Tradition personalized + Giveway

Of all the Christmas stories we’ve heard in our lifetime, one stands out. This story has done more to form the traditional image of the American version of Santa Claus than any other.It introduced his mode of transporation- a sleigh, his package delivery method- down the chimney. It also gave us the names of the reindeer (with Gene Autry’s help a little later). We can quote many parts of the story at will: “His eyes, how they twinkled, his dimples how merry . . .”

Clement C. Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas” has  been presented millions of times to many generations of children. Many families include the reading of this story as a yearly tradition. But what if your kids or grands don’t always gather around the tree in your own living room?

Several years ago, Hallmark came out with a wonderful idea. You can purchase this special edition, and make a recording of yourself reading the story. Kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews or special friends can hear the legendary tale with your voice. My husband and I have recorded it for our oldest grandson and his little brother who live in Texas. We also gave a copy to our grandson and grand-daughter who live fairly near us, but enjoy going to bed and waking up at their own house on Christmas. This year, we will repeat the process for our newest grandson who loves to have a story read every night before he goes to sleep in Florida. A great twist on a classic tale.

This blog has a bonus!!! Rose Ross  Zediker is offering a special gift just for you! If you add a comment to this blog, you might win a copy of  “Reclaiming the Cowboy’s Heart”.  Good Luck, and in the immortal words of St. Nick:

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good night!”

 

Old Standbys-New Champion


At our house, we gather recipes from many sources. Magazines, the internet, friends, and of course, precious memories from our loved ones. Once we have tried it and it meets with our approval, it gets added to this binder, either handwritten on the blank pages, or stuffed into a convenient pocket. I look here for potlucks and plain old everyday meals. For company, and just for us.

Many years ago, the minister at our church asked the ladies to share some of their treasured recipes in a cookbook. The intent was not to make money, but just to pass along their heritage to future generations. You might notice that there is a typographical error on the cover of this book. The title says “Heavenly ReciPIES”. It was reprinted, but of course the copies with the error are more valuable!Dec Church cookbooksThe second edition was created when the real life Dorcas of our congregation died unexpectedly. The treasures in this book were submitted by her friends and relatives, and dedicated to her. When my son married, he told his wife that you could open one of these books, point to any spot on the page, and start cooking. He was guaranteed to love the meal.

Sometimes, though, I just have to pull out the good old Better Homes and Gardens cook book I received at my wedding shower. Here is the basic pie crust recipe, the peanut butter cookies I can’t live without, the roasting times for meats, what substitutes for missing ingredients. Couldn’t do without this red plaid oldie but goodie.Dec BH&G

This year, though, our family tried something new after Thanksgiving dinner. We called it the Last Ever First Annual Carlisle Cooking Competition. My husband won, with this beautiful lemon pie.Dec Lemon Pie He is not quite ready to share the recipe, but it was delicious! There was even a trophy, created by hubby and our oldest grandson. We’ll all have to try hard to win the Coveted Crossed Spoons next year.  We love to cook, love to eat, and love to compete. Lots of love in our crazy kitchen!IMG_1050

A New Neighbor and a Plan

As Christmas approaches, I no longer make a list of  new things I would like to have. I really have most everything I want. What I look forward to most is visits with family  and friends. But first, it is time to pull out the decorations that make me so very happy each year.

My decorations are a hodge podge of memories.  Over the past few years, though, I have started something new, something just a little self-indulgent. I have started collecting the Original Snow Village from Department 56. I think I am a little late to this party. These items have been displayed at the Hallmark store for many years. But, now that I have a place to display them, I have joined the really tiny house band wagon.

I announced my desire to collect the village, and my hubby bought the first piece, a house that reminds me of our own outdoor display. Lights flash, a happy message is sent to everyone on the block. In this house, we celebrate the birth of our Savior!

I found a couple of older pieces at yard sales, adding a little log cabin, and a tree house. Then, hubby came through again, with an old fashioned diner, and a beautiful Craftsman style “Grandma’s house”. This year, what will it be? A candy store? A gas station? Maybe a beautiful little chapel. I can’t wait to open that package and add to my little neigborhood.

For most people, this collection would be something to admire and show proudly to others. For a writer, though, it sparks the imagination. Endless stories can be invented as the lights flicker. Christmas Village with lights 2014Who lived in the houses? What travelers stopped for a hot meal at the diner? What adventures happened  in the tree house? Someday, when I am a multi-published author, my requisite Christmas romance novel will be set in my own quaint village.

At the conclusion of this year, there is one more thing I would like to have. My journalism brain longs to put some dates on my 2016 calendar. Which conferences should I go to? What contests to enter? With the recent retirement of my expert literary agent, I am at a loss to know what my next steps should be.

