Archives For Christmas Gift Guide

The Gift of YES

Renee Ann Smith —  December 9, 2014 — 5 Comments

Evergreen Susan May Warren

“Maybe, however, you’re Mary & God is asking you to be willing to say YES to whatever He asks.”

~Susan May Warren, Evergreen~

(Click to Tweet)

~Luke 1:38 & 46-55, The Message~

And Mary said, “YES, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me just as you say.

I’m bursting with God-news;
    I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.

God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
    I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
    the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.

His mercy flows in wave after wave

    on those who are in awe before him.

He bared his arm and showed his strength,
    scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
    pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
    the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;

e remembered and piled on the mercies,
piled them high.

It’s exactly what he promised,

    beginning with Abraham and right up to now.”

As you can see from the verses above,
Mary enthusiastically embraced God’s plan—
in spite of the censure, ridicule, judgment & emotional pain it would bring.

What a beautiful gift she poured out before the Lord.
May we all seek to trust His heart with that same, resounding YES!

I’ll be posting Christmas quotes & Scriptures every day this week, so I hope to “see” you again soon.

You can find my other Christmas/Winter graphics here . . .

The Gifts We All Can Give

His Radiance

Swift & Sure

Thanks for stopping by today. Blessings, friends!

***Photo Backstory: I made this graphic from an iPhone pic of my school’s elementary nativity play from years gone by. (It features a dear friend & former student’s daughter, who is growing up so quickly!) Of course, PicMonkey, is my editing tool of choice. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share.

***Let’s be Twitter pals! If you’re on Twitter, I’ll follow you—if I’m not already. Just let me know in the comments. You can find me here

***Let’s connect on Instagram! I so enjoy scrolling my Instagram feed & admiring everyone’s pics. Let me know if you’re on Instagram or find me at this link.

***And, YES, Susan May Warren’s novella Evergreen is a great Christmas gift idea! My high school students loved it! Order the book here.

Here’s another version of the same quote, where I went for a Christmas card look . . .

Advent Susan May Warren(Click to Tweet)

Continue Reading…

knightleyThis weekend I officially added Samantha Moore to my list of favorite book people. You don’t know Sam? She’s the heroine of Katherine Reay’s debut novel, Dear Mr. Knightley.

The tagline for Sam’s story reads: “Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others—namely, her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story—by giving that story to a complete stranger.”

Sam’s favorite literary folks all come from Jane Austen stories. However, the best way I can share with you how much I loved this novel is to say that she reminded me of my favorite spunky, heart-breaking, turn-adversity-into-triumph leading ladies, like  . . . Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables), Katherine Mary O’Fallon (Mrs. Mike), Antonia Shimerdas (My Antonia), Lucy Waring (Moonraker’s Bride), Novalee Nation (Where the Heart Is), and Anna Moray (The Firebird). I even saw a touch of Beatrice Prior (Divergent) in her.

The story is told from Sam’s perspective through letters to her anonymous benefactor, who goes by the name George Knightley. Sam is an orphan who spent time on the streets and was in & out of the foster care system until she landed at Father John’s Grace House. Now she’s at the point in her life where she is ready to spread her wings and fly—if she can just tear down the wall of books that guards her heart. Her adventures and observations made me laugh and cry. And the ending of the story was totally satisfying!

My Favorite Quote: “Yes, I wrote ‘pray.’ It’s not a word I’ve used before and not one I write lightly. But I can’t listen to Father John, the Muirs and the Ridleys, and once-upon-a-time Alex, and not believe that there is something to it. How can I not believe that there is a God who exists and loves, when the people before me are infused with that love and pour it out daily? I still can’t grasp that it’s for me, but what if it is? The professor says it’s okay to pray even if I’m not sure.”

Knightley quote 1

Christmas Gift Alert! This is a great gift book for teens on up. Hopefully, you can tell by the books I’ve listed which readers on your gift list would love it.

