Christmas, Cookies, and Memories

Christmas and cookies just seem to go together.  Kids of all ages love cookies.  Don’t you?  From the simple chocolate chip and peanut butter to fancier bonbons and cookie press spritz, a tray of cookies is always a welcomed delight at any home.

I remember making Christmas candy with both of my grandmothers but not cookies.  My mother and I made those along with treasured memories.  Mother is a wonderful cook and baker.  She is also a true Proverbs 31 woman even to this day.  I am blessed to have a Christian mother to teach me many things, especially about Jesus.

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One of our family’s favorite cookies is Spritz or Cookie Press Butter Cookies.  A hint of almond mixed with pure buttery goodness in small shapes of wreaths, Christmas trees, stars, and hearts give the kitchen a heavenly aroma when baking.  These are scrumptious any time of the year.  The best thing about them is the fun I have when making them with a loved one.

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Christmas memories don’t need to be about a gift you received.  Make sweet memories this year by making cookies for family and friends with your mother, daughter, sister, or friend.  Actually, that will be a gift in itself.  I still smile when I travel back in time to a little red brick house and am making cookies with my mother and little sister.   The smiles on faces of friends and family when we gave them a tin of homemade cookies warmed our souls.  Yes, the gift we gave became a gift returned to us.

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Need a cookbook for some great recipes?  Amish author Wanda Brunstetter has a Christmas cookbook that even has a recipe for these cookies:

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I love the Amish cookbooks.  If you are not familiar with Amish, they love to cook, bake, and eat!  Now that is a recipe for a great cookbook.  Get it at Amazon or wherever you normally buy books.

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Put Christ back in CHRISTmas

The most wonderful time of the year is fast approaching.  Is it one of your favorites?  There are lovers of Christmas and then there are the Scrooges.  In fact, throughout the Advent Season, we could even find that we switch from one to the other.  Oh my!  Isn’t that a dreadful thought?!

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Christmastime is one of the most delightful times for me.  Just thinking about Jesus being sent here to be our Savior bring tears to my eyes.  I never get weary of listening to Christmas hymns.  Today I absent-mindedly hummed and half sang “O Little Town of Bethlehem” while I did paperwork.  That isn’t even my “go to” Christmas song.  Usually “Mary Did You Know” is first on my mind.

I am a consultant for Pampered Chef and do my parties on Facebook.  Like in-home parties we, too, play games.  One of my popular this year has been to name something that has to do with Christmas starting with A, the next person takes B, and on through the alphabet.  As I totaled points for the door prize drawing, I reviewed the answers.

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The results were about 50% Christian answers and 50% secular.  The letter J brought words Jesus, Joy, Jingle and Jolly.  S gave Savior, Star, Santa, and Stockings.  Every one of the reindeer were mentioned, but I don’t remember seeing Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, or Bethlehem.

What about your list?  When you think about Christmas do your thoughts immediately turn to the first six letters in that word…..CHRIST?  Maybe this world has pushed Him back from the front because of the hustle, bustle, and commercialism of today.  Don’t let that happen.

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This is the season of love and miracles.  God gave us all a miracle, His Son, our Redeemer.   That is the biggest, best present anyone has ever given you and me.  Hmmm, what have we given Him in return?

For me, I am going to try to keep more CHRIST in Christmas.  Play more hymns, read more scripture and Christian based books.  I have decided “do not stress and show grace” is my motto.  Without stressing out, I am a much nicer person.  Not only do I get grace from Abba, but I will in turn give it to others.  Everyone deserves grace.  People are more important than some of the silly things that upset others.

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Okay, so our focus will be on Jesus and helping show Him to others this year.  Even if we are playing a game or singing a song, we can easily do this.  A former minister once told me if I kept dripping little drops on someone eventually they would get wet.  Are you game?

Take Christmas back.  Give it to Jesus.  It is His birthday and so much more we are celebrating.  Spread joy, love, grace, and His light.  Let’s shower drops of Jesus on everyone.

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Lost Christmas Memories Giveaway & Book Tour by CelebrateLit

It is that time of year when I gravitate toward books with Christmas in their titles.  This one is a contemporary Christian suspense mystery romance Christmas fiction by author Dana Mentink.  Since it is a Love Inspired Book, it is a little smaller in length and size, but the good news it has a healthy size print.
Lost Christmas Memories is the fourth and final book in the author’s Gold Country Cowboy Series.  It also happens to be the first book I have read by author Mentink.   I was able to catch on to the story which opened dramatically.  However, at times I felt a bit at a loss even with the recaps.  It would be much better to read the series.
This is the tale of Tracy and Keegan.  The characters were well defined right down to their flaws making them realistic.  The author writes in a descriptive manner that drew me in from page one.  I could feel the panic and imagine the scene without a problem.
The romance moved a bit fast, but it always does in short books.  Dialogue was plentiful and flowed easily between the characters.  The book contained inspiration and touched on faith, forgiveness, and hope.  There was plenty of action, emotion, twists, and a bit of humor.
I would recommend this, but I would also recommend reading the other three first.  If you enjoy suspense, cowboys, and fast paced action books, you definitely will love this one.  I rated it a 4 out of 5 stars.  A copy was provided by CelebrateLit but the review is my own honest opinion.
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Book: Lost Christmas Memories