There is another display in my house that reminds me of the value of trusting my heavenly Father for a plan. Everyone who was gathered around that beautiful baby knew He was something special. They couldn’t begin to imagine how important He would be to the whole world.  For now, I will be content to revel in the joy of the season, and wait for the details to be filled in later. Oh come, let us adore him!Nativity scene

Thankful that God Doesn’t Sleep

This year has been unusual for  the Arkansas branch of clan MacLeod.  In January, my husband and I attended the memorial service for my cousin, who had died suddenly and unexpectedly. His mother is my Daddy’s younger sister, and though we have always enjoyed spending time together, we have not communicated on a regular basis.

Aunt Roberta lives in Magazine, Arkansas, one of the small-town jewels that is nestled near the crowning peak of our state, Mount Magazine. A journey to visit her takes a good couple of hours through some of the most beautiful scenery this side of heaven. While driving back and forth, I am always reminded of Psalm 121, which begins with “I will lift mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” KJV.

After my cousin’s service,  verse 4 of that psalm was more appropriate. “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” You see, since God was wide awake, he wanted me the same way. He had a message for me. It all boiled down to this: I was geographically Aunt Roberta’s closest relative, and she desperately needed me. Her husband, my Uncle Damon, was in the final stages of Alzheimer’s. Me, Berta and Damon resizedHer last remaining sibling, my Uncle Bill, is always a great help to her, but he lives in California. She has seven more nieces and a nephew who think the world of her, too. But they live in Texas, Colorado and California. My husband and I were in the perfect position to help with closing out my cousin’s house and helping her move on with her life. That was a very sleepless night. Even though the charge from my Heavenly Father was clear, I  am a little hard headed when awakened from a sound sleep.

The next morning, I shared the burden I had been given with my husband, He was totally onboard, and so the trips to the mountains became more frequent. We stopped along the way to get our son when he was able to come, and we all offered our muscles, our companionship and our love.

What started as a chore became a real joy. We heard stories from her childhood, sampled her cooking, laughed, cried and hugged. When Uncle Damon passed away, we were in the family pew at his service, as well.Uncle Damon's service Our next trip will be to help her move from their farmhouse on a dirt road into a brand new place in town, where she will be within walking distance of her church and her best friend’s house. I am so glad that as verse 8 of Psalm 121 says “The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” With all of the sadness and loss,  the unexpected blessings of this year will help us all look ahead with hope. God is good.From Aunt Berta's window smaller

 

Thirty-three Year Work in Progress

I have been blessed by generations of quilters in my family. My Grandma, my Mom, My Mother-in-law and both of my husband’s grandmothers have all spent hours creating warm blankets full of love. When I was newly married, I acted on instict. I pieced together some scraps from dresses I had made for myself, starting a traditional nine patch quilt top. Then, inspiration struck.

With the birth of my first baby, I decided on something very ambitious. The idea was to embroider his name and date of birth  on the first square, and then a picture that depicted something he loved  for each year of his  life.Jon's first quilt square So, by the time he  graduated high school, I would piece the squares together to make a unique quilt. I copied pictures from color books,  sketched some ideas of my own, and worked while the baby slept, happily indulging my creativity. When the second son came along, the tradition continued, but now I was making two squares each year. All of their favorites were fair game, whether toys or TV shows. AlfThen, surprise, we prepared for the third baby. By this time, I was way behind on creating squares.  Now, what HAD my oldest son loved when he was five? Gradually, life got in the way, and I stored the squares in the closet, hoping to get back to them some day.

The nay-sayers in my life laughed at me. Nice work. Too bad they will stay in the closet forever, they said. Then, as two of my children found their life mates, inspiration struck again. I would ressurect the quilt squares and piece them together for my potential grandchildren!  I  presented the first quilt to our first grandson complete with a Cabbage Patch Doll his mom had loved, and a few years later, the second, with the General Lee race car, and waited for the last branch of the family tree to begin budding.

Last year, my middle son announced that he and my Florida daughter in law were expecting. I pulled out the remaining set of squares and got busy.  I borrowed a quilting frame, and when the owner needed it back, I switched to an emboidery hoop.Hoop With a full time job, and the fatigue of a four time Granny, progress is slow. As I sit in my favorite chair, reading glasses perched on my nose, my lap covered with memories, my stitching is bittersweet. It will be a little hard to let go of this one. But, soon, the final one of a kind quilt will be presented to its new owner. Then, all three of our kids can entertain the five grands with stories of their childhood favorites, and their  slightly wacky, but persistent mother.

 

Embers waiting to be Kindled

I am a long time reader of Kim Vogel Sawyer’s books, and enjoy them all, whether historical or contemporary. Still, I have wondered at times what is so appealling about Amish or Mennonite fiction. After all, the lifestyles are so much different than the way most of us spend our time, with fewer conveniences, much less technology. How can we identify?

