Meditative artwork, Scripture, and a brief devotional followed by reflective questions and short “breath prayers” to repeat through the day make this book a special part of Advent—or at least December 1-25, since the season of Advent usually begins in November.
The Bible verses come from Luke 1 and 2, highlighting the key figures: Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, Simeon, and Anna.
Making Room in Advent became a favourite part of each day for me, bringing quiet, calm, and pages of journalled response. I missed the benefit of the brief daily prayers by not taking time to write them down and keep them in view to include in my day.
The art in this book is lovely, restful, and thought-provoking. A paper copy of the book would be ideal, although I found reading the ebook on a tablet gave me a large enough view of each image. I don’t know how effective it would be on a smartphone.
Highly recommended for anyone desiring a meaningful collection of devotionals leading up to Christmas—although it could benefit readers any time of the year.
Bette Dickinson is a prophetic artist, a writer, and a speaker. To learn more about her, visit bettedickinson.com.
Roast Date, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2022)
Macy Hatfield is a good friend and a good neighbour. So she can’t help but get involved to try to clear her neighbour Vera’s name after a woman is found dead in Vera’s home. Especially since there’s no family around to help… and Christmas is coming.
The Christmas activities fit into the story to add atmosphere without feeling tacked on like they do in some books. There are cookies, carols, presents, and a visit to a Christmas tree farm. It would be a good book to read any time of year, but I enjoyed reading it mid-December.
The Barks & Beans Café Mystery Series is perfect for readers who like a fun, clean read with engaging characters… and pets. The stories aren’t fluff, but neither are they deep and brooding. Adult siblings Macy and Bo make a good team—both in the café and in solving the mysteries that keep coming their way. And of course Coal, the gorgeous Great Dane pictured on all the book covers, is a treat in his own right.
I always enjoy a virtual trip to the Barks & Beans Café to discover what’s on the menu and to see the interaction with the shelter dogs. Macy’s friend Summer brings them for café patrons to visit and hopefully adopt.
Roast Date is book 7 in the series and I think it’s one of the best. New readers could begin here and not feel lost. Doing so would give some minor spoilers for earlier books.
It’s a good series to read from the beginning, though, as the characters’ relationships do develop and there’s a behind-the-scenes villain who shows up from time to time. (Each mystery is self-contained and fully solved at the end of each book.)
This one ends with a hint of trouble to come in book 8, Shade Grown, which will release in 2023.
Heather Day Gilbert’s books range from clean mainstream cozy mysteries to Christian romantic suspense to Viking historicals. For more about the author and her work, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.
[Review copy provided by the publisher. My opinions are my own.]
Seven years ago, my then future daughter-in-law first came to visit from across the Pond.
Because our home is well over 100 years old, it looks best when it’s decorated for Christmas. So, that year, we decorated mid-November.
And that’s when it all began.
We’ve been decorating “early” ever since. My hubby set up his extensive Dicken’s Village from Department 56 on November 12 this year. The following Sunday, I set up my smaller (but more fun) Whoville Village on the mantel.
The trees went up last week. Yes, trees—plural.
At this time of year, I can count on my hubby’s inner child surfacing. Christmas is his favourite time of year. After decades of marriage, his love for the season has finally rubbed off on me.
And don’t we all need a little enthusiasm, positivity, and just plain ole fun?
The past couple of years have weighed us all down with challenges we never anticipated—and some we saw coming but would rather have avoided.
Unprecedented. Pivot. New normal. We’ve all heard these words Far. Too. Often.
But in the midst of it all … consistency.
Christmas comes round every year. Hopefully, the season brings you far more joy than anything else. (While I do love my hubby’s enthusiasm and a laidback approach to the twenty-fifth—something we started even before 2020—I do miss visiting my extended family and celebrating in person with my sons and their wives. But let’s not dwell on that. Thank You, Lord, for Zoom!)
And hard on the heels of Christmas … a brand new year. Twenty-twenty-two. Can you believe it?
This time of year means more than coloured lights, Christmas villages, and a catered turkey dinner. (Hey, don’t judge!) It also means goal-setting time, which I love.
