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Special Thanksgiving Issue!

Special Christmas Issue! Planning a Christmas Open House by Beth Brubaker

The Christmas Blessing by Sharmelle Olson

The Perfect Christmas by Alisha Ritchie

Christmas Houses by Nells Wasilewski

The Stars Rejoice at the Savior’s Birth by Rejetta Morse

No Bells Ringing by Pat Jeanne Davis

Ruby Magazine Your voice, your story DECEMBER, 2016 www.rubyforwomen.com

In This Issue of Ruby Nova Scotia Style Shortbread Cookies by Theresa Begin

The Christmas holiday season is such a time of joyous celebration! We are so grateful to God for sending His Son the Lord Jesus Christ to earth to offer salvation and eternal life to all who will believe.

DIY Christmas Tree Birdhouse Ornament by Katherine Corrigan

Won’t you join us this Christmas to celebrate His birth? We hope you will share the good news of the hope that is to be found only in our Savior Jesus Christ with everyone God brings into your life this special time of the year. Stop by the RUBY blog and click on the link to purchase your copy of the latest issue of RUBY magazine at http://www,rubyforwomen.com Let us know how we can be an encouragement to you today. We would love to hear from you! Contact us at editor@rubyforwomen.com

The Beauty in Trying by Cassidy Burdge The Christian Prepster

Senior Editor: Nina Newton Assistant Editor: Beth Brubaker Poet-in-Residence: Keith Wallis Feature Writers: Lynn Mosher, Katherine Corrigan, Sharon L. Patterson, Carol Peterson, Kim Kluxen Meredith, Miriam Jacob, Cynthia Knisley, Alisha Ritchie, Joan Leotta, Frances Gregory Pasch, Rejetta Morse, Theresa Begin, Kathryn Ross, Mary Dolan Flaherty, Pat Jeanne Davis, Kathleen McCauley, Nells Wasilewski, Norma C. Mezoe, Jewel Utt, Cassidy Burdge, Miriam Jacob, Sharmelle Olsen, Katie Robles

Three Tips for Healthier Holiday Partying by Katie Robles

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 editor@rubyforwomen.com Questions? Email Nina @ editor@rubyforwomen.com RUBY magazine is published by rubyforwomen.com All submission inquiries should be directed to: Nina Newton, Sr. Editor RUBY magazine editor@rubyforwomen.com Advertising inquiries should be directed to editor@rubyforwomen.com

SPECIAL THANKS to Dawn Nicole Designs for generously sharing the beautiful calendars each month with the readers of RUBY magazine!

Tatters to Treasures for vintage and refashion designs and creations. www.etsy.com/shop/TattersToTreasures

“Kids’ Reading Corner” Page 32

For more beautiful FREE calendars and other printables, please visit Dawn Nicole Designs.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year! Nina Newton, Sr. Editor This is the time of year when we begin to see and hear all of the seasonal preparations for Christmas . . . as described in that well-known holiday favorite song, “the most wonderful time of the year.” Except for those among us who do not find that the holidays are a wonderful time at all. There are many people all around us who are lonely, sad, and broken-hearted, making Christmas an extremely painful time of year. Perhaps you are one of those experiencing that aching in your heart as we approach the holidays. If you are, then please know that you are not really all alone. I realize that it feels that way when you look around and see families everywhere, parties and gettogethers, church celebrations, and friends gathering to celebrate. You feel like you are on the outside looking in at all of the joyous festivities. Do you feel that way? I do too, sometimes, and we all have personal experiences that have created that feeling. It could be the loss of a life-long partner, or a broken relationship, or the distance of miles between you and your loved ones. Some of us feel alone because we are afraid to connect with other people, sometimes even within our own churches or families. Others feel alone because the ones that we love are no longer with us, for any number of reasons. The other day we were in a restaurant, our little family, and in the booth right next to us was an elderly gentleman, sitting all alone. He was all dressed up in a fine suit, white shirt, and tie. His shoes were polished nicely, and he looked as if he had just come from a church service. His silver-gray hair was combed carefully, and at first I thought perhaps he was waiting for someone to join him. As we continued on our merry way, our little family, with our girls being silly and occasionally teasing each other about the soup or the rice or the noodles (we were in our favorite Chinese restaurant), I noticed that our gentleman friend in the next booth continued to sit alone. He silently ate his rice, and soup, and noodles, alone with no companion or friend. My family didn’t notice, I don’t think, and I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, but my heart was sad for him. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been – sometimes I’m quite delighted to be allowed to eat my lunch in peace and quiet, but I don’t think that was what was going on in this situation. After jostling and traipsing back and forth to the buffet bar numerous times, my girls finally settled down to eat. But before they launched into their typical hysterical rendition of “I know how to get the paper out of the fortune cookie without breaking it open” competition, I stood up and walked over to the buffet bar one last time. As I returned to my seat, I happened to glance over at the elderly gentleman sitting in the booth next to us, and he looked up just in time that our eyes met. I smiled. He beamed with a gentle by Miriam Jacob look of hope.


That was all. Just a look. Perhaps it meant nothing. But to me, it was just a teeny, tiny opportunity to see into another soul and acknowledge that he was not, really, all alone in this world. Sometimes the little things are all we get to do, but if we do those little things that God brings into our lives, it just might be enough to change someone’s day. This Christmas season, let’s all look for opportunities to do those little, but so meaningful, acts of kindness. Because He first loved us, let us love one another.

Christmas is about Christ, the greatest gift ever given, to be opened in your heart. It is His story, for His glory, a story of the greatest love this world has ever known, poured into our hearts to flow out to others.

Footprints in the Mud: Planning a Christmas Open House by Beth Brubaker, Assistant Editor

It’s that time of year - too many friends and family members want to come over and visit during the Christmas holidays, but you just don’t have the time to host that many dinners! But what can you do to stem the chaos, yet enjoy spending time with everyone? Plan a Christmas Open House! What exactly is a Christmas Open House, you ask? It may sound like you’re selling your home (some people have actually asked me this when I’ve invited them), but instead you’re hosting an all-day event where people can come visit when they want to and stay as long as they wish. No big dinner parties, no head counts, no fancy tableware that has to be hand-washed every time you use it, no worries about Auntie Gertrude sitting next to someone she doesn’t like…it’s a casual, relaxing visit when everyone - family, friends, and neighbors can come to see you, as well as other friends and family that haven’t seen each other since last Christmas. The best part is that people can come and go when they please, so they don’t feel guilty if they can only visit for a short time, or feel like they’re wearing out their welcome if they want to stay longer. You plan a day (or two) with a certain range of hours for people to come visit. It can be all day, from lunch until dinner, mid-afternoon until late evening… whatever hours you’re most comfortable having company. Send out invitations at least two weeks in advance to give people time enough to plan on coming. No R.S.V.P. is necessary!

Here’s how it works: Serve simple foods buffet style. This allows you to enjoy your guests and not be in the kitchen all day long. Place tables in a way to allow flow-through for both those getting food, and those moving back into the main rooms to sit with their goodies. And don’t forget extra benches and chairs for people to sit! You don’t need to provide enough seats for your entire guest list, because people will be moving in and out of your home throughout the established times. But make sure you have enough for at least one-third of the people you’re expecting. If you’re doing a breakfast/brunch style Open House, there are many egg dishes that can be put into crock pots the night before or pre-prepped ready-to-bake pans of quiche or cinnamon buns (that you made ahead of time) that can be tucked into the oven as the breakfast trays empty. Don’t forget breakfast meats can also be piled into aluminum pans and kept warm in the oven! Trays filled with deli meats and cheeses, cheese and sausages (or pepperoni), vegetables as well as rolls, crackers and dips do well for those coming in for a meal, or just to graze. Hot foods like sliced roast beef or turkey for sandwiches can be kept at safe food temperatures in crock pots, as can meatballs or soups. Soups are especially popular when it’s cold out, and you don’t even need special dishes - just use hot/cold cups (like the ones you use for coffee) instead of bowls! This keeps the serving sizes down (sometimes people want to try more than one soup if you have a variety), and keep things neater - it’s a lot harder to spill soup in a tall cup than in a flimsy Styrofoam bowl!

Drinks can be as simple as buying soda, but if you want to have healthier choices, you can home-brew iced tea, have a variety of hot teas, coffees, and cocoas available (if you own a Keurig machine), offer juices, lemonade, or waters laced with freshly sliced fruit - anything that suits your fancy!

(Just remember the fruit waters will only last until the end of the day.) Snacks can be candy and nuts, but you can also include chips and pretzels - they go with everything!

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Desserts can be anything from cakes, pies, cookies, or puddings. Puddings can also be carried in a cup instead of a bowl, and if you want pie or cake a la mode, add the pie/cake to a cup, and top with a small scoop of ice cream. You can also have bowls of holiday candies or nuts out for people to nibble on as they mingle. Plan enough food for about three-quarters of the guests you invite, because not everyone will be able to come. As for how much food- figure a half-pound of food per person for main dishes (or two cups of soup per person) and one quarter-pound of food per person for side dishes. (*see below this first list for breakfast foods). So if you’ve invited fifty people: expect about thirtyeight. 

1 twelve quart pot of soup (or two six to eight quart pots of two different kinds of soup) – If you’re not including soup, double the meat and cheeses (listed below).