Ready to grab a copy? Follow this link to purchase Dear Mr. Knightley. ***Thanks to the Litfuse Chicks, Thomas Nelson, & Katherine Reay for providing a copy for me to review.

katherine reayAbout the Author: Katherine Reay is a writer, a wife, a mom, a runner, a tennis player, a tae kwon do black belt (how random is that?), a wanna be chef, a disorganized housekeeper, but compulsive vacuumist, and a horrific navigator.

You can connect with Katherine at her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter Continue Reading…


Amazon’s book blurb:American pilot Tom Jaeger is shot down in Normandy and taken in by the Resistance. He becomes a key part in their plan to get information on the Germans and their plans for the Caen Canal Bridge. Brigitte Durand, a prostitute at a Germans-only brothel, passes on information to Tom, since she wants to help the Allies. Their window of opportunity is closing, as the invasion looms. ls the Resistance being foolhardy by placing their faith in a pilot and a prostitute?

My take on the story: Flame of Resistance is a well-researched novel of the World War II era. The characters are finely-drawn and live out an exciting adventure. As a WWII movie/book fan, I’m glad I picked up this book. I learned more about the occupation and the kind of folks who made up The Greatest Generation. However, I found the cast of characters a bit overwhelming and the story itself quite slow. Confession: I like my historical fiction fast-paced, romantic, filled with unforgettable characters, and just historical enough. (Don’t tell my students!)

True lovers of history—the folks who can piece the details together with ease—will highly value Tom and Brigitte’s story. Do you have one such friend or family member on your Christmas shopping list? Then you will want to fly to this link and purchase him/her a copy of Flame of Resistance today. There. One person on your Christmas list down. How many to go? ***Thanks to Tyndale House for providing a copy of this book for me to review. Continue Reading…

Melody Carlson’s The Christmas Pony features old-fashioned holiday fun, a sweet romance, and an adorable heroine named Lucy Turnbull.

In this charming novella, eight-year-old Lucy shows the adults around her the power of childlike faith and even does a little match-making along the way. Think The House Without a Christmas Tree, Holiday Affair, or Miracle on 34th Street—throw in some hot cocoa in front of the wood stove—and you’ll be in just the right mood to enjoy this story.

Here’s the set up: Lucy lives with her widowed mother and grandmother in Maple Grove, Arizona. It’s 1937, and times are hard. Lucy’s mama, Miriam, knits socks to trade for groceries and takes in laundry and borders to get by. Though Lucy knows they can’t afford one more mouth to feed, she can’t help but pray for a pony of her own. However, she also asks for something special for her mama . . .

Holiday Affair, Janet Leigh

“‘Please, dear God,’ she said finally, ‘help Mama to find her smile again.’ Lucy could remember when Mama had the prettiest smile ever. Back when Daddy was still alive. But like Lucy’s memories of her father, Mama’s smile had faded some over the last few years. If Lucy couldn’t have a pony for Christmas, she’d settle for Mama’s smile instead.”

When Lucy corrals two borders to rent rooms for the Christmas holiday, all she’s hoping for is extra money to convince Mama they can feed a pony. But she and her mama receive much more. I loved this heart-warming story! It’s sure to become a classic!

House Without a Christmas, Jason Robards

All Melody Carlson’s Christmas novellas are sweet, satisfying, and perfect for gift-giving. This one is my favorite so far. Don’t miss it! You can pick up your gift copies of The Christmas Pony at this link. ***Thanks to Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, for providing a copy for me to review.

Other Christmas novellas by Melody Carlson you may want to add to your wish list or cart!

  • The Christmas Shoppe
  • Christmas at Harrington’s
  • The Christmas Dog
  • All I Have to Give
  • An Irish Christmas
  • The Christmas Bus
  • Melody Carlson

    About the author: Melody Carlson has written a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a “storyteller.” Her books range from serious issues like schizophrenia (Finding Alice) to lighter topics like house-flipping (A Mile in My Flip-Flops). Most of the inspiration behind her fiction comes right out of real life. Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, True Colors etc.) appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She’s won a number of awards (including the Rita and Gold Medallion), and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog. To find out more about Melody Carlson, visit her website here.

