babe – Join to sing glory and praise to their God. In excitement – with noisy anticipation – the shepherds hurry to Bethlehem At the manger, they kneel in worship. These uneducated, unsophisticated men will not wait Anyone who will listen hears the Lord of Life is born Cradling her Newborn, she forgets everything but her love for Him. She forgets the pain. She forgets the odor. She forgets how her little family went from place to place welcomed by no one She considers the heavens Marveling at the light of the brilliant star Her heart full of joy, wonder, expectation, and love She praises God for tonight’s miracle. In the shadows – Trembling in fear and rage – Stands one who knows that though there are many battles ahead The war is over. Jesus Christ – the helpless newborn God-child – is the Victory!

Wintertime Christmas by Alicia Ai Keng Lim Feet sinking... Shoveling through… Waist-high snow-white cotton candy… Pine branches… Scratching a path through blankets of snow… Ringing laughter pierces cold night air… Cars swishing gently… Through crisp layers of ice… The creak of brakes… Engines hum to a halt... Glowing windows... Glittering shiny ornaments... Spiraling round pine needles… Creating Christmas Wonderland on the couch! Watching in wonder… At the busy bustle… Clinking cups and saucers… Round delicious dinners! Finally, the shuffling slish... As gifts are unraveled Flashy wrappers scattered on the floor Mouths agape in delight… Doors swinging shut… To raucous guffaws and tittering giggles… Chatters dwindle but guests linger… Another year and another Christmas...

Thankful for What Didn’t Happen by Toni Samuels When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.– Acts 9:23-25 (ESV) A few months ago, I was in my car waiting for the light to change at an intersection a few blocks from home. After it turned green, I paused a few seconds before driving forward to cross the street. Then, seemingly from out of nowhere, a black SUV barreled through the red light and ended up just a few feet in front of me as I came to a shocked and sudden stop. The driver halted briefly in the middle of the intersection and gave me a sheepish “sorry about that” look. I stared at him in disbelief. Maybe he was texting … maybe he was having a heated argument with someone on his cell phone. Whatever the case, he was completely distracted and drove straight through the red light as if it didn’t exist. Thanking God abundantly for His protection, I drove on and caught the glance of a nearby driver who looked as surprised as I was. As I continued driving, a lovely Monarch butterfly drifted in front of my car. It was an encouraging reminder that despite the chaos of this world, God’s beauty is all around us. We thank God when He grants a petition we’ve been praying for: the salvation of a loved one, a new home or a wonderful new friendship. But what about the things that didn’t happen? A job we didn’t receive, which we later learn would have made us miserable. A relationship we thought would have been a blessing, but later discover it would have been detrimental to our Christian walk. A near-accident on the way to the store. In Acts 9, Saul – later known as Paul – learned about a plot against his life. But because of God’s divine intervention and the ingenuity of his friends, the attack didn’t happen. Paul lived on to write some of the most important books in the New Testament. Thank You, Father, for the many times You’ve granted our requests. And thank You also for what You’ve protected us from, and for denying requests You knew would not be good for us.

The Birthing Room by Norma C. Mezoe No warm soft bed to lay her head when Mary birthed her Son. No doctors in white on that holy night when Mary birthed her Son. But God was there with love to share when Mary birthed His Son.

The Messages of Christmas Are One by Sharon L. Patterson The messages of Christmas are really one: The heart of our Father wrapped in His Son Tucked in the womb of a chosen mother Who would raise him as no other. It is the message of angel’s announcing his birth To shepherds and to kings~ to all on earth. The message is clear and ever so plain Spoken to every age again and again. The message is about the way to become new No matter how checkered the past or deep sin’s hue. The message is not hard to understand; That is the way God had it planned. The messages tell a simple story The messages are rich and full of glory; The messages of Christmas are really one~ The love of God sent to earth~Jesus His Son!