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At least ten pounds of lunch meats or hot foods (double these amounts if not having soup.) For lunch meats-two and-a-half pounds each of three different kinds of meats, and one and-ahalf pounds of each kind of cheeses. For hot foods- at least three and-a-half pounds of two kinds of meats, one and-a-half pounds of two kinds of cheeses. Rolls/breads- 2x people expected (4x slices of bread) One cheese tray One veggie tray One condiment tray (for the sandwiches, if having deli meats.) Condiment trays usually consist of lettuce, onion, tomatoes, and pickles. One cookie tray Two cups of dip One box mixed party crackers (or four sleeves of other kinds of crackers) At least three pies/cakes (cut into 12 or more pieces) One large bottle each of mayonnaise, mustard, or preferred sandwich spreads 1 pound butter, room temperature Salt and pepper shakers Two to three quarts of ice cream (optional) Several bags of candies, nuts and/or trail mix At least three bags of chips/pretzels Plates, cups, and plastic utensils (3x the amount of guests expected) Napkins (4x the amount of guests expected) Ice- at least twenty to thirty pounds for drinking, twice that if using a cooler. Don’t use cooler ice for drinks!) Clean rags (for spills and drips)

For a breakfast / brunch open house:        

*Two eggs per person Three strips of bacon Two breakfast sausage links or patties (The three items listed above are plenty if you’re serving eggs as a quiche.) Assorted veggies for the eggs (spinach, green peppers, and tomato are popular) Two to three bags of shredded cheddar or cheddar blended cheeses (This breakfast list can be substituted for the soup in the above list) One small bag per five people for Hash browns or tater tots

Tips and tricks: Make dips a day ahead so they have time to thicken and ‘cure’ (so the flavors blend in well). If you’re making your own trays, breakfast casseroles, and drinks, make them a day ahead of time, cover with plastic wrap or foil, and refrigerate. Use aluminum pans instead of glassware for safe transfer from fridge to oven (some glassware will shatter from the extreme temperature change) and for easy clean up. If you’re making fruit infused waters, make them two hours before the Open House and refrigerate. To make tea concentrates- steep preferred tea bags in one quart of hot water instead of a gallon. After steeping, squeeze tea bags well, and add the sugar you normally would for a gallon into the concentrate. Then all you have to do party day is to pour the concentrate into a gallon jug, and add three quarts water! If using crock pots or anything with plugs, make sure the wires are behind the tables against the walls, or taped down so people don’t trip over them. Buy special liner bags for crock pots for quick and easy cleanup.

Set up your tables so the plates and utensils are near the sandwich foods, the cups and spoons are near the soups, and more cups with stirrers by the beverages. Keep the hot foods away from the cold foods.

Cut rolls ahead of time so guests won’t be at risk of cutting themselves. No sharp knives on the buffet table-especially if there are children around!

From one end of the tables to the other:

Rolls are best cut with a serrated blade, not a smooth blade.

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Rolls / breads Hot foods Condiment tray Cold foods Spreads Salt and pepper Chips / snacks (not nuts and candies) Soups Cheese and veggie trays Crackers and dip, Desserts (except ice cream) Cookie tray Beverages

If you’re serving soup, make sure the crock pot is in ‘Warm’ mode, and stir every once in a while especially if you have creamy soup. Have several salt and pepper shakers on the available dining tables, as well as a set on the buffet table. Butter sticks can be placed one each on small plates at each table (or on each end of each table.) Don’t forget to provide butter knives! Use laundry baskets lined with trash bags for additional ice buckets or as extra trash cans. (I suggest double bagging for the ice!)

You can also have the kids walk around once in a while with a trash bag in hand, asking guests if they have any trash to deposit. Less clean-up for you and the kids get a chance to serve others! Hosting Christmas Open Houses is the best way for our family to tone down the holiday chaos, enjoy our company, and even save money! This allows us to spend more time together as a family, get the Christmas shopping done, and one surprise side benefit - we usually have enough leftover party foods the next day that we don’t have to cook! If you decide to host a Christmas Open house, I’d love to hear about it! Please write to me at bethatruby@aol.com and tell me your story- and don’t forget to send some pictures! Have a fantastic Christmas!

Visit Beth on her blog, Footprints in the Mud, for more humorous and inspirational posts!

PUNCTUALITY Letter Tile Puzzle by Beth Brubaker Rearrange the tile to find the hidden phrase

Answer Key in back of magazine

Nativity by Keith Wallis

The star-dance overture choir-sung carolling of the skies. The mystical one light the Son light the new things begun light. The nativity activity.

Advents by Keith Wallis ‘In the beginning’…… Was there ever a ‘beginning’ in this journey from Alpha to Omega when the first and last juxtapose and the greatest and least spin upon an axis. ‘In the beginning the word’ spoken into a void conjured significance from nothing and love and pain in tandem begin their industry. ‘In the beginning’ uncreated light begat light not with candle gentle, unassuming, comfortable; but with tidal dawn a birthing bloody, confident, exposing. And the end was the beginning for the beginning began the end.

Christmas Tree Birdhouse Ornament from Katherine Corrigan of Katherine’s Corner Such an adorable tiny birdhouse to decorate your Christmas tree or add to any holiday display! Be sure to visit Katherine’s Corner for weekly creative inspiration, giveaways, and her Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop. This Christmas Tree Birdhouse Ornament is a child-friendly DIY for ages 8 and up. Please be careful especially while using the glue gun.

What You Need        

Empty bathroom tissue cardboard tube or paper towel cardboard tube Small piece of burlap about 3 inches square Christmas picks, berries and pine, holly berries, sparkles etc. Cord, yarn or jute for wrapping Hot glue gun Craft knife Scissors Hole punch Glue gun

Let’s Make It! Cut the cardboard tube in half. Most bath tissue tubes are 4 inches long. Or cut a 2 inch section of paper towel cardboard tube.

Using a hole punch or a pencil, cut or push a hole about 1/3 up from the bottom. Start gluing the cord, jute, rope or yarn a little at a time until you have covered the tube.

Please have a grown up do this step to locate the hole inside the covered tube.

Using your craft knife cut the jute away from the hole, add a spot of glue if it starts to fray.

Cut a 1.5 inch circle from card stock Cut 1.25 x 1.75 inch card stock Cut burlap 1.25 x 1.75 Glue the card stock in place for the roof and then add some glue and cover with burlap.

I had some pretty burlap with lace scraps; I think it gives the illusion of snow. Glue a piece of jute to the roof (for hanging).

Now gather all of your little bits of Christmas craftiness and make a pretty ornament topper. Or if you prefer, just leave it with the burlap and don’t add the topper. This is such a cute way to recycle and to decorate!

Please do not place your ornament near an open flame.

No Bells Ringing by Pat Jeanne Davis “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” The words coming from the fellowship hall’s sound system rang in Melanie’s ear. She walked toward her spot through a crowded room, hauling a large metal table. Today was the annual Christmas bazaar at the town’s Baptist church, and Mel was there to sign copies of a book series containing a few of her stories. But there was no carol ringing within her heart. How could a thirtyyear-old single gal with no prospects be “merry and bright”? She heaved a sigh, feeling like the last person who should be writing inspirational stories called “All in Good Time” or “Wait and See.” As she struggled to unfold the table, her hand caught a sharp edge, and the table crashed to the floor. An icy knot grew in Melanie’s stomach as blood pulsed to the surface of her finger. Great. Blood-smeared books are just what people want for Christmas. She pulled a tissue from her bag and wrapped it around her finger. “Let me help with that,” said a deep voice from behind Mel. She whirled around and saw a handsome, smiling man. He grabbed the table and placed it against a wall decorated with a colorful wreath. “Will that do?” She mustered a smile. “Thank you.” He motioned toward a corridor. “The restroom’s at the far end of the hall. There are Band-Aids and peroxide in the cabinet.” “Thanks.” Mel walked off. When she returned, the stranger extended his hand. “My name’s Jake.” He gestured to the large poster with her name in bold lettering. “And you’re Melanie.” She took his big, warm hand in her uninjured one and glanced over the eyecatching display he’d made with the books. “I didn’t expect you to do all this, too.” “No problem.” As Jake surveyed her stack of books, his gaze fixed on Inspiration for Singles. Way to be subtle. “I hear you’re donating your proceeds to a Christmas fund at Northern Home.” Mel nodded. “They’ll go toward gifts for those who have nowhere to go over the holiday.” “I do some writing as well,” he shouted over the noise of vendors setting up tables around them and the music that still blared.

“Always nice to meet a fellow—” Before she could finish her sentence, an elderly lady rushed up to Jake. “Wonderful to see you on a Saturday morning, Pastor.” She took his arm. Pastor? “Good morning, Phyllis. Would you be interested in buying one of these books to raise money for a worthy cause?” He flashed a big smile. “It’ll make Christmas a little brighter for a poor child,” Mel added, grateful for Jake’s lead-in. “Let me see what you’ve got.” The prospective buyer scanned the titles, and then picked up a copy of Christmas Miracles. “I’ll take this one.” Mel autographed the volume, and the lady paid in cash. A thick silence hung between her and Jake, despite the tide of holiday clamor. “So, you’re a pastor?” Mel asked. “I also write a weekly column for the local newspaper.” “What do you write about?” Jake rubbed the back of his neck and gave a low chuckle. “I give advice to singles.” Mel’s gaze dropped to his left hand. No wedding ring. Before she could think of what to say, he was called away. Over the next hour, several shoppers stopped by Mel’s book table. She answered questions and made a few sales, but she couldn’t stop thinking about Jake. When the crowds thinned out, he returned and gave her a cup of coffee. She held out one of her books. “I’d like to give you this as a thank-you for coming to my rescue.” She handed him Inspiration for Singles. “This will be useful for my singles group.” He shifted his feet. “We meet here every Monday night at seven.” Was that an invitation? She wasn’t sure. “Would you like me to sign your copy?” “Of course.” His deep blue eyes fixed on hers. “And I hope you’ll read my column next week in The Review.” He winked. “It’s about anticipating the unexpected.” As she gave her book back to him, their hands touched. Did he feel the same attraction? Mel’s heart surged with hope. Outside, Christmas bells were ringing. This time they rang right within her heart.

