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“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

“It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

“I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

“We’ve got Father and Mother, and each other,” said Beth contentedly from her corner.

~From Little Women by Louisa May Alcott~

LIttle Women Christmas Gifts for Girls

One of my favorite stories to read and watch at Christmas time is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

Though technically not a Christmas novel, this story of four sisters growing up in 1860s New England begins at Christmas and features some pretty great Christmases over their years together.

As one of four sisters myself, I instantly fell in love with a story of sisters growing up together & navigating life—through sunshine & tea parties, harsh poverty, unrequited love, youthful follies, teen adventures, heartaches & disappointments, deaths, careers, marriages, babies, sorrows & joys.

I love how the book begins with Marmee giving each girl a copy of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress for Christmas—they’re too poor that year for anything else.

The girls read the book together and attempt to follow its lessons.

In part one, many of the chapter titles even refer to Bunyan’s book.

I also appreciate the types of relationships on display in the story—

  • Friendships between neighbors, buddies, and BFFs
  • Unrequited love
  • Those who have loved and lost
  • Old, settled married love
  • Sweet, young love
  • Love and respect for elders
  • Sacrificial love for the poor and needy among us

Of course, at the center of the story is the relationship among sisters and all that goes with it—the confidences, fights, sighs, tears, laughs, scrapes, adventures, and love.

And I’m sure that all of us who read the book as young girls spent time pondering the question: Which sister am I?

Now looking back at the story, I’d say that . . . 

Too often I’m shallow like Amy was, without being beautiful.

I have some of Jo’s impulsiveness & sense of adventure and too much of her temper.

I think at this age, I can finally say that I’m as responsible as Meg.

And I’m still wishing to be as gentle, kind, and giving as Beth.

How ’bout you? Have you read the book? Which sister are you?

If you don’t have time to re-read Little Women this Christmas Season—or have never read it—I’ve compiled some of my favorite quotes here for you to enjoy.

(Feel free to share—tweet, pin, download, etc.)

I hope they remind you of the simpler times and sweet memories of Christmases gone by.

Little Women Louisa May Alcott

 

Little women valley of the shadow

Little Women Christmas nostalgia

Little Women Beth Jo Amy MegLIttle Women Jo amy meg bethLittle Women

Follow the links below to access whatever version of Little Women you might need or enjoy. These make great gifts! 

little women pilgrim's progress

Thanks for stopping by today, sisters & storylovers! Blessings, friends!

**Photo Backstory: I create my graphics from iPhone pics or free images from sites likeUnsplash& Death to Stock Photo plus the effects at PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share.Pass them on!
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What I’m Afraid To Say

Renee Ann Smith —  November 30, 2015 — 18 Comments

While I was reading the Bible this week, two words stopped me in my tracks.

“Imitate me.”

Paul wrote those words in I Corinthians 4.

Paul had been imprisoned, flogged, left for dead, beaten with rods, pelted with stones, shipwrecked, been threatened with many dangers, suffered hunger, thirst, cold, nakedness, and sleeplessness. (II Corinthians 11)

Yet I wonder how much courage it took for him to extend that invitation.

I see that the world needs role models worthy of imitation.

My students look up to actors and singers and athletes, and I can understand why they’re drawn to those shining lives.

But what are they learning about God’s generous heart and wise ways and strong arms that hold us close when we need Him?

I want to draw their eyes away from the created ones

And call them to lift their eyes to the One who created them,

The Father who lovingly chose their purpose and their future.

Follow me Imitate me Paul Jesus

But when they turn their eyes to me, standing in front of them each day,

The words “imitate me” stick in my throat & I shake in my shoes.

I know what they’ll see if they look too close,

The flaws and fears and failures,

The zeal too often smothered by cares of this world,

The boldness that melts away in the face of hardship,

The pure message diluted by shallowness and sin.

Then I remember other words Paul spoke,
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance,
Jesus came to save sinners—OF WHOM I AM CHIEF.

