Over two thousand years ago, when three kings—wise men all—crossed the desert bearing gold, frankincense and myrrh to The Babe in the manger, little did they know what sort of tradition they were starting. Had they had foresight, telepathy or any kind of ability to see into the future, they might have thought better of bringing gifts to the Child as an expression of adoration. Nowadays, the expectations that Christmas brings, the commercialism, and the downright need for some sort of reciprocity amongst the gift-givers, has caused us all to lose sight of what is the real meaning behind exchanging gifts.
So what really constitutes a gift? How many times have you said something akin to, ‘Well, that was a gift!’ related to, not a physical present, but something that happened, something spontaneous or natural, spiritual even. Or perhaps as a child you wanted something so badly, you thought your little heart would burst but knew it was beyond the realms of possibility, and yet… ‘Gifts’ take many shapes and sizes, or perhaps no shape at all.
My own very best gift came in 1983. I was living in Wales at the time and expecting a baby in mid-January but, perhaps with too much holiday celebration, I went into labor on Boxing Day, Dec. 26th. Unfortunately, things did not go well and, because it was a holiday and in a small town, most of the staff were not on duty and had to be called in. You can imagine what this did to me having already had five hours of labor. But, without going into the gory details, the story had a happy ending, and my husband and I were blessed with a baby girl in the wee hours of Dec. 27th. Gifts don’t get any better than that!
I asked five of my favorite authors to join me in celebrating this very special time of year. And, of course, considering that we’re all talking about gifts, they’ve each very kindly consented to giving away one of their books. I’m happy to announce that the winners are, in order of the authors as they appear below, Vicki Batman, Ilona Fridl, Kathy ‘Memoir’, Pamela Stoddard, and Lorna Canoday. Congrats to all! In the meantime, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Diwali or nothing at all, I wish you much health (a gift!) and happiness (another gift!) for the holiday season and the year to come. At the bottom of this post I’ve also taken the liberty of noting a few web sites where you might decide to give a gift that helps others—a double gift.
Carmen Peone lives on the Colville Confederated Reservation in Northeastern Washington. She writes Young Adult Fiction which include Native American language and culture.
As I sit by the crackling fire, Dec. 25, 1989 I pray for a healthy baby. Our third baby in five years. I look at baby Jesus in the Nativity scene and smile, feeling like I’ll have another boy. My nerves feel raw from another hard pregnancy filled with toxemia and months of night sickness. Thankfully I wake up and mornings are filled with happy anticipation, but by evening, I wish I could have a surrogate mother.
So I sit early in the morning of Christmas Day and pray for a healthy baby and safe delivery. Then January comes and I find myself in the emergency room, waiting for Heart Flight to come pick me up. No horse and sleigh. No reindeers. Just a whirling metal chariot coming to give me a ride to Spokane, WA. Upon arrival to Sacred Heart Medical Center, doctors inform me I have placenta previa and I’m to be at bed rest. My due date is my birthday, April 15
Somewhere deep inside, I know this baby will arrive earlier than that. And he does. It’s February 7th, ten weeks early and I sit with tears streaming down my face, begging the nurse as they prep me for emergency Caesarian section to save my baby. I pray that God will find favor as he’s in duress and dying in my womb.
I fall asleep as a tear trickles down my face. I wake hours later, asking a nurse if my baby is alive. She smiles and nods. He’s little, but he’s alive. They’re wheeling me into NICU and I see my Christmas wish, a two-pound baby, not in a manger, but safe in an incubator, alive. He may not be the Savior, but he is our saving grace.
Carmen is happy to gift a signed, softcover copy of Heart of Passion, available at: http://carmenpeone.com/books/heart-of-passion/
Spupaleena will do nearly anything to make her dream of breeding the finest race horses in Indian Country come true. She and her relay teammates have been racing and winning, but one boy is resolved to see her fail. Spupaleena is passionate about her dreams and goals. Not any human nor circumstance will deter her–not poison, not injuries, and certainly not a pride-filled, vengeful boy. She leans into God for direction and wisdom, but will the hunger to triumph steal the reins? Will Spupaleena find her place in a man’s world and prove everyone wrong? Follow Spupaleena and her friends as they find out in this tale of drive, faith, perseverance, and ultimately, a Heart of Passion.
Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, USA Today bestselling author Shanna Hatfield is out to make it happen, one story at a time. Her sweet historical and contemporary romances combine humor and heart-pumping moments with relatable characters.