Be sure to read Part 2 of

A Betrayal of Trust Part 3 A Short Story by Donna B. Comeaux

in the November issue of RUBY magazine. A story about friendship, trust, and forgiveness by Donna B. Comeaux

“You meant to tell me? You meant to tell me! It’s a little too late, don’t you think? How ’bout this. How ’bout I leave you to deal with this all by your lying self? How ’bout that? Huh? Hello world! Let me introduce you to Mrs. Sarah Bannister, superwoman of the year. The town’s hero with the powers to handle any and everything all by her lonesome.” Linda smirked. “Hope Hollywood is paying you well for this gig.” Linda shoved the bloody towel in Sarah’s hand and left in a huff. “Linda, stop it.” In a quick about-face, Linda said, “No, you stop it. Best of luck BEST friend. Give me a call before you take your last breath, why don’t you!” “Linda, wait! Please. Linda, don’t do this. I didn’t mean anything by it. I didn’t think you could handle it. I couldn’t handle it!” Linda left Sarah standing in the driveway breathing in fumes of burnt rubber as she violently backed out and went home. For nearly two weeks, Sarah phoned Linda three times a day, but never received a response. She saw her friend once in the grocery store and tried to talk to her, but Linda responded only by saying, “You’re done? Good, cause I’ve got better things to do.” In the course of three weeks, Sarah’s health worsened. Though the cancer was curable, it baffled doctors why Sarah wasn’t responding to treatment. When one of the nurses suggested Sarah might be depressed, the doctor spoke privately with Michael and together they concocted a plan. * * * * * “I know you don’t want to sit outside, honey,” Michael said to Sarah, “but you won’t be out here long. After I spray the kitchen for ants, it’ll only take an hour for the air to clear. I’ll bring you iced tea before I get started.” “Only an hour?” Sarah asked. “That’s it. Now, relax. Soon the kids will be home from soccer practice, so enjoy the peace while you can.” “Well, alright.” “Hi, Mrs. Bannister.”

Startled by the interruption, Sarah looked past Michael and saw a young girl drop her scooter to the ground as she tried to balance a large bouquet in her hand. “Good morning, Helen. Who are those pretty roses for?” “They’re for you.” Helen mounted the steps and placed the roses on a table next to Sarah. “For me? Why would you buy me roses? They look expensive.” “I didn’t buy them,” Helen said. “Then where did you get them? Did your mother buy them?” “Nope. Momma didn’t buy them either. A little birdie told me to deliver them.” Helen snickered. It wasn’t often a ten-year-old was privy to a grownup’s secret. Sarah looked over her shoulder at her husband. “A little birdie, huh?” Michael hunched his shoulders and raised his hands. “Not me. I had nothing to do with it. You might take a look at the card.” “See you, Mrs. Bannister.” “Bye, Helen.” Sarah removed the card and flipped it over several times. It was slightly larger than most and there was writing on every inch of it, in a handwriting Sarah didn’t recognize. There was no logo; no address or phone number. Jesus’ greatest gift to us was the forgiveness of sin. For no man has ever gone a day in his life without sinning against God and mankind. Isn’t it nice to know he’s forgiven you? On the opposite side, someone had scribbled: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Sarah looked behind her and discovered Michael had gone inside the house. If he hadn’t sent the flowers, then who had been so bold, so thoughtful? Once every two weeks thereafter, Michael found an excuse to have Sarah sit on the porch, even on misty days. And each time he did so, little Helen brought a fresh bouquet of roses, reaffirming in her sweet innocent voice that she had no idea who was sending her this gift. She did tell Sarah the florist, with her mother’s permission, paid her ten dollars to deliver them. No doubt whoever was behind this kind gesture wanted to remain anonymous.

Be sure to read Part 4 of “A Betrayal of Trust” by Donna B. Comeaux in the January 2018 issue of RUBY magazine!

God’s Mercies after Suicide: Blessings Woven through a Mother’s Heart by Jean Ann Williams is available from Amazon

New from author Mary Dolan Flaherty

Spectacles of Hope

Defeating Your Couldas, Wouldas, and Shouldas An Allegory

Now available from RUBY’S Reading Corner

Ruby Writing Team Sharon Patterson, retired educator, career military wife, and leader in women's ministry, has written inspirational encouragement in various forms from greeting cards to short stories, poetry, and Bible studies for over thirty years. She has authored three books, and is a contributing author for several of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She and her husband Garry live in Round Rock, Texas. They have three sons and five grandchildren.

Carol Peterson, Author My mission as a writer is to educate, entertain and inspire– children, their teachers and parents, other writers, and readers of all genres. As a children’s writer I try to “Make Learning Fun” by helping busy teachers address curriculum accountability standards, and encouraging other writers to do the same. You can connect with Carol at her blog, Carol Peterson, Author Carol is a member of the Ruby Book Review Team.