Christmas Houses by Nells Wasilewski Thought for the Day: Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV) 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. My Christmas houses stay on display all year round. I appreciate the intricate details of design and work that produces such beautiful pieces. It is comforting to have that warm Christmas feeling in the house during every season. The houses are all unique, but like a good puzzle all the pieces fit together to create the picture of a perfect village. The light shining from within is peaceful and inviting. It is easy to imagine being a part of such a warm and comforting community. Today, as I was changing a light bulb in one of the houses, I was thinking that God wants us to shine from within to transmit His peace and tranquility to the world. As Christians we have a responsibility to witness to unbelievers, by showing love and respect for one another. God is working through us when we minister to the needy, treat those who are hurting with gentle care, feed the hungry and clothe the poor. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, “made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6(NIV) By telling others about Jesus Christ, we are showing them the way out of darkness and into the light. Prayer: Lord, help us to reflect your love and grace, so that others are drawn to your light. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Our Peace in Busyness by Frances Gregory Pasch

I have come to the conclusion that we are all on overload. The whole world is in a tizzy. Our minds are bombarded with too much information on a steady basis. Our calendars are filled to the brim. There is no way we can keep up with all that the world offers. Even our grandchildren’s schedules are too heavy for young ones to carry. I recently saw a piece on TV, stressing that children need to just “play.” Remember when kids came home from school, had a snack, and just had fun with their friends? No pressures to go somewhere every day after school. No fears of being kidnapped or killed at school. I know we can’t compare those years with now, but let’s face it; sooner or later we will pay the price for carrying such heavy loads. There used to be only a few choices of things to buy and places to go.

My Prayer for You by Frances Gregory Pasch My prayer for you this Christmas is that God will pour on you an anointing of His Spirit over all you say and do. May His love flow through your actions, may His joy show on your face. May others feel His presence… it’s called Amazing Grace. May each new day be special, filled with blessings from above. May you feast upon His goodness… then with others share His love.

Now we stand in big stores and wonder which department to go to first. No easy job with so many choices available. And to top it off, new products come out each day, and technology becomes obsolete from week to week. But there is one thing that remains constant amidst all the turmoil. The Bible says, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8, NIV) He is our Peace in the midst of all life’s storms. Isn’t it reassuring to know that He is faithful, merciful, truthful, and always available—not bound by time, and able to be everywhere at once! Prayer: Lord, when we’re too busy, we can’t hear Your small, still voice revealing Your plans to us. Please help us to slow down. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

Nova Scotia Style Shortbread Cookies for Your Recipe Box by Theresa Begin from Shoestring Elegance I make these wonderful cookies every year; these are my personal favorite cookie. I made both the plain and the ones with some chocolate drizzle for my friends that are not used to a cookie without a lot of sugar. I hope you enjoy them! I want to tell you that, for me, this is "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year"! Even as January creeps closer I love this holiday time, celebrating the birth of Jesus, and having "special time" to spend with my loved ones. I truly believe, and wish people would have a little Christmas in their hearts all year long. Last year, I called all my sisters, nieces, grand nieces, in-laws.... basically, every female member of my family to start things off with a "Begin Ladies Baking Day" on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (it was a smashing success, by the way!) I have been doing a lot of baking, decorating and spending time with friends and family, and I can think of no better way to spend my time. Every year my mother, my sister, and I make a bounty of Christmas cookies, breads and candy. This year I wanted to start our "Baking Day" as a means of having and cherishing time with my family, but also to alleviate the pressure of all these goodies from my Mum's to do list. We make A LOT! In the last couple of weeks, I made these yummy "Shortbread Cookies� that are wonderfully, commonplace for most of my Canadian family and represent special memories for me of my Grandmother. I made a beautiful batch of these traditional Nova Scotia-style Shortbread Cookies the day before my families baking day to be decorated and included in what we all have to share. This week, I made another batch. This time, I made them with a little more dimension, to share at a Christmas Tea with my women's group from church. So here's the simple trick I did to make them more appealing to most: They usually are a very basic 3 to 4 ingredient, no frills, and delicious buttery cookie. That, in my opinion, cannot be beat to have with tea! But to make them universally appealing and festive, I simply melted some chocolate in a double boiler, about 1/2 cup of semisweet chocolate and about a teaspoon of flavorless oil (like canola). The oil helps maintain the nice color and shine.

Then, you just take a fork, and on a wire rack OVER wax paper, have fun drizzling the chocolate back and forth over your shortbread. It couldn't be easier, but what a difference! They were a big hit at my Christmas Tea and with friends and family. (Note: I never work on drizzling more than 6 cookies at a time, or you lose the beautiful way the chocolate overlaps the side of your cookie)

Here's the recipe. I hope you will enjoy it with your friends and family, as well.

Traditional Nova Scotia Shortbread Cookies 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted 1/2 tsp. salt 1 tsp. vanilla (not traditional, but I love vanilla!) 2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted twice Wrap and chill dough at least 1 hour, 2 is better Roll to 1/4 inch, make sure to fork your cookies well, or you get air pockets (which really does ruin the cookie) Cut cookie as you like Bake in a slow oven, 300-325F or just until the edges get a very light golden Cool on rack & enjoy or finish with chocolate or raw sugar. Many blessing to you all!

The Beauty in Trying by Cassidy Burdge The Christian Prepster Sometimes I become overtaken by things. Whether that be the beautiful sun rising in the morning on my way to school or the paralyzing fears I have that seem to find me quite often. Either way, I become overtaken by things. The first one is great and one that I love. The latter, however, is one that I’m not too fond of. Despite the major differences between the two, I still make an effort to seek the moments in life where I am forced to hand it all over to God. This past week I was reading in Exodus about Moses and Aaron and the crazy amount of effort they put into carrying out God’s will. The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron and told them exactly what his plan was and how the convincing process of having Pharaoh “let his people go” would take place. In Exodus 8:6, after the Lord explained how Aaron would stretch out his arm and frogs would appear, Aaron immediately did what the Lord commanded. I can almost guarantee that after Aaron heard the Lord’s plan of making frogs appear out of nowhere, that Aaron was doubting and possibly thinking, “Oh my goodness, how stupid will I look if these frogs don’t appear?” But Aaron impressed me by the fact that he just stretched out his hand and did as the Lord commanded. Imagine what would have happened if Aaron decided to sit this one out because of his fear of messing up? Fortunately, I think Aaron knew of something that I tend to forget. The Lord has not called us to succeed; he has only called us to try and to make an effort to carry out God’s plan. When the Lord calls us to crazy things outside of our capacity and we are overtaken by the fear of messing up, remember that the most beautiful thing to the Lord is to look down and see his children trying to follow his lead. There is immense beauty in the effort and the thought of, “You know what, I’m just going to go for it and trust that the Lord takes over!” XOXO, The Christian Prepster

Cassidy Burdge is the Christian Prepster, a high school student living the Christian lifestyle in a preppy state of mind. She has a deep love for sharing Christ through her writing and blogging, and she is excited to be part of Ruby Magazine. Cassidy blogs about anything from Biblical teachings to book reviews. You can connect with Cassidy on her blog, The Christian Prepster at https://thechristianprepster.wordpress.com/

The Blue Ornament by Kim Kluxen Meredith David, I know you are watching from Heaven. Please be with me during my surgery and help me not to be scared. My half-opened eyes nervously squinted back in the mirror. That morning in the pre-dawn chill of my bathroom I felt an intense desire to talk with my late husband. Perhaps God would let David hold my hand from afar. During the past four weeks I had distracted myself with decorating the house for the holidays. I knew I would be off my feet for six weeks after my ankle operation. I needed to be organized. Presents were purchased and wrapped. The outside lights strung. Multiple Santa figurines guarded the family room and a stately seven-foot spruce tree stood at attention in a nearby corner ready for tinsel and fancy balls. When David and I married, the first ornament we put on our tree was his childhood slate-blue ball. On one side, the large orb was inscribed with his name and the year of his birth in white flocking— David 1948. Our children called it ‘Dad’s ball,’ and it has forever maintained its premier status. Peeling back the yellowed tissue paper, I had plucked the fragile ball from its faded cardboard box.

The familiar flocking of his name and year of birth faced towards the inside of the tree. Worried if I removed the ball to switch it I might drop it in my haste, I left it in place and vowed to come back to fix it later. Showered and dressed, I stumbled downstairs for a quick cup of coffee. Oh darn, I forgot to check the tree’s water level last night! How I hated to crawl on my stomach under the branches like a military soldier scooting under a line of barbed wire. But I filled the pitcher in resignation and headed into the family room. When I turned on the wall switch to tend to my last Yuletide chore, the tiny colored lights on the tree flickered and I noticed the blue ornament facing me with its white lettering, David 1948. You ARE here! “Thank you God.”

I searched for a sturdy branch to support the weight of the ornament. I secured the metal clasp to the limb and stepped back to admire my work.

I flicked off the switch and grabbed my purse. My ride was waiting to take me to the hospital.

Kim Kluxen Meredith is an award winning published author. Her book "Listen for the Whispers: Coping with Grief and Learning to Live Again" provides a platform for her national / international inspirational speaking engagements. More information about her message of hope and resilience can be found on her author web page at www.kimkluxenmeredith.com

Gingerbread House Winter Village from Vintage Mama’s Cottage

You just a few sheets of brown card stock and vellum paper to create this adorable Gingerbread House Winter Village display. These little houses look so cute on a mantle or on a table to bring a touch of warmth and light to your home for the holidays, or all winter long. What you need: * 2 sheets of cardstock (8 ½” X 11”) for each gingerbread house * 1 sheet of translucent vellum paper (with or without design) for each gingerbread house * Scissors * Glue * Exacto knife (or any craft knife with a very sharp blade for cutting out the doors and windows) * Decorative scrapbook scissors (for cutting the edges of the roof) * Pattern for gingerbread houses (see below) Let’s make it! Step #1: Copy the pattern for one of the gingerbread house designs onto cardstock. You can either print it directly onto cardstock and / or use a white cardstock copy of the pattern to trace onto colored cardstock. Step #2: Cut out the doors and windows on pattern and then trace those cutting lines onto the colored cardstock. Step #3: Very carefully cut out the doors and windows on colored cardstock. BE VERY CAREFUL to cut only the inside, top, and bottom of doors or windows that have “shutters” that open and close. All other windows and doors can be cut out completely.

