Friday, December 7, 2012

Guest Post with Fay Lamb

Please help me welcome Fay Lamb to the blog today. She is guest posting about a Christmas memory that stands out in her mind, even after several years.


My husband is the type of father Brad Paisley sings about in his song, “He Didn’t Have To Be.” Marc took my children, Corey and Ethan, into his heart at first sight. Marc was an only child. His mother’s reasoning is that he was such a good child she didn’t want to take the chance that a second child wouldn’t be as wonderful. I used to wave the comment off, but the truth is, she did raise a very good child to be a wonderful husband and father.

Not only did Marc accept my children as his own, his mother and his father embraced them as grandchildren. From the first time they met, my boys called the senior Lambs Grandma and Grandpa.

One of my favorite memories, and the lesson that came with it, is of our first Christmas together. We were all excited about our initial holiday season as a family.

On Christmas morning, the kids bounded from bed. They were ready to get to Grandma’s. They couldn’t get dressed quickly enough. Marc pulled into the driveway, and Ethan, our youngest, yelled, “Let me out of here.”

Grandma claims she could hear him from her kitchen. She met us as the door, blocking the kids’ view. She wore a Christmas apron and wiped her hands on a dishtowel. The smell of turkey and dressing filled the air. The boys tried to lean in around her to get a look. With a smile, she backed out of the way.

The kids didn’t get too far. Why? They were blocked by all of the packages, which started from beneath the tree in the corner of the living room, filled the area, and spilled, literally, to the door.

“Wow,” a collective gasp came from not only the boys but from me. I’d never seen anything like it. Yeah, as a kid, I’d always been given whatever I wanted for Christmas, put even I knew a single mother had limitations, and because my mother saved up all year for a special Christmas, I chose wisely.

I was overwhelmed. For me, Christmas wasn’t all about the gifts—not that I didn’t love receiving them, but I’d never seen so many packages in one place in my entire life.

Grandma cleared a spot and sat in the middle of the floor. She held out package after package to each individual. Of course, the boys received most of the gifts—so many in fact, that as they opened and stacked them, we eventually could not see the children behind the mountains they created.

As the packaged gifts dwindled, replaced by opened boxes of toys, clothes, electronics, you name it, I couldn’t believe the kindness that my new family had shown.

And then it happened…a little arm stretched up and placed the last of his packages onto a large stack. With a heavy sigh flowing from behind the boxes, a disappointed voice said, “Is that all?”

I was mortified. This wasn’t this child’s first Christmas, and he’d never had another where he’d been given so much. I started to reprimand him, but my in-laws’ laughter stopped me. The joy for them came in the giving. The little boy (I won’t tell you which one) was being a typical child—an ungrateful child at that moment—but nonetheless, he was an overwhelmed kid with excitement ebbing from him.

As the family looks back on that Christmas, we remember the anticipation and the excitement; I remember the halting disappointment from someone who’d received so much, and for a fleeting moment, it didn’t seem enough. That boy is now a grown man with children of his own, and I know he has always been and will always be, grateful to his Grandma and Grandpa Lamb—because they are the best kind of grandparents: the ones who “didn’t have to be.” And whether the boys received one or one hundred gifts that day, the best gift of all was the grandparental love—not shown through gifts but through their acceptance.

When I look back at the memory, I am reminded how much Christ has given to me: his acceptance of me and His sacrifice of leaving Heaven with one destination in mind—the cross, where He gave His life for my sins. And sometimes, I’m reminded that I’m much like my son had been on that one Christmas morning. I receive gift after gift from Christ. I have received the greatest gift in the world from Him, and yet, like an ungrateful child, I sometimes sigh and ask, “Is that all?”



Fay Lamb offers services as a freelance editor, and is an author of Christian romance and romantic suspense. Her emotionally charged stories remind the reader that God is always in the details. Because of Me, her debut romantic suspense novel is available at all book retailers. Her second release, Stalking Willow, is currently available for pre-order through Write Integrity Press and will be released in May 2013.

Fay has served as secretary for American Christian Fiction Writer’s operating board and as a moderator for ACFW’s critique group, Scribes. For her volunteer efforts for ACFW, she received the Service Members Award in 2010.