Author: Dana Mentink

Genre: Inspirational Romantic Suspense/Christmas

Release Date: November 1, 2018

A witness with amnesia

Can she trust this Gold Country Cowboy with her life?

Tracy Wilson witnessed a murder—but after a head injury, she can’t remember what she saw. Now someone plans to silence her for good, and only cowboy Keegan Thorn believes her. With a killer after her at Christmas, Tracy is running out of time to remember…and falling dangerously hard for the cowboy who could break her heart.

Click here to purchase your copy!

About the Author

Dana Mentink is a two time American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award winner, a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award and a Holt Medallion winner. She is a national bestselling author of over thirty five titles in the suspense and lighthearted romance genres. She is pleased to write for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense, Harlequin Heartwarming and Harvest House. Dana was thrilled to be a semi-finalist in the Jeanne Robertson Comedy With Class Competition. Besides writing, she busies herself teaching third grade. Mostly, she loves to be home with Papa Bear, teen bear cubs affectionately nicknamed Yogi and Boo Boo, Junie, the nutty terrier, a chubby box turtle and a feisty parakeet. You can connect with Dana via her website at danamentink.com.

Guest Post from Dana

Writing this book was bittersweet for me. It was lovely to finally be able to tell youngest Thorn brother Keegan’s story, but I sure am sorry to say goodbye to this series! It was such fun to write about these four kinsmen and the family bonds that held them together through all manner of murder and mayhem! Here at Mentink Manor, we have recently sent a bear cub away to college for the first time. It feels like I have lost a limb now that my Boo Boo is gone! Fortunately, we will enjoy having her home for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Though it won’t be a cozy country Christmas like it is for Keegan (we live in a city of 80,000 here in Northern, CA) we will be thrilled to have all our family home to celebrate together (Mama Bear, Papa Bear, two cubs, a naughty terrier, and a senior citizen box turtle!) I hope you enjoy this last installment in the Gold Country Cowboy series. I am sending along our best wishes for a blessed holiday season, from our Mentink household to yours!

Blog Stops

Among the Reads, November 22
Inklings and Notions, November 23
Blogging With Carol, November 23
Moments, November 25
Genesis 5020, November 26
SusanLovesBooks, November 26
Remembrancy, November 26
Pause for Tales, November 27
Quiet quilter, November 28
Book by Book, November 29
A Rup Life, November 29
Older & Smarter?, November 30
Cafinated Reads, November 30
KarenSueHadley, December 1
Lighthouse Academy, December 1
Daysong Reflections, December 1
Bigreadersite, December 3
Texas Book-aholic, December 4
Carpe Diem, December 4
Godly Book Reviews, December 5

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Dana is giving away a grand prize of a copy of Lost Christmas Memories, a $50 Amazon gift card and this cute reading charms necklace!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/d626/lost-christmas-memories-celebration-tour-giveaway

What is Your Christmas Tradition?

My Grandmother’s family had a tradition of playing the Christmas Gift game. Does your family do this? I would love to hear your story of it.  Only Grandmother did it and the older I get the more I wish we had kept the tradition alive in our family.  Growing up I listened in wonderment as my proper Grandmother turned back into a fun loving girl again. In the game of Christmas Gift, the first person to say “Christmas Gift” earned the first gift, an extra gift, for that day.  Grandmother would answer her phone “Christmas Gift” instead of the normal “Merry Christmas” as the majority of people do. DesignShe loved that game.  It reminded her of her childhood and holidays at home. Research on this game revealed that it could be done for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It started as a custom that was broadly practiced by families from the southern parts of the United States. My Grandmother (paternal) grew up near Richmond, Kentucky and was definitely a fine Southern lady.

My daughter-in-law has German heritage and continues a German Christmas tradition. On their Christmas each year is a hidden glass pickle ornament. The lucky person to find the ornament is supposed to receive a finder’s gift and good fortune for the next year. It is said that these ornaments were first sold in the United States in 1880.IMG_0068

I don’t remember any other specific Christmas traditions. Sure we decorate, make cookies and candy, and visit family. Nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary. We used to have a progressive dinner for my mother and her siblings.  That could be a blog in itself. Now things are just toned down.