Step #4: When all doors and windows have been cut and folded open, trace the pattern onto the other sheet of colored cardstock to match the front of the gingerbread house. The back does not need to have the doors and windows cut out unless you will be displaying them where all sides can be seen. Step #5: Carefully cut the slits on the sides opposite the tabs. Using the edge of a table knife or the edge of scissor handles, very carefully fold the sides along the lines below the roof lines on the front and back of each gingerbread house. Step #6: When the sides have been folded, cut a sheet of translucent vellum paper to fit inside the front of your gingerbread house and glue in place. When the glue is dry, trim the excess paper around the roof line. Step #7: Insert the tabs from the front of the gingerbread house into the slits on the back of the gingerbread house; then insert the tabs from the back of the house into the slits on the front of the house to make the “walls� of your gingerbread house. You can tape the tabs in place if necessary.

Step 8: After all of your gingerbread houses have been completed, arrange them on a table top or mantle with fluffy cotton all around and tiny white lights under each cottage to shine out through the doors and windows. Enjoy your beautiful holiday display, and share it with your friends and family!

The Stars Rejoice at the Savior’s Birth by Rejetta Morse Now that the birth of the savior is born to us on earth, the fiery stars gather with joy to celebrate his birth. The silver stars sparkle beneath the midnight velvet sky. “Rejoice – rejoice.” They shout and sing and gleam as they sing. And while the silent earth now sleeps with thousands of bright eyes they watch the shepherds and wise men below the starry skies as the bright Star of Bethlehem leads to the newborn king. “Rejoice – rejoice.” They shout and sing with flashes as they sing. When wise men enter the stable with joy – they bow with praise, with gifts of gold at the manger beside him where he lays with lemony incense they give to Christ – the newborn king. “Rejoice – rejoice.” They shout and sing and glisten as they sing. The fiery red and golden stars sparkle throughout the night. The sky-blue and the green stars glow with rays and beams so bright as they reflect his glory that shines from the newborn king. “Rejoice – rejoice.” They shout and sing, and dazzle as they sing. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger. Luke 2:7

A Question at Christmas by Sharon L. Patterson Who is the baby who is the King? Who is the King who is the Shepherd? Who is the Shepherd who is the Lamb? Who is the Lamb who is the Savior?

His name is Jesus He’s the baby who is the King. He is the King who is the Shepherd. He is the Shepherd who is the Lamb, He is the Savior‌who is the Son of the Living God.

A Vintage Voice from a Christmas Past: Excerpts from “The Joyful Life” by Margaret E. Sangster by Kathryn Ross I stash books in every corner of my home. There’s not a single wall in my house where you won’t see at least one vintage book artfully displayed. I rescue old volumes in cloth covers with pre-1940s copyrights. When I’m thrifting or browsing for treasures in antique shops, my eyes are alert to catch a gold embossed hardcover spine by a classic author. My mantle is a showplace for early volumes of Dickens, Tennyson, and Van Dyke— notable names among a host of lesser knowns, but no less worthy wordsmiths in their day. Vintage books are my favorite reads and go-to props for decorating year round. So, when I was at this year’s Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania’s vast two day convention, I just had to peruse the stacks of a fellow vendor specializing in “living books” for literature studies and research purposes. Books old and new graced the display—but one volume in particular immediately captured my attention. The gold embossed spine and faded portrait of a gentle woman’s face arrested me. When I opened the well preserved hardcover and reviewed the table of contents, I knew this would be joining my collection on my bookshelf after spending some time on my reading table. Within a week, I was ready to open up the world of 19th century American poet, author, and editor, Margaret Elizabeth Sangster. She explored family and faith themes with thoughtful devotional reflections, hymns, and sacred texts. Born in 1838, she lived in New York and New Jersey, growing up in a Christian home. Honing her writing skills in her youth, she delayed her publishing aspirations throughout her thirteen year marriage to George Sangster, until his death in 1871. A widow in her mid-thirties, she chose not to remarry, and pursued a career as writer/editor with a number of popular publications for women and Christian readers including Hearth and Home and Harper’s Bazaar. She was a contributing writer to Ladies’ Home Journal, The Christian Herald, and dispensed wisdom in a regular column of the Woman’s Home Companion. In addition, she published several volumes of children’s stories, poetry, and inspirational collections for women—including The Joyful Life, published in 1903 by the American Tract Society—my new treasure for devotional reading. I brewed my morning cup of tea and settled into my cozy recliner with Mrs. Sangster’s 19th century words soaking into my heart and mind. Her gentle compassion and compelling wisdom in applying biblical principles to everyday life read fresh and relevant to my life as a Christian woman a century after she penned the words.

This month, as we prepare for Christmas 2016, I’m sharing some excerpts from a chapter called, Christmas Holly, with Mrs. Sangster’s thoughts for marking the day in your home, with your family, and the community at large. In her book she writes eloquently on five specific topics, authored over a century ago,: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

On the Glory of the Season On Children and Christmas On Christmas Ornamentations On Christmas Presents On the True Meaning of Christmas

But first, here’s her personal foreword to welcome you to her world in The Joyful Life: Each chapter of this book is a simple and friendly talk on some theme of homely interest, and the author’s aim has been to suggest something helpful in each as to life and conduct. We are all wayfarers, and our manners on the road have much to do with our happiness and usefulness. As a rule the pilgrim who walks lightly encumbered with luggage is least weary at the end of the day, and therefore the aim has been to inculcate care for the realities and to let the superfluities go. Most of the impedimenta with which we weight ourselves here will be forgotten when we cross the river and enter the Father’s house. Some things we shall carry over—our love to Christ and to each other, our share of the peace that passeth understanding, our desire to do his will and to bear his image—for it is written that in the Jerusalem that is above, “His servants shall serve him.” It is the writer’s hope that every word she sends forth may find a lodgment in some sympathetic heart, and that each reader may be her friend. As friends together we may talk of the common experiences which, when love touches them, wear hues of immortality. Margaret E. Sangster The Joyful Life © 1903, American Tract Society

On the Glory of the Season With December comes the beautiful consummation of the year. Behind us lie autumn with her varied splendor of coloring and her rich fruitage, summer with her pomp of bloom and wealth of golden grain, spring with her sweetness of blossom and tender atmosphere of hope and love. Before us as December’s doors swing wide are days of cold and storm, frost, snow, sleet, wild winds by sea and shore, but there also stretches invitingly a procession of happy mornings and evenings at home, and best of all, December brings us Christmas.

Christmas, the world’s great festival, gathering to itself, as the months and years go by, the sacred associations which cluster forever around the incarnation, is our gladdest anniversary, because we keep it as Christ’s birthday. It does not matter in the least whether December twenty-fifth is, or is not, the precise day on which Mary first held her baby in her arms, while shepherds and wise men worshipped him. On some day in the long history of this earth, the fullness of time came, and God sent into it his only begotten Son, on a mission of redemption. By common consent this day we keep as Christmas has been selected as that anniversary, and all nations are joining in the acclaim which arises in its hallowed dawning to praise Immanuel’s name.

On Children and Christmas Jesus in the Yule-tide days is once more among us as a child. No mere mortal child so pure, so docile, so wonderful as he, yet in very deed a child, subject to his parents, and living beside his fair young mother in her little home in Nazareth. Looking at him, as the Child in the midst of us, we are led to look more carefully and with gentler thoughtfulness at our own children and at the hosts of children outside our own households. When we load the Christmas tree with pretty gifts for John and Jean, and induce them for weeks beforehand to tell us what they want and what they hope to receive, entirely overlooking their part in Christmas giving, we do them a wrong. A one-sided Christmas cannot be joyful, even to a little child. The true Christmas spirit fosters self-denial and bestowal, and the child who makes no small or large sacrifice, that he may send a present to someone outside, or give something to his mother or sister, loses a precious opportunity and is in peril of being morally dwarfed. Every little one in a home replete with comfort should early learn that he or she can help to brighten the lot of a child who is less well off, of a child whose little feet are treading stormy pathways. The Sunday-school that foregoes its own annual treat, in order that it may provide one for a school elsewhere, will, on the whole, have a more delightful and satisfactory Christmas than the one which simply absorbs all that the fathers and mothers of the church, and its short-sighted teaches will give it.

On Christmas Ornamentations Ages ago it was written of the good man, “His leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” In the deep dark green of Christmas wreaths and the spicy scent of Christmas garlands, there is the renewal in our minds of this assurance of the ultimate success and prosperity of the man who lives to do God’s will. True, to such an one there may come ups and downs, and many strange reverses and vicissitudes. The cedar of Lebanon was not raised in a hothouse. The tree that is strong and tough and fair and full of fadeless leaves on sturdy boughs was nurtured under the stars and sun, rocked by the tempest, powdered by the snow, and tried by the fierceness of the north wind. But as nothing can permanently hurt “the tree God plants,” so, if we love God, nothing can harm us, but all things shall work together for our good.

On Christmas Presents Choosing our Christmas presents is one of the most exciting and on the whole delightsome occupations of the year . . . Both men and women, if they enlist in the campaign of Christmas giving should select their offerings with discretion, judgement and adaptation to the tastes and needs of the one whom they desire to please.

On the True Meaning of Christmas A merry, merry Christmas to all who tread today the age-long road to Bethlehem where once our Saviour lay— a little child in swaddling clothes while cattle near him lowed; and in the sky above his head the Star of centuries glowed. A merry, merry Christmas to every weary heart that brings its load of care to One Who in our grief has part; a merry Christmas to the soul that lowly bows to him, before whose face the seraphim grow in their whiteness dim. A merry Christmas unto all who open wide the door, that Jesus Christ may enter in and dwell forever more. Exalted be his wondrous name, and glory be his own Who conquered sin and death for us, and sits upon the throne. A merry, merry Christmas to every little child, who clasps the hand of Jesus, and loves the undefiled, and may the light of Christmas from heaven’s fair palace stream and all the year be brighter in its radiant living gleam. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given” and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” Dear friends, may the next Christmas bring you and me into closer and sweeter relationship than ever before to Christ our Lord. I’ve shared just excerpts from the Christmas Holly chapter in The Joyful Life by Margaret E. Sangster in this article. To enjoy the full chapter, dramatized in my Christmas message PODCAST, visit www.thewritersreverie.com/vintage-christmas-holly and gather the family around with a cozy cuppa chocolate and an interactive Family Literacy moment. Take the time to discuss some of the thoughts expressed by Mrs. Sangster. How different are her musings about celebrating Christmas from how we celebrate it today? How are you challenged to revisit the heart of Christmas with your family by her thoughtful reflections?