What do we want to accomplish in the next 13 months? What small steps can we take to get closer to our dreams and aspirations? How can we do our part to fulfill our responsibilities—both paid and volunteer?
I love a fresh new year … or month … or week. These are constants in my life, consistency that gives me an anchor as I get tossed around on the sea that is the world in the 21st century.
But the Real Anchor is not routine—although it’s comforting. It’s not even my hubby’s tangible joy as December 25 approaches. No matter what’s going on, no matter what time of year, the truth of Hebrews 13:8 keeps me from drifting when the seas are calm. And it keeps me from sinking in the midst of crashing waves. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (ESV).
He is my Anchor, my Constant, my Security.
As you look ahead to the holiday season with its joys and challenges … As you approach the new year with expectation or hesitation … As you seek to make it through just one more day … I trust you will find your comfort and security in the truth of the unchanging Jesus Christ.
Did you know there are 24 chapters in the Gospel of Luke? That’s one for each day of December until Christmas Eve.
Prepare Him Room is a gentle invitation to make space in our lives this Christmas season, to take time to refocus our spirits on Jesus and not miss the “sacredness of the season”. As the introduction says,
…it’s precisely this season when Christians most often lose sight of what’s available to them in Christ Jesus. [page 11]
In Prepare Him Room: A Daily Advent Devotional, each reading opens with related Scripture verses and quotes from other authors. In a friendly, conversational style, author Susie Larson shares anecdotes and applications that reorient us to Jesus, His presence, and His power.
Each day concludes with a prayer and a suggested “fast” from a thought pattern, attitude, etc. I’m sure we’re not expected to magically erase each one from our lives in one day, but in training us to notice these things in our lives, the author gives us a tool for ongoing, prayerful growth in the days ahead.
Even though God delays, He delivers. [page 17]
My review copy is a delightful hardcover gift book complete with ribbon marker. The simplicity of the cover is like a deep breath, slowing me down to rest as I open to the day’s reading. I look forward to going back through the pages when December comes. [An ebook version is also available.]
For more about author and speaker Susie Larson, and for her online devotional encouragement, visit susielarson.com.
[Review copy provided by Baker Publishing Group via Graf-Martin Communications. My review is voluntary and is my own uninfluenced opinion.]
Regardless of the year, Christmas can be a difficult and depressing season for many people. But 2020? Enough said.
You may be having a challenging day. Simply getting through it may be all you can do.
Here a few ideas that may make your day a little easier:
Even though it’s Christmas, reach out to a family member or friend if you need to chat even for a short time.
Work on a craft project. You don’t have to be good at it.
Write in your journal. It can be a great way to work through how you’re feeling. Don’t censor yourself. No one else ever has to read your words.
Watch your favourite movie. One that makes you laugh rather than cry may be a good option.
Listen to uplifting music. Some people like to listen to music that reflects their mood. I’m a fan of listening to music that reflects the emotions I want to feel.
Read a book. How about one that has been sitting on your To Be Read list for far too long?
Read the Christmas story in Luke 2.
Take a nap.
And if you’re up for it …
Make a list of things to be thankful for.
Connect with someone else who may need to hear a friendly voice today.
Know Someone Who’s Struggling?
We must never forget those having a rough time of it. (Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 25 about doing for “the least of these.”)
Here are some ways to reach out to someone during what, for some, is the Most Difficult Time of the Year:
Connect via Zoom—or another virtual means. Remember to include the children if you have little ones. For some, a child’s smiling face can go a long way to making them feel better. Plus, it helps your children learn that not everyone has a merry Christmas.
Create a Spotify playlist of your favourite uplifting music and share it with someone who needs the encouragement.
Pick up the telephone and call.
While you’re chatting ask if there’s anything you can do for the other person.
Pray for the individual you called. If they’re uncomfortable having you do so on the phone (or on Zoom), let them know you’ll pray when you hang up—and then do it.
Drop off Christmas dinner (or a plate of cookies) on someone’s porch. (Attach an encouraging note.)
If it’s impractical to drop off food, a card with a handwritten note could go a long way to cheering a lonely soul today.