So no matter that folks would see the pettiness and ego and impatience and failures,

Paul opened his heart and life to those around him—and to us so many centuries later.

He risked being labeled hypocrite and judged harshly and cast aside as worthless—so he could give HOPE to the rest of us,

The ones who need to see how God picks His children up after failures

And holds them until they can stand on their own

And gives them second and third and fourth chances

And loves them to the end no matter what.

Yes, some will look close and misunderstand and turn away.

But perhaps later, when they find themselves face down in the dust, in danger of being trampled by life, they’ll remember the example of a man or woman after God’s own heart,

An imitator not too proud to repent, ask forgiveness, and begin again.

An imitator who totally relies on God for the grace & courage to repeat with Paul,

Imitate me Paul Jesus Follow me

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” I Corinthians 11:1

Thanks for stopping by today, my fellow imitators! Blessings, friends!

**Photo Backstory: I create my graphics from iPhone pics or free images from sites likeUnsplash& Death to Stock Photo plus the effects at PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share.Pass them on!
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It’s All in the Deets

Renee Ann Smith —  November 15, 2015 — 17 Comments

I love words.

When I’m struggling, a well-chosen word can turn on the lightbulb for me.

Certain words and phrases create whole scenes in my head.

Of course, God’s Word is the ultimate. His Word gives life to my soul and steadies me when things gets rocky.

And I love that His Word is filled with stories—even fiction!

I’m thankful that my Heavenly Father is a storyteller.

Because stories are the language of my heart.

I’ve read many articles that describe the strong connection fiction—especially colorful words and phrases—forges within us as we read.

In fact, a recent New York Times article, Your Brain on Fiction by Anne Murphy Paul, states that “Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto, has proposed that reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that ‘runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.’

C. S. Lewis said that fiction “enriches,” “adds to reality,” and “irrigates the desert our lives have become.”

Like Lewis, I don’t consider losing myself in a story as escapism. I view it as enrichment,

As preparation,

As affirmation of life.

So in the midst of all the chaos and hurt in the world, I hold out to my students a cup brimming with beautiful stories and invite them to drink.

And I pray that “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, excellent or praiseworthy” in the works we read will refresh and fill them.

And here on the blog I often talk about stories for the same reason.

Today I’m highlighting a novella I was privileged to preview—Love in the Details by Becky Wade.

What I love about Becky as a writer is that whether in a full-length novel or in a brief novella, her words always reach my heart.

I’m amazed at how quickly she pulls me into the hearts and minds of her characters, and this story of former high school sweethearts reuniting at a mutual friend’s wedding was no different.I enjoyed Josh & Holly’s sweet romance.

I pulled out my favorite quotes to show how even a short read about two old friends falling in love all over again can be saturated with truth and beauty.

Love in the Details Becky WadeBecky Wade Becky Wade

Hop on over to this link to grab your copy of Love in the Details. It’s a lovely read & easy to sip down in one sitting. For a deeper drink of Becky’s words, follow this link and view all of her stories.

Thanks for stopping by today. Blessings, friends!

Becky WadeAbout the Author: Becky Wade is a native of California who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and moved to Dallas.

She published historical romances for the general market, took time off to raise her children, then felt God nudging her to pursue contemporary Christian fiction.

Becky’s work has been a finalist for both a RITA and an INSPY Award.

You can connect with Becky . . .

at her website

on her Facebook page

on Twitter

 

**Photo Backstory: I create my graphics from iPhone pics or free images from sites likeUnsplash& Death to Stock Photo plus the effects at PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share.Pass them on!
**Find me on Facebook at this link & follow!
**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!
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Life in Small Spaces

Renee Ann Smith —  October 12, 2015 — 20 Comments

The school where I teach is a pretty small place.

My students experience the benefits of being a tight-knit family. They have people who love them, help them, hurt when they’re hurting.

They never walk through their days without others by their side—even when they’d rather be alone.