Toned down describes Jesus’ birth. Nothing elaborate and fancy. Born in a stable with shepherds as messengers to spread the news. Jesus had humble beginnings and taught humility. I looked up the meaning of humble: having or showing a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance, not haughty, arrogant, assertive, or proud. Wow – if anyone had a reason to feel important or know He was important, it was Jesus, but He acted like a servant to all. Jesus was not proud, conceited, or arrogant. He did not push people around or assert Himself. Jesus resonated love, purity, goodness, and patience. He taught us what things really mattered. Lessons in riches showed us that our treasures are not here on Earth in things but in Heaven with Him and the Father. His family is our family. We should love and care for them as He wants us.

DesignThis year just might be the perfect time to start a new Christmas tradition. One that is pleasing to and lead by Jesus. Pray about it, open your heart and mind.  Maybe some type of donation or charity would be  for your family.  Perhaps buying some livestock, chickens or seed for someone makes your heart sing.   If you decide on one, I would love to hear about it. “Peace on Earth and goodwill to men.”IMG_0072

What do you think of when someone says Christmas?

Christmas.  One word but very powerful.  What do you think about when someone says Christmas? Quick….what was your first thought?   Family? Food? Cookie making? Decorations? Santa? Gifts? The Nativity?Baby Jesus?  There are so many things associated with Christmas. Right?! It takes days to prepare for it. It is the same date every year, December 25th, but some years it seems to come quicker than others for me. This year is one of them, but it is coming whether I am ready or not.

One thing that keeps me sane and grounded instead of frenzied is to remember it is Advent. Do you participate in Advent? Advent Season is in the end stages now so I have had twenty days to get my priorities in order. Christians start December 1st preparing their hearts and minds for the true meaning of Christmas. Even if you did not begin December 1st, it is never too late to jump in. Reflecting on God is what I do first. What better place to start than with God for anything? Think about the powerful Maker of everything deeming we needed help here on Earth so He came down as a baby. Living life among us, Jesus changed our lives forever. Literally, He changed our eternity.IMG_0064

Our Father, Creator, God Almighty came to Earth not as a royal prince, waited on hand and foot. Oh no! He came to an everyday couple, lowly not affluent. Everything did not go what we think of as perfect, but it went according to God’s plan.  The couple was out of town with no place to stay when Mary’s labor began, and they were allowed to take shelter in a stable or cave along with animals.  Mary had her baby away from home, friends, and midwives to give birth amidst animals.  That was God’s plan. His plan also included His Son being beaten and crucified later in life. Jesus made a bridge between God and man. We are now able to go straight to our Heavenly Father and ask for forgiveness for our sins. Our debts have been paid by the Lamb of God. No more sacrifices are necessary. Jesus opened Heaven’s doors for us.  He set us free and it cost us nothing. We just need to receive His gift, believe He is God’s Son, and repent of our sins.

Take a few minutes out of the hectic, Christmas rush today. Stop wrapping presents and baking cookies. Give shopping a break. Grab a cup of hot tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. Find a quiet place to sit where you won’t be disturbed.  Spend some quiet time with your Creator. The One that cared enough about you that He sent His Son to Earth to give you salvation is waiting to hear from you this Advent. Let Him help you prepare your heart. Don’t stress and worry that things are not getting done. You don’t need to spend hours in prayer.  Let the Holy Spirit guide you.  Even if it is 3 or 5 minutes it will be well worth it.  Spending time with God in prayer will reward you in ways you could never imagine.IMG_0060

Mary’s Baby Bring Joy

Christmas is a time of miracles and for families. As I prepare for it this year my mind continues to gravitate back to that first Christmas. As a mother, grandmother, and aunt it makes me wonder what the women of Mary’s family thought about her and her baby, God’s Son. Did they throw her a shower or babysit Him?  Did they offer advice and help?  Who was expected to attend Mary at the baby’s delivery?

In our family a baby is a big deal.  Phone start buzzing as soon as the couple see the positive on that little stick.  Grandparents-to-be are over the moon excited as are aunts and uncles. IMG_0054 Siblings and cousins eagerly await the new one, also.  Funny, adorable pictures are sent or put on Facebook to let everyone know a new member will be added to the family.  There are showers to flood the family with all kinds of things for the baby.  Several of my friends have had Grammy showers.

There is not much information on the women in her family or Joseph’s. Some data can be found on the men but not women. Women were not mentioned much in biblical times, mostly just men.  Mary was an only child. I remember that from church and readings. It was indicated that she was a devoted daughter and very good.  Greek scrolls list Mary’s parents as Anne or Anna and Eli. They do not name grandparents. Joseph had siblings so Jesus had aunts, uncles, and cousins.  When studying about His family it is very controversial about if He had siblings.  I am not well versed enough to comment or debate this.  You will need to study up on it yourself and then please let me know your thoughts.

