Saturday, January 07, 2023

Putting Away Christmas

It's well into January and most people have moved on from Christmas by now. Me? I just got all my Christmas decorations put away, always a bittersweet time for me. I'm a little sad to tuck all my favorite ornaments into their wrappings and boxes, but am already looking forward to next year when I can take them out again! And that is what prompted me to update this post that I originally shared in 2015! A lot has changed in my life in those seven years, but some things have stayed the same, including my thoughts about why Christmas can never really be put away.

The wrapping paper hadn't even been thrown away yet before I started getting emails from retailers announcing their amazing post-Christmas sales. "Christmas is over!" they say, and that means bargains for anyone who hasn't had their fill of shopping for the last few weeks.

By December 30 there were posts all over social media about people undecking their halls, but I never "put away Christmas" so early. I like to enjoy the festivity of the Christmas season until after New Year's Day.

But as they say in the books and movies, the feeling of Christmas can last all year. And, ironically, the reasons go way beyond any sappy movie line.

Books and movies try to sell you the idea that Christmas "doesn't come from a store" and it's "the season of perpetual hope." They say you can be kind and giving and full of hope and peace beyond Christmas as long as you keep Christmas in your heart all year long.

The problem with keeping Christmas in your heart all year is that it keeps Jesus in the manger. And pretty soon that manger scene is made out of cats or marshmallow snowmen and nobody has any idea why the baby was in the manger in the first place. Or what happened to him after that Silent Night was long past.

People love to quote from Luke chapter two at Christmas, exclaiming the "good news of great joy" and "peace on earth, goodwill to men." That's a nice sentiment to have at Christmas, and it makes a lot of people a little more cheerful, a little more giving, a little more hopeful. But all too often it gets swept away with the paper scraps and pine needles.

Imagine, though, if the story of Christmas swept us away instead. What if we took a closer look at that baby in the manger, and let him and his story into our hearts? What if we could accept that Jesus gave us the manger so that he could give us the cross, and he gave us the cross so he could give us an empty tomb?

That is where the Christmas story leads, if only you would let it sweep you away.

I hope you have a happy and blessed New Year. 

Saturday, December 31, 2022

The Best of 2022

As is tradition, I've written a blog post celebrating the highlights of the past year. This time, it's in the form of a "best of" list. 2022 was filled with a lot of great moments with family and friends, personal and professional accomplishments, laughs, and more. These are the best of them all.

Best day: 

There have been a lot of great ones (trick-or-treating with my grandson for the first time, Christmas Day with three grandkids), but I think the day that gets the title of BEST is the day we surprised my husband for his 50th birthday. We brought him to a pizza place with an indoor arcade and rides, and spent an afternoon playing like a bunch of kids. 

Best personal accomplishment: 

I read the whole Bible in less than a year! I've tried this so many times in the past, and always fell behind. This time I used a Bible app with a one year reading plan, and it made such a difference! I was able to read along while listening, and it helped me keep my focus. 

Best writing accomplishment: 

Finishing draft two of my latest middle grade verse novel. 

Best adult book read: 

That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis, book three in the Space Trilogy. I read (meaning listened to the audiobooks) this series for the first time ever this year, and enjoyed each of the books, but book three is my favorite. I found this book to be profound, engaging, and surprisingly funny. 

Best children's book read:

North Woods Girl by Aimée Bissonette, illustrated by Claudia McGehee. I love this book for its warm story, its vivid illustrations, and the way it reminds me of my own grandmother, who was also a north woods girl. 

Best movie watched: 

The Tomorrow War starring Chris Pratt.

Best family moment: 

This is a tie between the birth of our first granddaughter in February and the birth of our second grandson in July. Our family is growing fast!

Best friendship moment:

Meeting my friend and fellow children's book creator Jessica Linn Evans in person for the first time when she came to Nebraska for an SCBWI event!

Best road trip:

Going with my guys (husband and son) to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City.

Best food: 

I made Butter Chicken for the first time ever, and my husband and son said it was as good as what we've had at Indian restaurants!

Best laugh:

On April Fools Day, when I successfully tricked my husband with a fake dog poop!

Best "kodak moment": 

Getting this picture of all three of my grandkids together on Christmas Day. 

Do you have a "best of" memory from 2022 to share? I'd love to hear it!

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Weekend Wisdom: Jerry Spinelli on writing for children

 I write picture books, and often times that means that when I'm invited to a school for a visit, I meet with kindergarten through second grade. But if I'm asked, I say I like to meet with all the grades! And I make it a point to remind the fourth and fifth graders that picture books are for everyone. That really goes for any book that is written "for kids." Picture books and children's novels contain some of the best stories ever written. Don't miss out just because they are for kids!

Wise words, Jerry Spinelli!