Kristie Lynn Beavers grew to love poetry and music by listening to recordings of Longfellow’s poetry and era music during her childhood. She received a Masters of Music Degree in Voice Performance from Middle Tennessee State University and was Music Director of her church for seventeen years. She has also collaborated in the composition of several anthems performed by local churches. Her passions include writing poetry, essays and devotions. Kristie enjoys traveling, spending time with her family and sharing her God given gifts with others.

Norma C. Mezoe began writing after a crisis in her life. She has been a published writer for thirty years. Her writing has appeared in books, devotionals, take-home papers and magazines. She lives in the tiny town of Sandborn, Indiana where she is active in her church as clerk, teacher and bulletin maker. Contact at:

Theresa Begin lives in Northern California, where she was born and raised. She is a Christian who loves her family and says, “I have been blessed with the world’s best parents!” She has three sisters and one brother, as well as 16 beautiful nieces and nephews who “mean the world to me!” She is “differently-abled,” and chooses not to allow her limitations to define her life. She loves to write and share her various projects on her blog, “Shoestring Elegance,” which came about as she discovered that living on a tight budget did not mean compromising on style. “Nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37 NLT

Shara Bueler-Repka is enjoying life as a singer/songwriter/recording artist, freelance writer, and award-winning author. She and her husband, Bruce, live in their living quarters horse trailer and call “home” wherever their rig is parked. Their mail-base, however, is Hallettsville, Texas. She also loves riding/ministering with her husband and their horses (aka The Boys) in the backcountry and writing about God’s grace in the various adventures on the trail less-traveled. Join the fun and be encouraged on their website: and her blog:, or come for a visit on Facebook. Katherine Corrigan I’m the tea drinker, recipe creator, artist, designer, diy’er , shop owner, photographer, friend maker and hug giver at Katherine’s Corner. I am an open minded and spiritual person who strives to always maintain a positive attitude and greet each new day with grace, dignity and gratitude. I am a child of God. I believe love makes a family. I believe there are angels on earth (my Mother is one.) I am proud to be a contributing writer and photographer for the Ruby for Women Christian women’s magazine. Visit me on my blog at Katherine’s Corner.

Mary Dolan Flaherty is a quirky gal who loves to encourage people and make them laugh. She writes and speaks with self-deprecating humor and transparency, saying what most people think but won’t admit. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, whom she affectionately calls Hubbles, and has two grown children and two grand-dogs. Mary enjoys hiking, theatre, music, gardening, and traveling and can be found blogging at Her book, Spectacles of Hope, has recently been published and is available on amazon and from RUBY’S Reading Corner.

Donna B. Comeaux has been writing for the RUBY Magazine ( since 2013. In 2014, Donna wrote devotionals for Hopeful Living, a publication designed to encourage senior citizens, and for Believer Life. Her website is located at: Not only will you find other inspirational stories on her website, you will also find tips for writers, devotionals, and a few of Donna's political views as well. Donna and her husband, Glenn, have two grown sons and eight grandchildren. They reside in Oklahoma.

Kathryn Ross is a writer, speaker, dramatist, and independent publisher at Pageant Wagon Publishing with a mission to nurture the seeds of all good things, innocence, and beauty in the human heart. Her inspiring devotional books for journaling and discussion groups, theatrical scripts for church and school, and storybooks and speaking programs engage young and old with dramatic flair as discipleship tools for homeschool and Christian families, designed to minister to all ages—all at the same time. She lives with her bookseller husband, a storyteller in his own right, and two literary cats. Inspired by the stillness of teatime, birdsong and silent reflection, she allows God’s Word, classic literature, and the arts to inform her words with a splash of old world elegance. Timeless truths leap from the page and the stage through Pageant Wagon Publishing and Productions—Visit her online where she blogs weekly and podcasts monthly at and

Rejetta Morse enjoys writing poetry so she can write about God and how He speaks through nature. Writing poetry is a new found purpose and hobby she discovered over recent years which brings her joy, peace, and encouragement. She also enjoys reading poetry and is working to learn more about the craft of poetry. She spends her free time singing with her church choir and listening to gospel music, watching biographical movies, and encouraging other people.