By second period, they’ve passed each other in the hallway, bumped elbows at the bathroom mirror, heard the whispered gossip at their lockers . . .

And they know, just as we all can see their trendy outfits and hairdos, we can often see the things they’d rather hide.

It can be hot under that spotlight when people know so much about you—especially on the days when you feel you barely know yourself.

Just like in a family, sometimes that very closeness that’s meant to be a comfort is what makes us guard ourselves all the more,

lest the ugly inner stuff—the anger, pettiness, jealousy, insecurity, fear—

spill out all over for everyone to see.

When the ugliness spills, it smudges our friendships and our reputations,

and the judgment that’s sure to follow breaks our hearts. 

We wonder if the folks who know us best ever will ever let us forget who we’ve become in their eyes.

At those moments, it takes a stout heart to believe God loves us in spite of our inner mess.

That He sees deep inside us and yet never feels the need to lift Himself up by exposing us to others.

That He desires only that we see it—clearly and without excuse—for ourselves so that we might accept His provision.

Then God invites us to hold out our arms and let Him clothe us with Christ’s righteousness . . . 

a one-size-fits-all covering that becomes a Veil of Grace.

And the magic is that if we view others through Christ’s Veil of Grace—

even when their pettiness, weakness, and failings are on display—

His breathtaking image, His lovely righteousness, overshadows anything else

and makes them beautiful in our sight.

Here’s the verse I’m claiming this week for life in small spaces. May God bless as I share it with my students as well.

“I delight greatly in the Lord. My soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
& arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest &
as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
Isaiah 61:10

clothed in righteousness

And a bonus quote for when you need a fresh start . . .

Second chances George Elliot

Let’s look for glimpses of His glory today. Blessings, friends!

**Photo Backstory: I create my graphics from iPhone pics or free images from sites like Unsplash & Death to Stock Photo plus the effects at PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. Pass them on!
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The Big Three

Renee Ann Smith —  September 14, 2015 — 10 Comments

I love the start of a new school year and all that comes with it!

A shopping cart filled with notebooks, book covers, and sharpies.

The smell of new books.

Lesson plans and imagining how my class will react to the new movie or book or project I discovered.

The first sight of my students faces when they walk through my classroom door.

The sounds of soccer practice drifting through my windows while I work at my desk.

The picnic tables under our tall trees filled with kids doing homework and shouting good-bye as I walk to my car at the end of the day.

In August, our building is strangely empty and lifeless. I avoid it and mostly prepare for the school year from home.

Then September comes and with it our students.

They pour through the doors, crowd the hallways, mess up our carefully organized classrooms, frustrate us, delight us, teach us. 

Our building hums with drama, laughter, life.

And even as I lament the too-short, flew-by-too-quickly summer, I know that the school year will pass in much the same way. 

And once again our building will be empty . . .

Last week in British literature, I shared with my class an excerpt from The Ecclesiastical History of the English People by Bede. In our reading, the king’s counselor describes life this way.

“The present life of man upon earth, O king, seems to me . . . like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the house wherein you sit at supper in winter, while the fire blazes in the midst, and the hall is warmed, but the wintry storms of rain or snow are raging abroad.

The sparrow . . . is safe from the wintry tempest; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, passing from winter into winter again.

So this life of man appears for a little while, but of what is to follow or what went before we know nothing at all.”

He’s saying that to him, life is like a bird taking refuge from a storm.

The bird comes out of nowhere, somehow managing to escape the storm. For a time, he is warm and protected in the shelter. All too soon, he leaves and returns to the dangers of the tempest. 

Under His Wings(Feel free to share this graphic I made for my author friend!)

It’s a great metaphor, and one that touches on the Three Big Questions:

  • Where do we come from?
  • Why are we here?
  • Where are we going?

Finding the answers to those questions is the stuff life is made of. 

But every time I read that metaphor, I think of my students—pouring into our building in the fall, spending a few short months under our tutelage, and flying off again at the end of the year.