Confusing and emotional to think that God’s Son had a literal earthly family. Don’t you wonder what they thought? Mary announced she was untouched and having a baby.  Joseph backed her up. Wait a minute, she was pregnant and they were just betrothed.  Mary claimed she hadn’t been unfaithful nor had Joseph known her.  Did his family urge Joseph to stone or divorce her? Did Mary’s family make fun of her and think her mentally ill or promiscuous?  What would we do if one of our family members announced something miraculous and could only come from God, had happened to them? Would we believe them? Be envious or skeptical? Maybe happy? Excited? Would we want to hear the tale of this blessing and revelation from God Himself? Maybe we would yearn to know every detail of what Abba said and how His voice sounded.  We might believe them.  Perhaps or perhaps not. Humans are curious by nature but hard to convince.

Can you imagine how her parents felt when young teenage Mary left on a donkey in the late stages of pregnancy to go with Joseph to Bethlehem for the census? This mama here would have been climbing the walls if my daughter had done something like that. From that first step of the donkey until the first glimpse of her return, Mary’s mother was probably walking the floor. IMG_0052Mary left pregnant and came back a mother. The journey took a while to make, too, with no way to get news to her family.  Oh my! Mary had her baby without her mother or other family there. Did she return and announce “here is Jesus, our Savior.” Probably not. Mary most likely had to keep that bit of knowledge to herself.  Treasuring that blessing and holding it deep within her.  However, I would think Mary’s family gathered around to see her new bouncing baby boy when she and Joseph returned from Bethlehem. Families are universal and a baby unites them. He brings hope and joy. Everyone smiles around a baby. Happiness abounds when an infant is nearby. Women want to hold him. Children want to see his toes. Men turn into a pile of mush and say sing-songy things in a funny voice. Babies bring families together.

The same happened with Mary’s baby. God came to Earth as an infant, part man and God, as Jesus. He experienced things as we do. The advice and counsel we get is really from an “I’ve been there myself” viewpoint. Jesus understands. He gets it. He was scorned, beaten, harassed, bullied, and crucified. You name it and it was probably done to our Redeemer. True to scripture Jesus fulfilled prophecy proving He is God’s son. He unites all mankind and invites us to join His family, God’s family. He offers peace, hope, and happiness. He offers love and forgiveness.  He offers joy. Joy to the world.IMG_0053

 

Is it Better to Give, Receive or Both?

Have you finished your gift shopping?  Christmas is right around the corner. For me it seems like one day the leaves were just beginning to turn and then poof….it’s time to wrap Christmas presents.  Let’s talk about presents.  What is your view on gift-giving? Are you more of a giver or receiver? Which gives you more satisfaction and joy? Perhaps you like both. I do. IMG_3571 Giving gifts is a privilege, and getting them is a real treat.  I love how it makes me feel to know someone cared enough to spend time on me.  I feel loved.

It gives me great delight to choose and buy the perfect gift for people I love. I have a chance to reflect upon that person, his/her life, and our relationship while I peruse a variety of things. A lot of thought and time goes into each purchase.  Many times prayer does, also. I strive to make the person receiving my gift surprised and happy, but most of all loved and special.  I want them to know that I pay attention to their lives, that they are important.

“I’m not a fan of gift cards…”

That is why I am not a fan of gift cards. Why do people just trade money with each other?   In essence, it isn’t a gift exchange. To me it is basically saying “you aren’t adequate to choose something for me.”  Gift cards are the most impersonal gifts next to slipping money in an envelope.  Harsh words I agree, but it has been heavy on my heart and mind for a long time.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for both money and gift cards.  However, each and every holiday is a bit too much.

Unfortunately for some, gift giving has evolved into a chore and not an act of love. Not me, I thrive in showing my love through gifts and not gift cards. My spirit is crushed when I hear “let’s draw names to cut down on expense”.  Money shouldn’t be a problem in gift giving. There are many gifts that can be made.  It really is the thought that counts.  One year my son made every gift he gave.  That was over twenty years ago and we are still talking about it.  Gifts should come from the heart, wrapped in love.IMG_4287 They should relate to others that we thought about them during this Season of Miracles and Love. They should let others know how important they are to us, as important as a teacher or mailman.  They should build memories, happy ones.

Gifts should not make Christmas stressful. Gifts should make it happier for both giver and receiver. Think about the very first Christmas.  “Joy to the World.”   Jesus was the gift to us. A miracle gift of love. Sent from God to all of us.  He wasn’t sent to make our lives harder or stressful. No, not at all. He was sent as our Savior to set us free! Jesus taught and spread love. He paid our debt and gave us the best gift of all. Eternal life.  Yes, I love to give and receive gifts. His gift just happens to be my favorite one.  How about you?  Have you accepted His gift?

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