Cindy Knisley

After years as a “stay-at-home” mom, Cynthia enjoyed a fulfilling second career as a high school language teacher and curriculum developer. Recently, she took a leap of faith and left the classroom in order to devote more time to family---aging parents, adult children, and lively young grandchildren. Her home is in West Chester, PA, where she plays classical music, bakes bread, and tends a “secret garden.” A novice blogger, she welcomes you to her posts at

Joan Leotta has been playing with words since childhood. She is a poet, essayist, journalist, playwright, and author of several books both fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. She is also a performer and gives one-woman shows on historic figures and spoken word folklore shows as well as teaching writing and storytelling. Joan lives in Calabash, NC where she walks the beach with husband, Joe. and

Nancy Frantel: I am an author of three nonfiction history books, published by Heritage Books, Inc. I have spoken at the Anacostia Smithsonian Museum and several conferences across the country as a result of the research conducted for the books. Prior to becoming a writer, I worked in management in the corporate world, including Walt Disney World. While working on the fourth book, I was hit by a distracted driver and received a traumatic brain injury. Seven years have passed, and I am back to writing again. Due to the "life interruption" I am working on my new website, which is in the design process.

Kathleen McCauley has been an active retreat leader for over 25 years.

She received her professional training as a Campus Minister and retreat leader at the University of Dayton. Kathleen enjoys working with adults in their cultivation of spirituality and personal growth. Prior to her work as a Career Counselor at Neumann University, Kathleen served as a Resident Minister for eight years at St. Joseph’s University and seven additional years giving retreats for local churches and community groups. You can contact Kathleen to learn more about her retreat work at

Miriam Jacob is an author and poet in cyberspace, having published a

series of EBooks at She is a book reviewer at CHRISTIAN BOOK DISTRIBUTORS, BARNES AND NOBLE, GOOGLE BOOKS and HARPER COLLINS CHRISTIAN PUBLISHING (BookLook Bloggers). She writes reviews for Christian books, in the categories of literary fiction, non-fiction, poetry and politics. Her articles and book reviews are published on her blog: “AUTHORS FOR CHRIST” Miriam is a member of the Ruby Book Review Team.

Sharmelle Olson is a graphic artist and designer, photographer and poet. She loves to share her poems in the Ruby for Women community magazine. Shar is also an administrator for Ruby for Women Ministries and enjoys helping out around the community and making new friends there. She has been writing poetry and taking photographs since elementary school, and started doing graphic art and design work in the early 2000s. Shar has four children, two of whom are twins. Her first daughter is 21, her son is 15, and her twin daughters are 14.

R. G. Sharpe understands the tragedy of divorce, and the wonderful blessing recovery can be when you place your full trust in the One who restores and redeems. She is an author and blogger who raises awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault while assisting women to find complete healing through Jesus Christ. It is her deepest prayer that women will find refuge in the One who loves us and calls us by name. Together, we can learn to rely on the Lord's protection and trust Him to keep us safe in His arms. Learn more by visiting

Susan Paulus: My writing began as a prayer for some sanity in my life when I was raising children, sharing life with a husband who often didn't understand me and working a full time job. That was many years ago, and I have recently been searching for a way to have some work published. For two years i wrote for a small NWO publication called Living Today. It was rewarding to know that others might be blessed by what was written. I pray that continues through the ministry RUBY magazine.

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 27 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. She blogs at Living Our Days because “the way we live our days will be, after all, the way we live our lives.”

Thea Williams’s short story, "Phoenix," appears in 50 Over Fifty: A Celebration of Established and Emerging Women Writers. Her work appears in Focus on the Family Magazine and Al Anon's The Rap. Subscribe to Thea’s blog at By day, Thea educates and prays for young minds at a local school district. Contact Thea at or .

Maryann Lorts: Life is full of choices and wandering. The Lord called me in my desert and poured life and truth into me through conviction by the Holy Spirit. I am now called to grow His kingdom by sharing the joy I have found in my king. Most days you can find me with my children as I disciple them through Bible study and homeschooling amongst other volunteer opportunities in our community. Visit Maryann’s blog, Coming to Light, and you can also find her on Facebook.

Alicia Ai Keng Lim Hi! My name is Alicia and I'm from Malaysia. Malaysian education exposes us to analysis and comprehension of poems in the English and Malay Language but not to creating our own poems. I started writing poems in 2011 when I tutored AOP homeschool students. The opportunity arose again between 2013 and 2015 when I tutored more students under the Cambridge English syllabus. In 2017 I am beginning to pursue publishing my poems and to explore more creative ways of literary expression. Hopefully, I can contribute to the readership of RUBY magazine.