The courtship of Jo March: a variation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women by Trix Wilkins Set in the early 1870s, this re-imagining of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is for all who have ever wondered how life might have worked out differently for the beloved March sisters. The courtship of Jo March is a coming of age romance novel exploring themes of love, faith, and family. Authoress Jo March has lost her elder sister Meg to matrimony. When the aristocratic Vaughns – elegant Kate, boisterous Fred, thoughtful Frank, and feisty Grace – re-enter their lives, it seems her younger sisters Beth and Amy, and even her closest friend Laurie, might soon follow suit. Yet despite the efforts of her great-aunt March, Jo is determined not to give up her liberty for any mortal man. Theodore “Laurie” Laurence was born with looks, talent, and wealth – and Jo is convinced he has a promising future in which she has no part. He is as stubborn as Jo, and has loved her for as long as anyone can remember. But what will win a woman who won’t marry for love or money? Sample chapters: www.marchandlaurencelittlewomen.wordpress.com Reviews: www.goodreads.com/book/show/32672681-the-courtship-of-jo-march Tell us a little about yourself When not indulging in rewriting fictional history, I care for my two children while trying to retain knowledge from my journalism and international relations degrees. (The latter usually results in my avoiding housekeeping, and going ice skating instead – or going on dates with my husband Andrew!) I also work part time for mission agency OMF International. Why write this book? I loved Little Women Part 1, and had no idea Part 2 (Good Wives) existed, until years later. Jo was my favorite character – her penchant for writing, striving for independence, and pushing against societal expectations, resonated with me. I liked Laurie because he despised “fuss and feathers,” and for his liking Jo best of all because of her character. I was disappointed with how things turned out. I had hoped Jo would write and travel abroad. It was difficult to read of Laurie’s frittering away his talent and money. They had so much potential – Jo as an author, Laurie as a musician. And I started to wonder - under what circumstances might Laurie not been so frivolous at college, and Jo received a deeper education to further her writing? I also thought that if either did ever marry, it would have been to the other – a possibility I came to suspect hung on that moment when Marmee advised Jo that she and Laurie were not suited for

marriage. And I started to imagine - what could Marmee have possibly said, that would have allowed Jo to love Laurie, had she chosen? How could Laurie have possibly proposed, in a different manner? And Beth…how was it that the Laurences did not seem to do more to save her? This made sense in the context of Louisa’s history, as she had lost her sister Elizabeth – but simply agitated me to amend at least fictional history, even if I could do nothing about saving Elizabeth in real life. But I didn’t plan to write a book! I was sitting on the couch with my husband while on holiday, doodling possible conversations…And as I wrote, I found the characters saying and doing things I hadn’t planned – and to find out what happened next, I had to keep writing. I felt almost like the story wanted to be written. How this came to be a book started with just one comment – and I am so grateful for that timely line of encouragement! I have thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the lives of some of my favorite literary characters, and imagining what might have been. What were your favorite parts to write? The proposal scene was the first thing I wrote, and still one of my favorites! I remember I got up in the middle of the night with the scene in my head, then wrote for hours. I also really enjoyed writing the chapter Neighborly in New York – in Little Women Part 1, Jo visits Laurie when he’s sick; in this chapter, Laurie gets to do the same for Jo. But I think my absolute favorite part is The Masquerade, which is very much inspired by Shakespeare’s As you like it. If you could only share one snippet from the novel, what would it be? Probably Jo’s speech to Kate Vaughn: “You speak as though they cannot be trusted with freedom to build a future for themselves, given the opportunity. Certainly humanity as a whole shares a collective guilt for incompetency in crafting a decent future for ourselves – more often than not, we seem eager to destroy others for our own selfish gain. If you truly care for their prospects once freed, then raise a voice and a hand towards that cause! But do not condemn those who work towards the step that must be accomplished first. Liberty first must be achieved, before anything else can have any meaning.” I really wanted to have Abigail May Alcott’s (Louisa’s mother) concern for social justice be an undercurrent throughout the novel, and her gentle influence be evident in the life choices the March sisters make. The plot centers on the romance, but Jo as an advocate for abolition is more explicit in this variation. eBook available from: Kobo: www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/the-courtship-of-jo-march-a-variation-of-louisa-may-alcott-s-littlewomen Apple iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1166360554 Barnes & Noble: www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-courtship-of-jo-march-trix-wilkins/1124862874 To order the paperback ($US14.95), contact Trix Wilkins at marchandlaurencelittlewomen@gmail.com (385 pages; 209mm x 149mm x 29mm; 520g)

The First Christmas Gift by Norma C. Mezoe The wrapping was strips of cloth, the tinsel, bits of hay…. Jesus, the precious Gift of God, in a humble manger lay. No colored lights on a green pine tree shone upon his face…. But in the sky a bright star gleamed and pointed to his grace. First rights – The Gem, published 12/23/12 Reprint rights – The Lutheran Digest, published Fall Issue 2013

Wrapped in Humanity by Norma C. Mezoe Son of God come to earth, Royal lineage, lowly birth. Left angels praise to endure our scorn; exchanged heaven’s glory, in a manger to be born. Wrapped himself in the body of man; Lived on earth to follow God’s plan. Rejected, suffered, crucified; Laid in a borrowed tomb, risen, glorified. Merciful Father, Savior Son, Guiding Spirit, all in One. First rights – Standard, published 12/16/07 Reprint rights – Live!, published 12/22/13

The Christmas Blessing by Sharmelle Olson As you get into the spirit of Christmas what is it that you see off in a distance? You may be able to praise God and witness the good and magnificent silence. As we give our gifts here at Christmas time it is the time to think of giving not receiving, Yes, it’s a time to receive gift too but give time to the Lord at the same time you are receiving. The side of giving gifts is so miraculous with the good and surprising facial expressions on the faces of your family members, which are gracious and leave you with a wonderful impression.

A Brighter Place by Cynthia Knisley

It has been a difficult few months—nationally and personally. The constant bombardment of political messages brought us face-to-face with racism and discrimination, forcing us to rethink what kind of people we are as Americans. On a daily basis the media streamed new incriminating “evidence” that candidates were unfit. Suddenly those who looked different felt like outsiders in their own communities. Many became fearful for their safety. The terms crook and misogynist became a part of everyday vocabulary. The focus on criticism rather than optimism, negative findings of the past rather than creative ideas for the future, and exclusion rather than inclusion left me and perhaps you too, feeling just plain “down.” Election 2016 is over now and we should be relieved. But our nation is experiencing protests against the newly elected leader from one coast to the other, some inciting violence. Doesn’t God call us to live peaceably? We are deeply divided.

“Be encouraged and strengthened and take His love into the world around you to make it a brighter place.” Are we not called to forgiveness and reconciliation? We are told that a large segment of our population turned the tide in the election due to their sense of feeling left out. Why did we not hear these voices in the past? Aren’t we called to be our brothers’ keeper? Marginalized groups in our society feel pushed further to the edge. Doesn’t God love us all equally?

Families are fractured and worried about sitting down together for a holiday feast. Hasn’t God taught us to live in harmony with each other? There are many questions. I’m trying to process it all by praying, reading, and reaching out to those whose ballot choice was different from mine. God calls me to be a responsible citizen and to follow the example of Jesus. I will engage in this world with the deepest compassion and understanding for others that I can muster. I will listen for quiet voices of despair and will offer a heartfelt smile and welcome to those of a different skin color or language. I will respect every human being as a child of God. Perhaps these efforts will help. One crystal clear answer comes to us at this holy season of Advent…….an answer about which we can be certain. God sent His Son to teach us about love. Let us lean into this beautiful message---finding it in the scripture accounts of Jesus’ birth so long ago, seeing it in the soft glow of candles in the window and the sweet smiles of children, witnessing it in the bell ringer bundled up by a red bucket on a frosty December evening. We can hear of this love in the beautiful carols of the season and feel it in the warm hugs of family and friends. We can be transformed by it as we quietly kneel at the manger on Christmas Eve. Yes, it is a bleak time, but a wonderful love feast is coming. My prayer for you this Advent season is that you will be wrapped in the warm blanket of God’s presence. Be encouraged and strengthened and take His love into the world around you to make it a brighter place.

Carol's Book Club by Carol Peterson Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life you Want Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy There are things we must do; things we should do; things we want to do. Unfortunately, it is hard to get things done. Hard to focus. Hard to settle on what is important. As I learn what God means to “number my days” I find that—with less time left on this earth— everything feels important. I want to get it all done. I don’t want to leave anything unresolved or any goals uncompleted. I “say” this or that is important. But am I spending the time on those things in a way that is evidence of their importance? Am I spending too much time on the mundane and leaving the bucket list on the back porch where I can conveniently ignore it? Lately then I’ve begun a process of prioritizing. Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy’s latest book, Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life you Want helps you understand whether or not what you profess to believe is important is what you are actually spending time on. As Hyatt and Harkavy recommended, I spent a week thinking. Then I spent a day writing about the areas of life I wanted more focus, what I wanted to accomplish and how I wanted to accomplish my goals. Based on this book, I've focused my life plan on spiritual matters, my relationships with my husband, family members and people outside my family, health, writing, and hobbies. The hardest part of the plan? Reading the 17-page, single spaced, 3000 word document every day. Out loud. There’s something about reading my plan out loud every day that has increased my commitment to it. It's about announcing the plan to myself, to anyone in hearing distance (usually my dog who interestingly enough comes over and shakes my hand), the world in general and God in specific. You may be a person who flies by the seat of your pants. Or you may think you don't have time to create a plan. But plans can help you move forward with confidence, even if the plan changes from time to time. As we're bringing 2016 to a close, many of us look forward to what we'd like to accomplish in the New Year unfolding before us. This book is a great read as we prepare to do so.