Commit (even to yourself) to stay in touch. Throughout the new year call, visit, or fire off a note at least once a month.
While today won’t be merry and bright for many people, I pray the Lord will bring you the “peace that passes understanding.”
I also pray that He will increase our compassion for those He brings into our life and that He gives us opportunities to show them His love, the love that sent His Son to earth so long ago.
Have a Blessed Christmas, one and all!
Christmas can be a difficult and depressing season for many people. And 2020? Enough said. (click to tweet)
Simply getting through Christmas may be all you can do. (click to tweet)
Even though it’s Christmas, reach out to a family member or friend if you need to chat. (click to tweet)
We must never forget those having a rough time of it. (click to tweet)
If you like Christmas devotionals, check out my guest post at Patti’s Porch. Someone who comments on the post (on that site, not here) will win a print or ebook copy of my daily devotional book, A Year of Tenacity. Draw is on December 17, 2019. Link: This is the Lord’s Battle.
In the fall of 1986, Phoebe Crain supports
her mother and her 5-year-old daughter on her scant earnings as a small-town
piano tutor. It’s a long way from the concert stage, but it lets her hide from
a past that’s left her bitter.
Spence Newland the Third, owner of the
local department store, represents everything she’s come to despise and
distrust—or does he? Her daughter, Maura, discovers his kindness.
In this historical romance, Phoebe and
Spence each have past hurts that threaten to keep them from discovering a
future that would bring young Maura the father she’s been wishing for.
Unwrapping Hope is a prequel
novella that leads into Sandra Ardoin’s Widow’s Might series. The Widow’s Might
circle is a group of widows in the town who, whether rich or poor, meet for
support and to knit scarves etc for the nearby orphanage.
The author does an excellent job of
setting the scene and the atmosphere, and I found the historical details
interesting. I don’t think of this specifically as a Christmas story, but it
does run through fall and finish on Christmas Eve. So while it can be enjoyed
any time of year there might be an extra resonance in the season leading up to
At the same time, she would eat the crow she already smelled cooking. [Kindle location 257]
Years ago Phoebe had seen a similar look in the mirror. If she could go back in time, she would shatter the glass. [Kindle location 378]
Verbenia was the durable thread that kept the emotions of each member of the [Widow’s Might] circle from unraveling. [Kindle location 412]
Enduring Dreams, the next book in
the Widow’s Might series, releases in 2020. For more about historical romance
author Sandra Ardoin and her books, visit sandraardoin.com.
[Review copy provided by the author.
Opinions are my own.]
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. Philippians 2:6-7a, NLT*
No wonder the angels’ announcement split the sky, and the shepherds cowered in fear.
The angels knew what was going on, at least this part of the story. They’d known at least since Gabriel had delivered news to the priest Zechariah that Elizabeth would conceive John the Baptist. They may have known longer.
Among the humans, only Mary and Joseph knew, and Elizabeth and Zechariah.
This huge, astounding, mind-breaking secret: God Himself became an embryo and was born a baby who was fully God and fully human. And somehow still remained God the Father, ruling the universe.
The angels knew. Can you imagine the sheer jubilation of their announcement?
Today, we know. May we take some time to ponder this news that’s more than human minds can grasp. May the Holy Spirit reveal its truth to the depths of our beings.
God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, what can we say but “thank You”? What can we do but worship You? Please let the magnitude of the Incarnation change us, for Your glory.
This anthology of true-life stories, fiction, and poetry from 55 Canadian Christian writers is a strong addition to the Hot Apple Cider series.
Memories from the past include tales of Canadian childhood from those born in Canada and children of immigrants making new homes in sometimes-challenging circumstances. Vignettes from the present include what Christmas might be like for the incarcerated, and Christmas celebrations with grandchildren. Short stories include a man who’s decided to live off the grid and a young woman who befriends an immigrant.
The Hot Apple Cider series are heart-warming collections along the line of the Chicken Soup books, but less sentimental. They’re all from Christian authors, but they’re not sermons. Instead, the writers’ faith is the worldview from which they draw their work.