Fay and her husband, Marc, reside in Titusville, Florida, where multi-generations of their families have lived. The legacy continues with their two married sons and five grandchildren.


You can purchase hr book Because of Me on her website and watch the trailer.



You can pre-order her book Stalking Willow at Write Integrity Press .


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Grandy's Christmas Stories


In my job as editor I get to meet some amazing people. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE helping people see their work in print through the small publisher that I work for (Pine Haven Press) when they have no chance of being published at a bigger, less personal publishing house. Don’t get me wrong; some of those publishing house do great things. However, many of them do not take authors who do not have a ready platform or a way of selling thousands of books right of the press. To me there is no greater joy than seeing an author hold their book in their hands for the first time. Many thought of it as an impossible dream.  

That is why I want to bring to your attention one of the most recent books published by Pine Haven Press. Grandy’s Christmas Stories started years and years ago. It is just now printed for many others to enjoy. The author, Peggy Bennett, wrote a Christmas story to read to her children and grandchildren each year. This book is a compilation of those stories. Some of the stories have recurring characters such as the elves, angels, and Santa, but one of the things I enjoy most about this book is that it clearly conveys the meaning of the Christmas season. Yes, you get to enjoy traditional stories about the North Pole, but you also get to read about the Savior’s birth.  

Working with Peggy to get her book into print was such a blessing to me and I know that her writing will be a blessing to you and your family. To purchase a copy please go to www.pinehavenpress.com/store

You will not be disappointed!


 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt



 

Chapter Two Part Two

By Ruth O'Neil
Not wanting to dwell on that memory, I quickly continued on the winding path through the woods. A breeze swirled around me, chilling me to the bone. I snuggled deep into my coat and remembered how Grammie had once walked down this path on a windy day, holding our two small hands in her own.
“Do you hear that?” she had asked.
“I hear the leaves in the trees,” Lauren had answered.
“That’s right. Do you know what they’re saying?”
“Grammie,” I said, “trees don’t actually talk.”
“Oh, but they do. They’re singing and praising God, their Creator.”
“Grammie, that’s silly.” Even Lauren had a hard time believing it.
“I’ll show you the verse that proves it when we get back to the house.”
At the end of the path was the hill where we used to take Grammie and Gramps on picnics when they came to visit. In the winter months, we would sled down that same hill and exhaust ourselves climbing back up, only to slide down again. We would do this over and over again.
I laughed out loud as I remembered the pricker bushes at the bottom of the hill. Somehow, Lauren always used to end up in their grasp. The briars would be stuck to her coat, her hat, and her hair, and Lauren would cry as Mom removed them. Lauren and I had raced down that rise during the other seasons of the year when no snow lay on the ground. I looked around, just to make sure no one was watching me, before throwing caution to the wind and running down—arms outstretched—like I used to do. For a moment, I felt young and carefree once again. Back at the house, I read the other note Grammie had left for me in this package. 

Dear Gracie,
I hope you have enjoyed your trek around the old home place. Sure brings back a lot of memories, doesn’t it?
Now, do you remember the tree fort you girls built in that huge maple tree in front of the house? I had a little help, so you should find a ladder to make your climb easier. I left a special gift for you there.
I love you,
Grammie

I looked to the front of the house. I had forgotten about the maple tree fort. In fact, there were two huge maples shading the house in the heat of summer. One of the trees stood closer to the road. That was the tree where Lauren and I had built our fort. The other tree was precariously close to the window of our bedroom. I took a deep breath and walked toward the tree fort, then I climbed the ladder and sat down on the dusty platform. Another memory rushed back: Lauren screaming as her hair got caught in the maple tree branches. I tried to release her tresses but eventually had to fetch Mom, who had been forced to cut Lauren’s hair free. I remember Grammie laughing on the phone and muttering something about Absalom in the Bible. It was about the only time in our lives that Lauren and I looked a little different.
A chilly breeze blew and fluttered the couple of leaves that were still hanging on for dear life. Something else moved in the breeze and caught my eye. A Christmas ornament. I reached out for it. Not just any old ornament, mind you. A “God’s eye,” just like the one Grammie had taught us to make one cold, blustery day when we couldn’t go outside. After that, we had made one every year, taking small but sturdy branches from the tree, crossing them, and then wrapping various colors of yarn around them. Some years there were three colors; one representing each of us. Some years there were only two colors, representing my sister and me.
A single tear slid down my cheek.
Clutching the God’s eye, I climbed down from the tree. I’d had enough of my visit to my childhood home. Even here, pain hovered around every corner. Driving back, the cheerful Christmas music grated on my nerves. I switched the radio off. Grammie always used to pray in the car, and for a fleeting moment I considered doing the same. Then I remembered that God and I were not exactly on speaking terms. As the miles crept past, I tried—in vain—to capture all the memories this visit had unleashed, and push them back deep into the dark recesses of my heart. Another envelope awaited. 
 