Check the Temperature Puzzle by Beth Brubaker

Fill in the thermometers so that they match the numbers on the side of the grid- all bulbs must be filled in before you fill in the stems. But be careful - some thermometers could be empty!


Home by Mary Dolan Flaherty I don’t know about you, but I love to come home. I enjoy traveling, going out with friends, and running errands, but I always love coming home. I might be gone for a week or an hour, but as soon as I walk in the door, I feel relief. I’m where I belong. I love coming home, and I love being home. Home is familiar. Comfortable. Safe. It wasn’t always that way. I was a child of divorce, remarriage, and re-divorce. My home didn’t always feel comfortable or safe, and instead of looking forward to coming home, I desperately wanted to leave. When I started a family and created my own home, I tried to love it, but I was in a bad marriage that eventually ended in divorce. The home my children knew had split and become two. I wondered if they felt familiar, comfortable, and safe in both. Or did they feel transient, burdened, and always longing for the other home? Sometimes, as much as I love my home, I long for my other one. I’m comfortable here. It’s familiar. It’s what I’ve made it. And it is safe now because I’ve made it to be. But sometimes, I feel an ache for a place I think I remember but I’ve never been to. A place I’ve only been told about but still feels like mine. A place where, when I look to the sky, I can practically envision. It feels more like home than the one I’ve decorated and furnished. I wonder what it felt like to be God in the form of a baby. To leave the home that was familiar, comfortable, and safe and to suddenly awaken in a different world, unable to tell anyone who you are or why you’re there. To be fully God, yet fully dependent on the people you created? In a world of unrest, did He feel safe? In a turbulent time, when his parents took him and fled for their lives, did he wish he had four walls and three squares? Did He long for one home while He was living in the other? I wonder how much he understood, being a baby and all. Yes, He was fully God, but He was also fully baby, having to rely on his parents to keep him safe. Remember when Mary and Joseph lost their son? He was twelve. Old enough to be responsible for getting himself to the bus on time to leave Jerusalem. When his parents realized he missed the caravan back to Nazareth, they had to backtrack—a day’s journey (Did you ever wonder how they could have gone a full day before they realized he was gone? If you ever lived with a twelve-year old boy, you’d get it). They found him in the temple. His mother made an attempt at instilling Jewish guilt by asking him how he could treat them this way. He replied, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

He was Homesick. And what about all those times during His ministry when He went off to pray by Himself? Did He long for Home then? Did He sit on a mountaintop, or in a rowboat on the middle of a still lake and look up to the sky, His other home? Unlike me, He knew exactly what that other Home looked like. All the more reason to be Homesick. He was rejected in his own hometown, Nazareth. Yet, when He died, the thief on the cross next to him said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Don’t forget me when you get Home. To which our Savior—that grown up baby who left His Heavenly Home to live in an earthly one— replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” Paradise. That’s where our Home truly is. Sometimes we visit a place we call paradise on earth. Maybe it’s someplace tropical—one of those resorts with the grass huts on top of crystal clear turquoise water. It seems like paradise, but the mosquitoes are the size of dragonflies and we’re worried we might get Typhoid Fever, or we had a bad meal that didn’t agree with us (I’m only speculating, as this is only a fantasy of mine. The mosquitoes and bad meals make the fact that I’m missing out more bearable). As wonderful as the vacation was, we can’t wait to get home. And as much as I love the home I have here, the one that is comfortable, familiar, and safe, the one that is waiting for me is all of that and more. It’s paradise! And we all long for paradise. That’s why I sometimes feel homesick for the place I’ve never been to but feel like I was. But maybe I have. That’s why I believe that when I finally go to my other Home, my first one, the one that houses God’s workshop where he fashioned me—that I’ll have a grass hut in water the color and depth of nothing I’ve ever seen on earth. Ah, paradise! That’s Home. Blessed Christmas. May the peace that comes from Your Heavenly Home be evident in your earthly one.

Three Tips for Healthier Holiday Partying by Katie Robles Tis the season of holiday parties and truly fabulous food! We drool in anticipation with each invitation, but we also start to wonder what we’ll look like on the other side of the New Year. Here are three tips for a healthier holiday party season. 1. Don’t clean your plate This goes against everything your parents taught you, but when it comes to rich party foods, some of them aren’t worth the calories. How can you tell which delights to make room for and which to hide under a napkin? You taste them. Select small amounts of what you think you’ll like and try them. If you don’t like something, don’t eat it. If you like everything, focus on your favorites. Most people are concerned with their own food, not yours, and won’t notice if a few rejects are growing cold on the side of your plate. Eat slowly and savor the bounty spread before you. 2. BYOV: Bring Your Own Veggies If you’re asked to bring a dish to a party, bring along a veggie that you love. That way you know you’ll have something healthy to fill your plate and balance out the superrich foods. Know your fellow partiers, though. One year I brought a tray of raw vegetables to a Superb Bowl party and I was the only one who touched it. The next year I brought Pumpkin Apple Dip (recipe below) and after assuring a few skeptics that pumpkin is not only edible, it’s delicious; the dip disappeared by the fourth quarter. 3. Keep exercising Moving your body burns calories, but it also helps your body process that delicious party food more efficiently. A few years ago scientists did a study on overeating. They had two groups overeat to simulate the holiday season; one group exercised and one group did not. Even though weight fluctuations were similar for both groups, the exercisers showed better blood sugar control and metabolism than the couch potatoes. (https://sunnysleevez.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/good-newsfor-gluttons-read-this-before-you-start-the-season-of-stuffing/) People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Luke 13:29 (NIV)

Pumpkin Apple Dip Recipe Ingredients: 3/4 cup (6 oz) 1/3 less fat cream cheese 1/2 cup packed brown sugar 1/2 cup canned pumpkin 2 tsp maple syrup 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon Apple slices Directions: Beat cream cheese and brown sugar with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add pumpkin, maple syrup, and cinnamon and blend until smooth. Serve with apple slices.

Give them the Gift of Giving by Joan Leotta

At Christmas, your children will receive many gifts. Of course, the best gift of all in this holiday season is the gift of Christ Himself—John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…" The best gift you can give your children is to teach them how to give. For very young children, one of the best ways to tie the idea of giving to the Gift that Christ gave of Himself is to have them "make the manager soft for Jesus." There were two main ways we tried to impress this on our children. At our house, I prepared a paper or cardboard "manger" every December along with a pile of strips that represented straw. Each time one of my children did a good deed—they would tell me what it was and then they could place one of the "straws" in the manger. Before the time of Advent started, the time leading up to Christmas, when in the church we prepare our hearts and some light candles every week, the children and their father and I would discuss what was meant by "good deeds." They could shovel the walk for someone. They could bring cookies to a neighbor. They could help at home without beings asked, doing chores or helping with chores that were not their usual "jobs." The second gift went under the tree. Every year our children received a blank notebook or stack of construction paper or drawing paper and crayons or colored pencils or some other drawing or painting medium (as they got older they were allowed to specify the type of art supplies they wanted). We wanted to feed their creativity and we gave them the means to bless others with that creativity. Instead of simply filling up the surface of our refrigerator with their artwork, we encouraged them to give it to others by making cards for the people in a nearby nursing home.

We also encouraged them to sending some to their grandparents, who lived at quite a distance. Another way we encouraged this was by having them make wrapping paper for other sorts of gifts that they and we as a family gave to others. In this way, their giving became a year-round habit. Yes, we periodically had them help us go through old clothing and select old toys to give to others, and give part of their allowance to the church and missions, but we did not want them to think that we only gave God and others what we did not want, or a part of our monetary earnings. We wanted them to learn the joy of creating something with the express purpose of giving it away—something lovely, beautiful and wonderful to give. As they grew to adulthood, we no longer made the manger, but the tradition of making something and giving it away ran strong in both of them---with their art, other talents, and their time, both volunteered at church and in the community. So, teach them the art of giving, and your family can benefit from the joy of Christmas all year long. Joan Leotta's third book, Rosa's Red Apron, deals with the joy of giving, the deep happiness that comes from making something and giving it to someone else. The book is available on Amazon, just enter the name of the book and Joan Leotta. You can also find the link to buy it on Joan's Facebook page, Joan Leotta, Author and Story Performer.

Advent Tide by Keith Wallis The star shines in city and town, dark places yield their grip, shadows become the hiding place of fools. Clamour and bawl of purpose, desire, and achievement’s scheming vacuum are struck dumb this unsilent night. There may be no angels singing here, no outcast shepherds with restless flock nor sages perched on tired dromedaries. There may be no warm cattle or festooned straw, no earth stood as hard as iron or dreamless sleepy streets. But soon, with embers of heaven, the child returns to open hearts and with smiling eyes says again “fear not�.

Our Redeemer by Frances Gregory Pasch “No room in the inn,” they heard the man say. Discouraging news on a long weary day. “Go to the stable, bed down in the hay; That’s the best I can do, if you’d like to stay.” Since Mary and Joseph were tired and worn And needed a place for their child to be born, They went to the place where the animals lay And made a small bed for the babe out of hay. Right before dawn, a cry could be heard… A Savior was born—the True Living Word. The awaited Redeemer, sent from above… A gift from the Father, a true act of love. For unless Jesus came, there would be no way For entry to heaven on our final day. Let’s open our hearts so we can receive His free gift to all who choose to believe.