Their conditions vary. They may be wounded and disheartened or open and searching or on the verge of blossoming into full bloom. But all find their way to my classroom by the same Hand.

Why are they here? Because God’s purpose for my life is to be used in their lives . . . 

To turn their eyes to the One who made them,

To teach and bind up, 

To lead them in the way everlasting, 

And all to the praise of His Glory.

God has brought you your little flock—whether it be your own children, the women or girls you are mentoring, your co-workers, your Sunday school class, your youth group, your grown up family, or your class—for the same reason. 

After they have spent their appointed span with you and fly away, will they have been blessed by your time together? Will they look more like their Savoir? Will they be closer to His heart? Will they be headed down whatever path God has called them to? 

All that and more is what I pray for my students. May it be so for all those who take shelter with us!

Let’s look for glimpses of glory today. Blessings, friends!

Wings like Eagles (Fee free to share this graphic I made for my author friend!)

**Photo Backstory: I create my graphics from iPhone pics or free images from sites like Unsplash & Death to Stock Photo plus the effects at PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. Pass them on!
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Corrie Ten Boom Prayer

Corrie Ten Boom had a way of getting right to the heart of a matter and making folks re-evaluate their priorities. Her quotes never fail to bear fruit in my heart.

These insights by C. S. Lewis follow a similar theme . . . 

“We regard God as an airman regards his parachute.

It’s there for emergencies but he hopes he’ll never have to use it.”

“If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer.

He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him,

And come to Him because there is ‘nothing better’ now to be had.”

Their words bring to mind how God gives grace after grace in response to my heart’s fickle yearnings.

And I am grateful.

“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” John 1:16

Thanks for stopping by today. Blessings, friends!

**Photo Backstory: I create my graphics from iPhone pics or free images from sites like Unsplash & Death to Stock Photo plus the effects at PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. Pass them on!
**Find me on Facebook at this link & follow!
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Remember This

Renee Ann Smith —  July 22, 2015 — 8 Comments

Feelings C S Lewis

“The great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.

It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference;

And, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins,

At whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.” ~C. S. Lewis~

“Feelings and feelings and feelings. Let me try thinking instead.” ~C. S. Lewis~

“Don’t bother too much about your feelings.

When they are humble, loving, brave, give thanks for them.

When they are conceited, selfish, cowardly, ask to have them altered.

In neither case are they you, but only a thing that happens to you.

What matters is your intentions and your behavior.” ~C. S. Lewis~

“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” ~C. S. Lewis~

“Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about. Christian love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will.” ~C. S. Lewis~

I’m thankful that God understands our hearts so well and makes sure to show us again & again that we can trust His.

Thanks for stopping by today. Blessings, friends!

***Photo Backstory: I create my graphics from iPhone pics or free images from sites like Unsplash & Death to Stock Photo plus the effects at PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. Pass them on!
***Find me on Facebook at this link & follow!
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These words from Pastor Bill Johnson captured my heart this week . . .

“Heaven is filled with absolute, perfect, confidence in God. This world is filled with absolute mistrust.

And you and I will always reflect the nature of the world we are most aware of.

What you live conscious of is what you will reproduce in the world around you.

I try to live in such a way that nothing ever gets bigger in my awareness than my conscious awareness of the presence of God upon me.

I don’t care what the problem is—

If it’s an international crisis or a personal issue—

The moment that problem gets bigger than my awareness of the presence of God, then I will live in reaction to a problem.” ~Bill Johnson~

Wise words! God used them to help me assess my own panic-driven thinking & calm my troubled mind. 

Let’s continue to remind each other that whatever problems we’re facing in life—He is greater!

Here are a few of my favorite quotes on life to begin your week . . .

God Meets Our NeedsGeorge Mueller Trials Problems

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Blessings, friends!

***Photo Backstory: I create my graphics from iPhone pics or free images from sites like Unsplash & Death to Stock Photo plus the effects at PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. Pass them on!
***Find me on Facebook at this link & follow!
***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.
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