Jewell Utt Jewell is a Freelance Writer and Speaker. Her passion is to teach and support the body of Christ to serve in church and community. She is the Director of a Food Outreach and the Women's Ministry Leader at her church. Her retreats encourage women—through the hard places of life—to seek a deeper relationship with Christ. You can visit her website or contact her by "While we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." Galatians 6:10

Nells Wasilewski lives in a small southern town, seventy miles southeast of Nashville, Tennessee. After retiring, she began pursuing her lifelong dream of writing. Her writing has been greatly influenced by her faith in Jesus Christ, personal, experience and nature. She has been writing poems, prose and stories all her life. Nells has recently started writing devotionals. Her work has appeared in Haiku Journal, Barefoot Review, Three Line Poetry, Poetry Quarterly, 50 Haikus, Dual Coast Magazine, High Coupe Journal, Ancient Paths, Tanka Journal, Hedgerow and Penned from the Heart

Lisa Radcliff is a writer, speaker, women's Bible study teacher, and a 35-year volunteer youth worker, residing in Pennsburg, PA. She is a wife, mom, and mom-mom who loves God's Word but also loves football, chocolate, shoes, and Maine. Her hobbies include quilting, shopping, cooking, and raising Seeing Eye puppies. You can reach her at

Gloria Doty is a published Christian author, writer and speaker. She has published a non-fiction book, a devotion book, a series of fiction romance books and several children's picture books. Gloria has 5 adult children and 13 grandchildren. She has recently re-married and she and her husband reside in Fort Wayne, IN.

Jennifer Workman is the founder of Simply Victorious Ministries, a ministry founded on the infallible Word of God. She has been actively involved in ministry all of her life and has ministered to seminary students, the religious community, high school students and female prison inmates. Jennifer has more than fifteen years in the radio, television and publications arena. She is the Inspirational Host and Producer of "Simply Victorious for Life," a monthly inspirational podcast aired via Faith Filled Family and Family Filled Youth. Contact Jennifer at or

Jeanne Doyon writes and speaks from the heart, connecting the Truth of Scripture to everyday life. She teaches at women’s retreats and events throughout New England. She is pretty good at juggling after all these years and still loves being a mom to Brad, Heather, and Alicia who all made it safely to adulthood. Connect with Jeanne at

Pat Jeanne Davis writes from her home in Philadelphia, Pa. She is married and mom to two sons. Pat loves to work in her flower garden and travel. She has completed two historical inspirational novels and is represented by Leslie H. Stobbe and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She loves to hear from her readers. Please visit her at

Toni Samuels By day Toni works in corporate communications at a Fortune 500 corporation, but by night she pursues her true passion: to write for God’s purposes and to point people to Jesus Christ. She is grateful and honored to have the opportunity to begin this new chapter in her life, in which writing is not merely a profession but a ministry. In her free time Toni enjoys music, reading, traveling and beautiful beaches.

Beth Brubaker, Assistant Editor is a humorist poet and songwriter, and her day jobs include homemaking, writing, and paper and fabric arts. Beth's passion is the written word, and is developing ways of sharing her brand of humor with the world through poems, songs and stories. Don't miss Beth's columns and puzzles in every issue of Ruby for Women! You can read Beth's posts on her blog Footprints in the Mud at or email her at Nina Newton, Sr. Editor: When my four older children were in school, I returned to college as a “non-traditional student.” Eventually, I earned degrees in Classics and Philosophy, and a graduate degree in Medieval Studies: History of Theology. After teaching at a small community college in Michigan for seven years, my husband and I were blessed with the adoption of our two beautiful daughters, Gracie and Annie. We live in northern Indiana in a small farming community where I work on RUBY magazine in my home office. I have worked for several years offering my handmade and refashioned garments and accessories in a local boutique under the creative name of “Vintage Mama’s Cottage.” My personal blog is at

Please stop by the RUBY blog and leave some words of encouragement for each other on the daily blog posts that we promote every week on all of the RUBY social media pages.

RUBY magazine is published by CreativeLife

December 2017 ruby  
December 2017 ruby  

The special Christmas issue of RUBY magazine features inspirational articles, short stories, poetry, crafts, and recipes for your family's h...