The Perfect Christmas by Alisha Ritchie “And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snuggly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger…” Luke 2:6-7 NIV Recently, a friend asked me to describe my favorite Christmas memory. I struggled to think of just the right memory, the perfect Christmas. The one that stood out from the rest like a Hershey Kiss in a pile of peppermints. I searched my mind and heart for memories of Christmases past, from my own childhood all the way to when my kids were small and the wonder of Santa was very magical. I recalled the time when I was probably six or seven, and the power went out on Christmas Eve, forcing my parents, sisters, and I to celebrate by candlelight. Or when my children, Zack and Abby, were just little ones with chubby cheeks and sparkling eyes. I dressed them in matching Rudolph shirts and took candid pics of them under the beautifully lit tree. Or how about the time we “adopted” a family and bought gifts for each member. That was certainly a memorable Christmas. Truthfully, each and every Christmas that I can remember has had some pretty perfect moments. I remember them with such fondness that my lips curl in a smile and my mood brightens just thinking of them. But then there are some moments that aren’t so wonderful too. Like the time that my whole family got sick with the flu and had to postpone our festivities until two weeks later. Or the time that “Santa” forgot to bring the main present that Zack wanted. Yes, lots of imperfect times clutter my holiday memories, too. And that’s okay because my Christmases have been filled with the people I love most, imperfect people, just like me, and made up of a few pristine moments but mostly a lot of flawed ones. So there was not just one perfect Christmas I could describe to my friend. It seemed as if the memories of each imperfect Christmas had been pieced together to form the warmest, fuzziest blanket for my heart and soul.

They were all a part of each other now, forever stitched together with a bond that couldn’t be broken. No, I certainly couldn’t just narrow it down to one, most memorable, most awesome Christmas. Or could I? My mind sparked with thoughts of a Christmas thousands of years ago. The night was filled with angels, shepherds, a bright star, and a virgin, Mary, and her husband, Joseph. That night even the most imperfect people and circumstances were brought together by God to bring forth perfection Himself, in human form. Baby Jesus was born in a humble barn among dirty hay and animals. But God used all of this to let Jesus’ humility but also his transcendence shine through on that night. How blessed I am that God sent His Son as a most precious gift, to be the King of the earth and the King of my heart. Surely this was the most perfect, holy Christmas ever, in all of history. As my Christmas memories burn bright in the landscape of my mind, they mesh together to form a glow more precious than the warmth of the candlelight service at church. I am thankful for all of the perfect and imperfect moments each Christmas brings but especially for the birthday of my Savior. This holiday season, take time to slow down, take a break from all of the shopping and wrapping, and ponder your Christmas memories. Which ones stand out the most to you? Have you thanked God for the birth of His Son? Do you know someone who needs to hear the true meaning behind Christmas? Be encouraged to celebrate Jesus by making Him the focus of all of your festivities, and better yet, all of your memories to come.

Christmas is More Than… by Sharon L. Patterson

Christmas is more than…

Christmas is more than…

…Re-tying remnant ribbons and making new bows (rescued from last year’s toss away pile of discarded holiday wrappings) for this year’s carefully chosen gifts. You smile, knowing a couple of those extra gifts under the tree are direct results of the savings from the salvaged ribbon-a legacy tip from your mother-in-law. Maybe your daughter-in-law, who’s favorite York Peppermints you are tucking into her stocking, will pass along that frugal tradition that leads to greater generosity, too.

…Seeing ALL the strands of twinkling lights successfully come on as you step back to admire your creative handiwork at the end of a marathon of holiday decorating. Satisfaction pours out in happy sighs as you gaze from the tree-topper angel all the way to the bottom where the cherished handcrotched tree skirt inherited from grandmother thirty years ago adds the perfect finish. No matter that much of it will be hidden, covered by the gifts. Its importance is not diminished at all for it binds generations of celebration as it lies foundationally circling the tree.

…Tasseling the curls of your youngest grandchild’s hair that just grew out from her last scissor-happy moment; or gleefully rubbing the top of your son’s short-shaved haircut. He just got home for a couple of weeks from his deployment. You do not mind at all that your family will be celebrating Christmas on the ninth instead of the twenty-fifth. Neither does anyone else. They all worked it out because being together is the biggest gift of all this year. …Or wiping sticky Snicker Doodle cookie dough off your fingers on the appliqued “Christmas Tastes Great at Grandma’s” kitchen towel your grandson handed you when he walked in the door after school the week before Christmas. It wasn’t even wrapped. “Grannah, I knew this would help you make our favorite cookies. You always need to get that sticky stuff off your hands!” Needless to say, this will be a BIGGEST batch of Snicker Doodles ever!

…Peeking out the window in great anticipation for the children and grandchildren to arrive so that you can begin sharing surprises you have specifically selected for each one. Many of them are over there under the tree. Perhaps its appearance with bulging packages and tissue laden bags is a bit over the top for, after all, you did find the forgotten gifts purchased the day after last Christmas. …Glancing at the menu guide of Christmas movies listed on the Hallmark channel, deciding which ones you just can’t miss seeing again. Maybe there will be an especially good one produced this year that will be added to your favorites. You must write down the titles as they seem to escape the instant recall file in your memory more easily than they used to. …Watching the story that never grows old acted out at the church Christmas pageant. Tears flow freely as you watch your granddaughter steps shyly into Mary’s role. Johnny Moore, your best friend’s grandson will play Joseph. How perfect! A quiet chuckle follows close behind the thought of “perfect” as you remember the frantic, faster than the legal speed limit trip home to get Baby Jesus your grown son left on the kitchen table as everyone scurried out the door to make it to rehearsal on time.

Christmas is more than…

Christmas is more than…

…Memories of your own childhood Christmases sneaking in on today’s festivities through favorite traditions including familiar carols you can still hear your Aunt Sharon playing on the old upright piano whose middle “c” stuck with every stroke of her bright red polished nails on the chords.

…The attachments to tradition, the sum of years of memories you can smell, touch, hear, see and feel. It is all we hold precious and dear in the hope of the “best” behavior in each of our loved ones gathered together this year that may have been less than stellar last year.

Mother’s tattered recipe cards whose writing is barely legible, especially on your favorite orange balls (oh well, no matter, you have it memorized anyway!); and photo albums with pictures you keep introducing to the grandchildren of you and your sisters.

…The time of year we dare to believe for all human kind that hope and love will spread wide and far in hearts and live out in demonstration through how we treat one another.

You really do intend to scan the old photos and put them on a memory stick. Maybe next year. …Treasured ornaments that you fully intend to give to the grandchildren when they marry to begin their family Christmas stories on their trees. Oh yes, and the animated decorations who light up and sing; there are five of them. Each grandchild will inherit one.

…Remembrance of the time long ago when God wrapped his greatest gift to man in the womb of a young Jewish virgin named Mary. Christmas is… …The arrival… at just the right moment: announced by angels, celebrated by humble shepherds and later by foreign kings, the God-man stepped forth in time and Hope shouted to all the earth through the sweet sighs of a baby. “MORE THAN” was born and his name is Jesus.

The Lost Opportunity by Norma C. Mezoe A small family huddles together, discussing what is occurring on Golgotha. Benjamin, the ten-year-old, speaks, “Grandfather, who was this Jesus? Did you ever meet him?” Joseph sadly shakes his head. Tears threaten to overflow his eyes and to run down his leathery cheeks as he remembers a night many years ago. He had traveled to a far country where he met a group of Magi. They had seen a brilliant star in the sky which they believed would lead them to the promised Messiah. They wanted to go worship Him and had asked Joseph to travel with them. “No”, he had told them, “you go ahead; I must attend to my business.” When the Magi returned, they told Joseph of finding the Christ Child in Bethlehem. Through the long years which followed, Joseph’s thoughts often returned to that moment in time when he could have chosen to follow a star to the Messiah. How different his life might have been. And now, this same Christ, the Savior, is hanging from a cross. “It is too late,” Joseph moans to himself. “If only I hadn’t been too busy for the Christ Child.” (Poor Joseph, he thought it was the end. In reality, it was only the beginning). -Wise men still seek the Christ and find Him – in their hearts. First rights – Light from the Word, published December 24, 1992

The Advent “Yes” by Kathleen McCauley Advent is all about “yes”. It all began with a “yes” and continues in each of us as we say “yes”. Yes to the unknown. Yes in the darkness. Yes in the fear. Yes in the uncertainty. Yes in not knowing our own strength. Yes in not knowing God’s strength. Yes to potential. Yes to blind faith. Yes in trepidation. Yes in persecution. Yes in harsh judgment. Yes to life. Yes to fullness of Joy. Yes in hope. Yes to believing in Love and the One who loves you!! May advent bring you to a “yes”. May your relationship with God bring you to more Yeses. And may your life be a melody of yes, to the God who loves you so dearly!! May the confidence and comfort of this relationship enable you to say “yes”, Even if the yes is to simply say yes to five minutes of prayer or quiet. God rejoices in each and every yes we give to Him. This one small “yes” leads to the life of “yes” we witness in Mary, Jesus and Joseph.

Kingdom Priorities in the Christmas Story by Miriam Jacob

Christ is God’s gift to us at Christmas. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, Jesus was carried in Mary’s womb and was born as a helpless baby. God personally supervised every single detail of His birth. Christ’s birth was a reflection of God’s character that expresses compassion and exalts humility. God chose simple and humble people to be the earthly parents of his son. Both Mary and Joseph had great sanctity of character. They submitted to the will of God. They obeyed God selflessly and wholeheartedly. Both of them persevered against all odds and endured great hardship and difficulty to fulfil the solemn responsibility of bringing the Son of God into the world. Mary was the humble recipient of God’s favour. God partnered with her in an unprecedented act of creation, unique in the history of mankind. It was a rare honour of unparalleled distinction. never bestowed upon anyone else. The Bible says that Mary was a chaste virgin. God holds purity in high esteem because He is pure and holy. Though troubled at first at the announcement of the angel, Mary submitted obediently to the will of God. She was aware of the risk that she was taking. But she said “Yes” to God. She agreed to take up the divine assignment. Doing God’s will was the top priority in her life. Nothing else mattered. When Mary submitted to God’s will, she had to endure much pain. In the ninth month of her pregnancy, she had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem on a donkey to be registered in the national census of the whole Roman Empire. When the time came for Mary to give birth, there was no room for them to stay in the inn. She had to deliver her baby in a stable. There, in the most humble and lowly of places, Mary gave birth to her firstborn. She wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger.