Read Chapter Three Part One by J.A. Marx on her blog today!

 

The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt

Grace takes delivery of a package and her life is turned upside down by nine sealed mystery envelopes from her late grandmother. Grammie’s instructions require Grace to take the journey of her lifetime, not only to far off places, but also into the deepest parts of her heart. As she follows the trail laid out for her and uncovers her family’s darkest secrets, Grace is forced to confront the loss and betrayal that has scarred her past and seek the greatest Christmas Treasure of all.

  

Read More:




Learn more about this fun project at Write Integrity Press.

J.A. Marx is the Featured Author today at WIP, so drop by to read her Favorite Christmas Memory and Recipe.

Don’t forget to pop over to Magnificent Hope’s Christmas Party! We’ll see you there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt


Chapter Two Part One

By Ruth O'Neil

I dumped the contents of the envelope onto the table and they fell out with a clunk. I pushed aside the papers and smaller envelope to discover a credit card and key. Instinctively, I knew what it opened, but just in case I hadn’t known, Grammie included a tag with “Home” written on it. The key was for the old farmhouse we had lived in before our parents moved to Boston when I was eight. All the locks used skeleton keys unlike many of today’s modern locks. I took a breath before unfolding the note then looked at Grammie’s familiar handwriting.
Dear Gracie,
They say, “home is where the heart is.” For this stop in your journey, I want you to go home. I hope you can find the child’s heart you left there. I think you will be surprised at what you discover.
Love,
Grammie
P.S. I think there’s enough on the credit card for your whole trip’s expenses, as long as you don’t start dining at five-star restaurants!
The three-acre plot we had lived on would always be home. That’s where I remembered being the happiest.
Sighing I looked at my watch. Too late to do much of anything but pack for now, I went to my bedroom to pack the warmest clothes I owned. New York was cold in December. There would be much to arrange tomorrow. I’d have to talk to Bertie about taking a six-week break from work; I could just imagine his reaction to that. I’d also have to let the college admin department know I’d be back next quarter.
That night, I was too restless to sleep. I pulled out the scrapbook Grammie had made for my sixteenth birthday. I hadn’t read it in a long time. As I opened the front cover, waves of emotion assaulted me. The thought came to me that Lauren had one just like it. Had she also tucked it away, along with all the sadness of the past? I gazed at the pictures that told the story of my life from birth until then. Grammie said that we should add our own pages, but I didn’t have the heart, not after Lauren left. Who knew so much would change in our lives that next year.
It took me two days to arrange everything. Bertie initially flew into a rage, but when I told him it was for Grammie, he softened and agreed to keep my job open until after the first of the year. With that—and all the college paperwork resolved—I could catch the morning flight out of Houston to Syracuse, New York. This is a little crazy, you know that Grammie? I must have said a few hundred times along the way.
By late afternoon, I had cruised through Elbridge and was finally steering the rental car into the driveway of our old home. “For Sale”—the sign stood boldly on the lawn. It seemed wrong that this sanctuary of my childhood memories could be traded by strangers. Pushing down the irrational resentment, I looked over to where the old barn used to stand. It had been a playground for Lauren and me when we were little girls, playing house, solving mysteries, and sharing daydreams of what we would become when we grew up.
I smiled. Lauren and I had planned to live near each other forever. We figured we started this life out in the same womb, so we were going to finish it as close as possible. I was going to use the barn foundation and build a house while Lauren would live in the main house. We would always be together, always there for each other.
Of course, all that changed the day Lauren and Steve betrayed me. Pushing down the anger threatening to surface, I walked toward the house, which appeared deserted – abandoned and lonely – much like I felt since Grammie died. I couldn’t resist peeking into one of the ground floor windows. Cobwebs fluttered where curtains used to hang, and the interior was dark and empty. I tried the front door, but it was locked. Grammie’s skeleton key wouldn’t work in the modern lock, so I didn’t even try it.
I walked around the outside of the house, looking up to the second story window of the room Lauren and I had shared. One of its walls had been covered with paintings of fairies and unicorns, horses, and princesses. “Paint is cheap,” Dad used to say, and he and Mom had celebrated every picture painted by our hands as if Picasso himself had created them.
I spied the path that led through the woods. For old time’s sake, I decided to take a little hike, but ... each step further into the woods brought back more memories. I walked past the tree where we had pledged our commitment to be there for each other forever.
“Are you going to do it?” Lauren had asked.
“Why should we do that? I think it’s stupid.”
“To prove our promise to each other. We need to be blood sisters.”
“We’re already blood sisters. Everything about us is the same,” I said.
In those days, my sister, my womb mate, had been my best friend, but who could have foreseen what was to come?
 