After reading the first two  books in Kim Vogel Sawyer’s series, I think I understand. The most often repeated explanation is that we all long to return to a more simple life. We wish we could eliminate some of the interference that naturally occurs between our hearts and God’s. However, I had a new thought while reading this series. Perhaps, for those of us who were raised as Christians, and are striving to live as set apart creatures, we sometimes feel we are having as much difficulty fitting in to this world as our Amish and Mennonite brethren and sisters. We do identify with that struggle to live our faith, to be transformed, rather than conformed.

Kim knows her topic well, having spent part of her childhood in a Mennonite community, and she brings characters who are so real, we find ourselves laughing aloud, and crying right along with them. The first two books left loose ends in the lives of our heroines, and we can’t wait to see how God’s perfect plan comes together. My Kindle is guarding my copy, and I will love every minute of reading this one.Me and A Hopeful Heart

After all, I have never met a Kim Sawyer book I didn’t like!

Here’s a bit of a teaser to get you as excited as I am.

Riddled with doubt and lingering regrets, will Suzanne and Paul find strength in God to explore a second chance at love? 

It wasn’t easy to move back to the Old Order Mennonite community from which quiet, responsible Suzanne Zimmerman was shamefully sent away as a pregnant teen. Returning twenty years later to take care of her mother, Suzanne and Alexa—the daughter she raised as her own—have spent months rebuilding relationships with her family.

Now with the upcoming wedding of their biological daughter,  Suzanne and Paul find themselves drawn to one another once again—but with new challenges to face. They have been single parents with painful pasts. Can Paul and Suzanne find the strength to rebuild the loving relationship that was torn apart by their teen pregnancy so long ago?

Suzanne must also let go of Alexa as she heads back to Indianapolis to visit friends–and as her chance to find her birth parents. Leaving the bed-and-breakfast in Suzanne’s apprehensive hands, Alexa embarks on a journey that will certainly change her life completely. Can mother and daughter trust God to restore all things in His timing?

The One, Inc. + Contest

“I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance” Matthew 15:7 KJV.

Inspired by this scripture, a young man in Central Arkansas named Aaron Reddin started a grass-roots organization, communicating mostly by Facebook, to help those that others go out of their way to ignore.

http://www.theoneinc.org/

The face of his organization was actually a Van, whose mission was very simply to help people who were in no position to help themselves. The Van became a familiar sight in the area’s homeless camps, and the young man with the vision alerted anyone who would listen to the physical needs that would help the most. It also became quite interesting to look at, as the friends who were helped repaid by decorating it with colorful artwork. Donation sites were set up, and Facebook friends dropped off tents, bottled water, soap, towels, clothing.

As word got around, the operation grew, and now has expanded to include Vans in other cities, The Field, where friends can come to grow their own food, and recently a women’s shelter to provide a sturdier shelter to those with urgent needs. Those who are able donate  because they can see that everything collected goes where it is needed most. Comments on Facebook remind Aaron that he is truly the hands and feet of Jesus.

For more about helping the homeless, check out this month’s contest: and you might win a copy of Brenda Anderson’s great new book “Hungry for Home”

 

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New Girl on the Blog!

Summer’s almost in the rear view mirror, football games have started, and there’s a new blogger bringing you Inkspirational messages! I’m Jenny McLeod Carlisle, and I’m so happy to have the opportunity to  become a part of this active, exciting community.

I have been writing stories since I could hold a pencil. I remember my Daddy reading to me on the front porch swing, and I particulary loved the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson. As I grew Little Women, Little House on the Prairie, Nancy Drew mysteries and Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague sparked my imagination.Jenny with glasses small

My church family played a huge part in my upbringing after my Mom and Dad divorced, so in many ways, my stories “preach to the choir”. Getting in touch with the spiritual aspect of a character’s life makes for a much richer story, whether adventure, mystery or romance.

While hubby and I both worked to support our family, I sought out groups of people who understood the borderline madness of fiction, and eventually met Hannah Alexander (a husband and wife team) and their editor friend Barbara Warren at the Ozark Creative Writer’s conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

I was  first published in non-fiction as a contributor to Gospel Tidings, a national publication of the churches of Christ. I now write a monthly column for  Ouachita Life, a magazine that is distributed in the southwest portion of Arkansas. This gives me the chance to share my memories and observations about life in general.  Recently, I have become a storyteller on Tales from the South, an internationally broadcast radio program. This is a great venue, with a live audience instructed to laugh in all of the right places, and a very gracious editor who helps keep the stories on point.TFTS-better small

Membership in American Christian Fiction Writers, and in particular our local Arkansas chapter has encouraged me to make my dreams of being a published author a reality. I am now represented by Terry Burns with Hartline Literary Agency. While he communicates with potential publishers, I continue to create, and wait for the chance to revise my work to make it a better “fit” for the marketplace. I am a huge believer in God’s Plan, as outlined in Jeremiah 29:11, and I am eager to see what he has in store for me! Can’t wait to share my journey with you.