Joseph was a just and upright man. He was confronted with a terrible crisis and unimaginable dilemma. Imagine his utter shock and great distress on hearing that his fiancee is pregnant. God gave him a surprise, one that would shake the core of his very being. Joseph sacrificed his interests for the work of God to be fulfilled through him. He was far more concerned about Mary’s reputation than about the deep, personal hurt he had to endure on account of the virgin birth. The exemplary way in which he treated Mary, in the most trying and difficult circumstances, clearly indicates his kind and gentle nature. Only under the deep scrutiny of the most severe stresses and strains of life does the true character of a man emerge. Joseph did not fail his greatest test. He believed God against all odds. That is why God entrusted him with the grandest responsibility that a man could ever have, to be the foster father of the incarnate son of God. Not a single word of his is recorded in the Gospels. He gently fades into the background. But his attitudes and actions speak volumes of his sterling character. The Magnificat, Mary’s hymn of praise (Luke 1:4655) glorifies God for what He has done, and what He is about to do. She glorifies the Lord in reflecting (and ‘magnifying’) His goodness and love. The Magnificat is more than a prayer of praise. It also reminds us about the essential link between humility and holiness. Just as God has “regarded the lowliness of His handmaid” and “has done great things” for Mary in making her the mother of God’s Son, so too “He has put down the mighty from their thrones (with His own might!) and has exalted the lowly.” Let us remember that the Christmas event bears witness to the inversion of worldly values that characterize God’s Kingdom, a kingdom where greatness is measured in terms of obedience, selfdenial and humility.

A Christmas Bill by Jewell Utt

So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish. Matthew 18:14 (NIV)

I thought about Christmas, it was right around the corner. The gifts and food, the travel and clothes... the bills were adding up.

My peaceful walk through the forest was disturbed by sounds of distress. It was a goose wildly shaking his bill, caught in some type of barbed wire. As I approached cautiously, I could see it was scared.

I must confess, a Christmas goose dinner crossed my mind. One less expense.

My help would only panic him more. I called Animal Control, who amazingly came right over. They sedated the bird to prevent further damage from his thrashing about. Task complete, I began to walk away. "Wait ma'am we need some information." "Well I don't know what more I can add." I said. "We need a contact number for the bird." The officer replied. "I don't think he has a phone." I said. The officer was hardly amused. "The fact is that someone has to take responsibility for a vet to get involved." "You mean they won't just treat and release him?" I asked. "It's a goose; they're not the most loved birds. And vets can't afford to treat every case." "So they need someone to pay for the visit. Is that it?" "That's it. And if you can't... we should just put him down right here." Wow, not worthy of being saved, how sad.

But as I looked around I spied a slightly smaller goose hiding in the brush. My eyes filled as I realized it was his mate, waiting to see the fate of her partner. He was important to her. Human partnerships can be as fleeting as the wind. One out of every two marriages in the US end in divorce. Yet geese will mate for life. Though I doubt love is the driving force to their fidelity, love was definitely the driving force for my decision. I reflected on the love God has for me. For each of His sheep, not willing for even one to go astray. So I gave my information. I would pay this Christmas bill. The detestable reputation of the goose, reminded me how quickly we can discount people we deem undesirable. Yet, God deems us all worthy. His love and compassion are a free gift He offers to everyone. May we see others, as He sees us. As for the geese...I fed the female so she would stick around until her mate was returned, then quietly watched as she swam to his side.

New from author, Jean Ann Williams

Just Claire One mother damaged. One family tested. One daughter determined to find her place. ClaireLee’s life changes when she must take charge of her siblings after her mother becomes depressed from a difficult childbirth. Frightened by the way Mama sleeps too much and her crying spells during waking hours, ClaireLee just knows she’ll catch her illness like a cold or flu that hangs on through winter. ClaireLee finds comfort in the lies she tells herself and others in order to hide the truth about her erratic mother. Deciding she needs to re-invent herself, she sets out to impress a group of popular girls. With her deception, ClaireLee weaves her way into the Lavender Girls Club, the most sophisticated girls in school. Though, her best friend Belinda will not be caught with the likes of such shallow puddles, ClaireLee ignores Belinda’s warnings the Lavenders cannot be trusted. ClaireLee drifts further from honesty, her friend, and a broken mother’s love, until one very public night at the yearly school awards ceremony. The spotlight is on her, and she finds her courage and faces the truth and then ClaireLee saves her mother’s life. Just Claire is now available from Amazon through Ruby’s Reading Corner.

Visit Katherine’s Corner for creative inspiration, including weekly blog hops, monthly giveaways, and so much more! www.katherinescorner.com

The Writers’ Reverie: Enrich your life through the power of story www.thewritersreverie.com

PUNCTUALITY Letter Tile Puzzle Answer Key by Beth Brubaker Rearrange the tile to find the hidden phrase

Check the Temperature Puzzle Answer Key by Beth Brubaker Fill in the thermometers so that they match the numbers on the side of the grid- all bulbs must be filled in before you fill in the stems. But be careful - some thermometers could be empty!

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.

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 SonRiseInsights.blogspot.com.

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.

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. www.joanleotta.wordpress.com and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joan-Leotta-Authorand-Story-Performer/188479350973

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 in her 20s, her son is 14, and her twin daughters will be 13 soon.

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: normacm@tds.net 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 theatrical scripts for church and school, books, and storytelling programs engage young and old with dramatic flair as discipleship tools designed to minister to all ages—all at the same time. Visit her online where she blogs weekly and podcasts monthly at www.thewritersreverie.com and www.pageantwagonpublishing.com .

Cassidy Burdge is the Christian Prepster, a high school student living the Christian lifestyle in a preppy state of mind. She has a deep love for sharing Christ through her writing and blogging, and she is excited to be part of Ruby Magazine. Cassidy blogs about anything from Biblical teachings to book reviews. You can connect with Cassidy on her blog, The Christian Prepster at https://thechristianprepster.wordpress.com/

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

Kim Kluxen Meredith is an award winning published author. Her book "Listen for the Whispers: Coping with Grief and Learning to Live Again" provides a platform for her national/international inspirational speaking engagements. More information about her message of hope and resilience can be found on her author web page at www.kimkluxenmeredith.com

Katie Robles is living proof that women who love to bake and hate to sweat can lose weight and get healthy. She lost fifty pounds in four years by changing her habits, one small step at a time. She started writing Sex, Soup, and Two Fisted Eating after she asked herself the question "Why can't weight loss be fun?" She writes the weekly Sex, Soup, and Two Fisted Eating blog at www.sexsoupandtwofistedeating.com and is the author of Sex, Soup, and Two Fisted Eating: Hilarious Weight Loss for Wives (House of Bread, 2016).

Alisha Ritchie writes from North Carolina where she enjoys spending time with her husband, Brandon, of almost twenty years, and two busy but wonderful teenagers, Zack and Abby. She is a Physical Therapy Assistant by profession but in recent years has also become a multi-published author of devotions and inspirational stories to inspire others in their walk with God. You can read more of her writing at www.seekhimdaily.wordpress.com

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 kathleenmccauley1@msn.com

Frances Gregory Pasch’s devotions and poems have been published in devotional booklets, magazines, and Sunday school papers since 1985. Her writing has also appeared in several dozen compilations. Her book, Double Vision: Seeing God in Everyday Life Through Devotions and Poetry is available on Amazon. Frances has been leading a women’s Christian writers group since 1991. You can contact her at www.francesgregorypasch.com.

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 www.jewellutt.com or contact her by email:jewellutt@yahoo.com. "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

Cindy Knisley I have been an educator for 24 years in a suburban Philadelphia high school, I have always enjoyed language and writing. Teaching German and Latin trained me to respect the nuances of structure and story as well as the power of words. Three years ago I felt called by God to leave the work I loved in order to support my aging parents. My home is in West Chester, PA, where I tend a "secret garden," enjoy my grandchildren, attend church, and write.

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.

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 https://nellswasilewski.blogspot.com

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 atwww.patjeannedavis.com

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

series of E-Books at Lulu.com. 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.

Keith Wallis, Poet-in-Residence is an English poet. He is a senior part of the leadership team of Houghton Regis Baptist church. An engineering designer by trade, he brings an eye for detail as well as faith into his poetry. As well as being ‘poet in residence’ at Ruby magazine, he is a moderator at ChristianWriters.com. His blog of ekphrasic poetry is: http://wordsculptures-keith.blogspot.com/ where you’ll also find links to his books and his other blogs.

Katherine Corrigan, Recipes and Crafts Katherine is a blogger at Katherine’s Corner, an artist, designer, tea drinker and hug giver. She has been a contributor to Ruby for Women for five years. She is originally from England. But she has lived in the USA since 1975. She holds a rare dual citizenship with the UK and the USA and is a proud citizen of both. She greets each day with grace, dignity and gratitude. Thanking God for her strength as she continues to encourage others and moves forward despite her physical challenges. She is happily married and has five grandchildren. http://KatherinesCorner.com

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 http://footprintsinthemudblog.blogspot.com or email her at bethatruby@aol.com.

Nina Newton, Sr. Editor

When all of 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. Gracie is 15 years old and Annie is 14. They were both born in China, and we were able to travel to China two times to bring our daughters home. 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 www.mamaslittletreasures.com


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RUBY Magazine is published by Creative Life Publishing, Inc.

Profile for RUBY magazine

Ruby december 2016  

The Special Christmas Issue of RUBY magazine is filled with short stories, inspirational articles, craft projects, recipes, book reviews and...

Ruby december 2016  

The Special Christmas Issue of RUBY magazine is filled with short stories, inspirational articles, craft projects, recipes, book reviews and...