Come back here tomorrow to read Chapter Two Part Two of The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt.
 

 

The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt

Grace takes delivery of a package and her life is turned upside down by nine sealed mystery envelopes from her late grandmother. Grammie’s instructions require Grace to take the journey of her lifetime, not only to far off places, but also into the deepest parts of her heart. As she follows the trail laid out for her and uncovers her family’s darkest secrets, Grace is forced to confront the loss and betrayal that has scarred her past and seek the greatest Christmas Treasure of all.

 

Read More:


Learn more about this fun project at Write Integrity Press.

Ruth is the Featured Author today at WIP, so drop by to read her Favorite Christmas Memory and Recipe.

Don’t forget to pop over to Magnificent Hope’s Christmas Party! We’ll see you there.

 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Traditions

Christmas is often a time of tradition. I know in our family there are several traditions that we continue each year. This December I thought it would be fun if you shared your family traditions or funny family holiday mishaps. If you would like to be a part of the holiday blog, please let me know via the contact page. 

Of course today starts the WIP and PNP The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt story. Tomorrow I will post the first part of my chapter as well as links to chapter 1. Tuesday I will post the second half of my chapter along with links to chapter 3. I invite you all to take part in this story by reading each day’s posts of chapters by some amazing writers. 

Later this week I will have a guest post from a couple of writing friends and their Christmas memories. 

December is a busy month, both off and online for me. Let’s take each moment to truly celebrate the birth of Christ. If you haven’t already done so, subscribe to my blog to receive notifications of new posts. It’s going to be a fun and exciting month. You won’t want to miss it!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Dreaded Family Photo

Have you ever come across that website that publishes awkward family pictures? Yes, some of them are hilarious, but I do have to wonder if some of them are doctored; some can't possibly be legitimate! I laugh at these pictures because I have a collection of my own family photo bombs. Some of them are posted in this blog for your viewing pleasure. (Disclaimer: You might want to empty your bladder first.)

I was looking through some old photos the other day and came across a series of pictures of my brother and me during Christmas “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” My mom thought it would be a good idea to get a shot of us looking through the Wish Book that she could use for our family Christmas card. Obviously, as you can see, there were no appropriate pictures. We couldn’t stop fooling around. Normal kids.  
 
Those pictures reminded me of family pictures since then. I am so not photogenic! There are no good pictures of me. So when we have to take a family picture, I dread it for weeks beforehand. Either someone ends up not looking in the same direction as everyone else (my husband), or someone is making a goofy face (my son), or someone just looks bad all the way around (me).  
 
(Ooops! Off-Center)

(Can I look a little grumpier?)
 
 (Umm...no.)
 
(I'm too tense, The Boy's too goofy, but that's typical.)
 
I won't even talk about the time my sisters and I had the brilliant idea of getting a picture of us done for my Dad for Father's Day. Yup. That went well, too. Those pictures have been deleted FOREVER!

So a few weeks ago my husband had the big idea to do another family Christmas photo. Yes, I realize our kids are getting older and soon they will be off on their own and won’t necessarily be available to have a picture done altogether. I still am not looking forward to it. I guess we’ll see what happens this year.

For those of you who receive Christmas cards from us, there may or may not be a family photo included. If there is not, you will know how the photo session turned out.