HOLIDAY SURPRISES WRAPPED IN LOVE
It is such a pleasure to be a guest here today, sharing holiday memories and slipping into a state of nostalgia.
When I was growing up, our house was often the place the extended family gathered for Christmas. Because both my parents came from big families, the two sides of the family alternated years.
The Christmas I was eight, Dad’s side of the family descended on our home bearing gifts, holiday cheer, and enough food to feed a small army.
My grandparents came Christmas Eve to spend the night. Overjoyed to have them there, it did strike me as odd since they’d never stayed before (and that turned out to be the only time they did stay with us for Christmas).
I remember awakening that morning to the most wonderful surprises beneath the tree. Grandpa had made me a dollhouse and Grandma furnished it. She’d even gone so far as to put in wallpaper and little lace curtains. Grandpa also made a cradle for the new baby doll that Santa brought and Grandma made a little quilt along with some clothes.
I still have the dollhouse and the cradle. The wonderful memories of sharing that splendid Christmas morning with my grandparents, of feeling so special and loved, are something I’ll always treasure.
Shanna is gifting a digital copy of The Christmas Cowboy (Rodeo Romance, Book 1) available at http://shannahatfield.com
November 1 through December 24, ten percent of the net proceeds from all Shanna Hatfield book sales will be donated to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund through the 2nd annual Cowboys and Christmas promotion.
Among the top saddle bronc riders in the rodeo circuit, easy-going Tate Morgan can handle the toughest horse out there, but trying to handle the beautiful Kenzie Beckett is a completely different story.
Susan Horsnell grew up in Sydney but now lives in sunny Queensland where she spends her days walking her dogs, reading, writing and renovating her home. Married for almost 41 years, she and her husband also enjoy a great deal of travel.
BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT
At Christmas time we were showered with gifts but the best gift for me came on Boxing Day. Dad would pack up our Holden Station Wagon with tent, beds, cooking implements etc etc, late on Christmas Day. At 2am on Boxing day, we would be woken and told to get ready. It was time for our annual holiday.
Our holiday was always on the beach 8 hours north of Sydney. The car packed to the rafters, 4 kids in the back seat (the fifth came 15 years later) and no seatbelts. We would stop for breakfast at a roadhouse where a magpie would invariably tell us to f..k off. It was a stop for the interstate truckers and they had delighted in teaching the Magpie to speak. After many years of complaints, we arrived one year to find Magpie had been relegated to the back of the station where he could no longer offend.
Six hours north of Sydney, travelling over a mountain range, the car would lose a retread. This happened with uncanny regularity year after year. Dad and I would be on the side of the road unpacking the back of the car. Yep, the spare was underneath everything. After changing the tyre while Mum and my brothers and sister remained in the car, Dad and I would attempt to repack the back. Things would never go back in and we would end up nursing a few items for the final two hours.
We would arrive at our destination, pitch the tent and then the rains came. Every year! I look back now and laugh but it really was always a disaster. But the best thing? Every year, at Christmas time, I had my dad for 2 whole weeks. It was the only present I wanted and I always looked forward to it.
He passed away in May of this year, and this Christmas I know my heart will ache for him.
I wish everyone a safe and happy Christmas and New Year.
The winner of Susan’s book may make his/her selection for an autographed paperback at Susan’s website, http://horsnells.wix.com/susan–1
Chantilly ‘Tilly’ Lace O’Malley is a corset wearing, gun toting, whisky drinking saloon owner. She can out-cuss, out-shoot and out-ride any man. The year is 1870 – women like Tilly are rare.
Can Gareth break through her fears to win her heart?
Does he even want to try?
Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters.
While I love Christmas more for the giving than the getting, I have to admit I ruined one Christmas for myself when I was thirteen.
From the time I was two until the summer I turned thirteen, my paternal grandparents lived with my family. There were seven of us in an old, three-bedroom, one-bath, farm house. My grandmother was always with us when our parents were at work or away.
My thirteenth summer, my grandparents were moved into a mobile home fifty feet from our house. We (kids) finally had the house to ourselves when we came home from school and during the summer months. This first Christmas with no one to watch our activities, I found the Christmas present stash. I carefully unwrapped all the gifts because my mom liked to use a code on the packages so only she knew who they were for.
By being snoopy, I ruined my Christmas. Nothing was a surprise, it was one of the worst Christmases I’ve had. Half of the fun of Christmas is wondering what you’ll receive for a gift and seeing the happy surprised faces of the people who receive presents from you.