    This week I’m linking up with Thursday Favorite Things and Weekend Whatever.

There’s something about the contrast of a cultured young woman displaced in a rough frontier setting and successfully forging a new life for herself that stirs my imagination. Think Ma Ingalls making a home for her girls in the Little House books; Abbie setting a joyful example for her family with a Lantern in Her Hand; or Katherine Mary following her Canadian mounty through the pages of  Mrs. Mike.

Then add Elsie Hayes, from Barbara Anne Waite’s Adventures of an Arizona Schoolteacher, 1913-1916. This charming book shares a portion of the life story of Barbara’s grandmother through her grandmother’s letters and diary entries, plus additional  narrative  from interviews, recollections by Elsie’s former students, and newspaper accounts.

Elsie hailed from a privileged family in Long Beach, California, (where she was friends with a young Thornton Wilder) and graduated from Pamona College. But after graduation, while other girls her age were looking for husbands at plays and weekend house parties, Elsie was off  in wild and wooly Arizona teaching school in a one-room schoolhouse. The experiences and descriptions she shares are guaranteed to take you on a delightful trip back in time. For example, here are the 1913 rules for schoolteachers such as Elsie:

  • Teachers are not to keep company with men.
  • Women may not dye their hair.
  • Two petticoats must be worn.
  • Teachers may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores.
  • Dresses must be no more than two inches above the ankle.
  • Teachers are not to dress in bright colors.

And this is how Elsie described the frontier mining town of Jerome, which struck such fear in her heart upon her arrival: “I never imagined such a town. It looks like New York slums turned loose on a hillside and like Spain and Italy and almost like Chinatown combined. The mountainside is bare and bleak and the houses are . . . mysterious looking. One goes into a house from a dirty sidewalk and muddy street . . . The dirty saloons are surrounded by groups of foreigners who stare.”

Fortunately, Jerome was not her final destination. Elsie’s Oak Creek Schoolhouse—though itself a bit of an eyesore—was in the lovely Verde Valley, surrounded by thick groves of trees at the foot of the breathtaking Black Hills. Once settled there, Elsie thrilled to the beauty of her surroundings and the challenges of teaching her young pupils. Her words, though penned a hundred years ago, shine with a youthful enthusiasm and spirit of innocence.

I enjoyed experiencing Elsie’s adventures with her—her train rides, first days in the classroom, life among the country folks, and poignant experiences with love and romance. Her story touched my heart and kept me turning pages.

Gift Idea Alert: This would be a great gift for teachers, history lovers, or historical fiction lovers. The cover is eye-catching, and other authentic photos are scattered throughout its pages. You can order a copy from Amazon at this link and have it by Christmas! (It’s also eligible for free super saver shipping.)

Barbara and Curt

About the author: Originally from California, Barbara Anne Waite and her husband Curt have been in Antigua at Radio Lighthouse since 1974.

You can learn more at her website or by connecting with her on Facebook and Twitter.

***Many thanks to Barbara for sending me a copy of her book to review!

Giveaway Time: This is my first December Giveaway Post! I’m sharing a $10 Amazon Gift Card with one blog reader at the end of the month. (It’s an email card so I can send it anywhere you are!) All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below. Bonus Entries: Sign up for my newsletter at this link, let me know in your comment, and I’ll add your name two more times. (Or, if you should happen to buy Barbara’s book after reading this, let me know, and I’ll add your name to the drawing five more times!)

After I heard author Tricia Goyer speak about her experiences while interviewing World War II veterans, I knew I had to read her latest book, Remembering You.

Her novel tells a small piece of the story of the men of the 41st Cavalry Recon Squadron, Eleventh Armored Division, Patton’s Third US Army—the first GI’s to liberate the Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration Camp. Over the years, the men of the Eleventh invited Tricia to their annual reunions and shared with her their photos, their stories, and their tears. Tricia’s relationship with these men changed her life forever.