Paty is giving away a digital copy of A Husband for Christmas (Final Novella in the Halsey Homecoming and Halsey Brothers Series) It is available for purchase at http://www.amazon.com/Husband-Christmas-Halsey-Homecoming-ebook/dp/B01608N20K
Shayla Halsey wanted to be home for Christmas, but never imagined her travels would include spending the night in a brooding stranger’s cabin. Snowballing events cause her to look inside herself and recognize maybe it wasn’t being home she wanted as much as it was to have a home.
Mace Walker has his life in order and doesn’t want it disrupted again. Yet, when he discovers a woman stranded in the snow, he has to help her—despite her overbearing and reckless fiancé. In a matter of days, Shayla turns his life upside down and forces him to decide if he should leave town or face the consequences.
Doris McCraw writes historical fiction under the pen name Angela Raines. She also publishes a photo and haiku Monday through Friday on the fivesevenfivepage on blogspot.com.
Oh the memories of Christmas and the gifts under the tree. Yes, there are some wonderful memories, but the ones that stick with you might not be the joyous ones you believe are important.
When I was around seven or eight, we had gone to my maternal grandmother’s for Christmas Day that year. She and her husband, not my grandfather, lived about twenty minutes away on a farm. The old, one story home in the middle of farmland in Illinois, was typical of such homes. I don’t remember much of the meal, who was there, or even what the day was like weatherwise. What I do remember is getting a beautiful doll. As I unwrapped it, I thought it perfect. Then my grandmother took it back, still in the box it was sold in and put it in another room, saying it was for me when I came to visit.
Now, I know many are thinking that was a cruel thing to do. Yes, it was, but a wonderful lesson was learned that day.
I remember my mother, in no uncertain terms, letting my grandmother know what she thought of her actions. My father was embarrassed and I was hurt. My brother, who is three years younger, didn’t quite get what was going on. The lesson, and a very important one was: People will do cruel things, without realizing what their actions can do. They do not think through beyond their own desires. Later that day, my mother told me, “You can not like what someone has done, but you can still love them.” That is why that particular Christmas has stayed with me all these years. A lesson learned of what love is and can be.
Doris will be giving away an ebook copy from Smashwords of Angel of Salvation Valley, a paranormal historical western. It is available at http://amzn.com/B016MPKFDI
Given a chance at freedom for a crime he didn’t commit, Drew Carson must kill for his pardon. Taken to a lush valley where a beautiful woman lives, Luke, Drew’s “rescuer”, lets him know that the woman is his target–kill her, and he’s a free man. Will Drew trade murder for love?
Some ways to make your gift count:
- http://www.nptechforgood.com/2009/11/18/11-holiday-gift-programs-that-benefit-nonprofits-and-make-the-world-a-better-place/ This includes charities that have shops so you can buy a physical gift that benefits others.
- http://gift.savethechildren.org/site/c.dvKSIbOSIlJcH/b.6885579/k.BFD5/Home.htm?msource=igxgpgft0513&gclid=Cj0KEQiA96CyBRDk5qOtp5vz8LkBEiQA6wx8MG_AsiEge2lpP03LhQRzCt1YPxcD-r3ZIVEJ4GuGAgQaAk5c8P8HAQ Both presents and donations.
- https://www.stjude.org/get-involved/other-ways/st-jude-thanks-and-giving.html?gclid=Cj0KEQiA96CyBRDk5qOtp5vz8LkBEiQA6wx8MOvoTdEa-JiFiEWy2ZdNxpKkD4XTbewO3gcdOR6yCVoaAg9D8P8HAQ&sc_cid=kwp6946&s_kwcid=AL!4519!3!77798603242!b!!g!!donate%20for%20children&ef_id=VkjxZwAAAdgRUpH5:20151115234314:s Donations to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital can be dedicated to someone with an electronic notification.
- https://www.redcross.org/donate/donation?donationProdId=prod10001&flow=oc1&pgver=psearch&scode=RSG00000E017&gclid=Cj0KEQiA96CyBRDk5qOtp5vz8LkBEiQA6wx8MCf1e0fx9sksTFvTFcv6j7X244kHh9ebiIN9EcIE_poaAmuA8P8HAQ&gclsrc=aw.ds&dclid=CM-_z7DOk8kCFRRDDAodZ0YFyg Donations to the Red Cross can be dedicated here as well.
- http://beanelf.org/ You read real letters to Santa from needy children and respond. In cooperation with the USPS Operation Santa beginning December 1st.