Tricia writes, “One of my most amazing experiences was when I received an email from a woman named Hana. She’d heard of my books and knew I’d interviewed some of the veterans. She asked if I’d interviewed any medics. Then she told me her story.

Hana was born on a cart outside of Mauthausen. When the Americans arrived, she was three weeks old and very ill. No one expected her to live. Yet one of the medics saw the small baby and knew he had to do something. Even though it took most of the day, he lanced and cleaned all Hana’s sores, saving her life. Over the years she’d wanted to find the medic, but didn’t know where to start.

I told Hana I knew one medic—-maybe he would remember who that man was. I gave Hana the contact information and soon heard the good news. My friend LeRoy ‘Pete’ Petersohn was the medic who’d saved her life! The two were quickly reunited. ‘Baby!’ Pete called out when he met her. After all these years Hana was able to look into the eyes of the man who saved her and thank him.” Continue Reading…

~October 30, 2011~

Since here in upstate New York we experienced our first snowstorm of the season in October, we’ve already been thinking Christmas! Just this weekend I fed my holiday spirit with a sweet Christmas novella by Melody Carlson called The Christmas Shoppe.

The Christmas Shoppe tells the story of Matilda Honeycutt and her store filled with treasures. Well, they don’t appear to be treasures at first glance. But as the shoppers look more closely at Matilda’s stock, they find exactly what they were missing in their lives—though most didn’t realize they needed anything until they walked through Matilda’s door.

I enjoyed the way Matilda’s magic touch changed lives in the small town of Parrish Springs. This book sparked my imagination and touched my heart with its simple truths. Plus the charming cover and timeless message, make it perfect for gift giving. I already have plans to use my copy in a gift basket! Follow this link to pick up some copies for the loved ones on your shopping list.

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than five million. She is the author of several Christmas books from Revell, including the bestselling The Christmas Bus, The Christmas Dog, and Christmas at Harrington’s, which is being considered for a TV movie.

Melody was nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her books in 2010 and 2011. She and her husband live in central Oregon. For more information about Melody visit her website at

Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life.  They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet. ***Thanks to the folks at Revell for providing a copy of Melody’s book for me to review.

When I was growing up, my grandmother lived in a great old house with lots of bedrooms and antiques to investigate. We grandkids took turns spending the night with her and listening to her stories. Nannie had lived through World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and many cultural changes. She had a wealth of life experiences from which to educate and entertain us, and we soaked up every detail.

So I can completely relate to the premise of Arleta Richardson’s books. Arleta’s grandmother was also a storyteller, who recounted memories of her childhood on a nineteenth-century farm. In the Grandma’s Attic series, Arleta retells those stories for the benefit of children all over the world.

Here’s an excerpt from the section that introduces each book in the series . . .

“One hundred years! What a long, long time ago that is! . . . The old kitchen where Arleta sat to hear many of Grandma Mabel’s stories didn’t look the same as when her grandma was a little girl. Back then there was no electricity nor running water. But Grandma still lived in the house she grew up in. Arleta had no trouble imagining all the funny jams that Grandma and her best friend, Sarah Jane, got into. Or how it felt to wear long flannel stockings and high-buttoned shoes.

From the dusty old attic to the front parlor with its slippery furniture, Grandma’s old house was a storybook just waiting to be opened. Arleta was fortunate to have a grandma who knew just how to open it. Her grandma loved to tell a story just as much as Arleta loved to hear one.”

These stories share exciting adventures that entertain while communicating important moral lessons. The books are aimed at kids aged 9 to 12 but will provide fun for your whole family. If you loved Little House on the Prairie, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, or other old-fashioned classics, you’ll love Grandma’s Attic. You can follow this link to Arleta’s Amazon author’s page and start collecting the books today!

***Thanks to B&B Media Group for sharing a copy of the book for me to review.