Twenty-One Candles (review)

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Twenty-One Candles: Stories for ChristmasTwenty-One Candles: Stories for Christmas by Mike Mason

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mike Mason (Canadian author of The Mystery of Marriage, Champagne for the Soul and the Blue Umbrella fantasy series for kids) has a personal tradition of writing a Christmas story every year. This book is 21 of those stories, collected into a “wonder-full” volume of tales, as different from each other as each Christmas we live is one-of-a-kind. Some stories are short, others long, some playful, others serious, some fairy-tale-like, others as real as photographs. What binds them all together, though is the way each reflects some facet of the deepest meaning of the season.

From the one with the earliest date, 1981’s “Christmas Rocks”—in which the narrator and his friend, weary of the commercialism of a Winnipeg mall, drive to Gimli to choose a unique water-lucent rock for each person on their list—to 2014’s “In the stillness of the Night”—set in Hope BC with a local tourist attraction, the Othello Tunnels, playing a major role—these tales are recognizably Canadian, yet have a universal, parable quality to them that sets them beyond time and place.

The two that touch me most deeply are “Born with Wings”—about a sick baby expected to live just hours, born on Christmas day. Any parent who has lost a baby to miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death will relate to this poignant, tastefully told tale and its Christmas message.

The other favorite is the 1984 tale that closes the collection, “Bound for Glory.” Its tame yet mysterious beginning:

“A light rain was falling as I set off across the platform. … It was Christmas Eve, close to midnight, and the station was unusually busy, though not with the bustle of a daylight rush hour but with the trance-like commotion of darkness…” Kindle Location 2939.

soon reveals a carload of citizens fleeing for the border, among them a couple with a newborn baby. Enter soldiers with guns, making threats and culling group by group from the coach. Of course there is a surprise at the destination.

Stories in this book have been read at the Vancouver Pacific Theatre’s annual Christmas Presence programs. Now that they are available to all, they’re sure to add their special light to the Christmases of many more individuals and groups. I, frankly, love this book. It’s the kind of volume I feel like buying as a gift for friends and family members because I just know they would love one or another story in it.

My one gripe with the Kindle version of the book is that there is no table of contents. Actually there is a Table of Contents, but it’s not listed under the “Go to…” options in my Kindle reader’s “Menu.” I found it when I paged onward from the cover.

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A Child’s Christmas in Saskatchewan

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It’s Christmas Eve, the time our thoughts turn to all things holy—and presents! How crass. But how real, especially if you’re a kid.

A few weeks ago when I was cleaning out some papers, I came across a picture book I wrote and illustrated way back when. It was one of my course requirements at UBC, (College of Education). It’s my memories of childhood Christmases on our farm in Saskatchewan. I hope you enjoy.

A Child's Christmas In Saskatchewan - Cover

A Child’s Christmas in Saskatchewan – Cover

A Child's Christmas in Saskatchewan - Page 1

A Child’s Christmas in Saskatchewan – Page 1

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A Child’s Christmas in Saskatchewan – Page 9

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A Child’s Christmas in Saskatchewan – Page 10

Now a Merry Christmas to all who read here!

Cecile’s Christmas Miracle (review)

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Kathi Macias' 12 Days of Christmas Volume 7Kathi Macias’ 12 Days of Christmas Volume 7 by Ruth L. Snyder

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cecile’s preparations for Christmas this year are nothing like they were last year when she lived in Alberta. Now, as a nurse working with the San Bushmen people of Botswana, she’s covering up to protect herself from the burning Kalahari sun instead of Alberta’s frigid winds, concerned with the medical surprises and challenges she’ll encounter each day at the clinic, and re-evaluating. Has she made the right decision to come out here as a missionary? Her life would be so different if she’d accept Colin’s proposal

Thoughts about her decision are only complicated by the fact that she really does still care for Colin. But best leave all that behind. For such a handsome young doctor has surely found someone else by now.

Snyder’s familiarity with missionary life in Botswana hints at first-hand experience. The details of the foreign setting help us feel the burning heat, smell the stench of sickness and decaying flesh, and experience Cecile’s nervousness as she faces government officials who are determined to shut her clinic down.

I found the story—told from two points of view: Cecile’s and Colin’s—captivating, inspirational, and short. The novella-length makes this the perfect choice for when you need a break from your Christmas busy, baking, shopping, or wrapping gifts.

And I think you will find, like I did, that this little miracle tale adds depth and breadth to your sense of what Christmas is really about.

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Advent project

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The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp (along with the Jesse Tree decorations)

The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp (along with the Jesse Tree decorations)

I’m excited to be going through Advent with Ann Voskamp’s beautiful book The Greatest Gift! It’s a Jesse Tree project where each day’s reading adds another bit to the story of Jesus’ family tree.

There are 25 decorations too, one to go with each day’s reading (sorry, you have to buy the book to get the password).

I spent last night watching curling and an old Columbo movie while I cut out and trimmed my decorations. I’m going to love December! (Our Costco had Ann’s book…maybe yours does too.)

December prompt: light

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Christmas lights and decorations

Some of my 2012 Christmas lights and decorations.

In my part of the world December, and Christmas, take place during the darkest part of the year.  Our December days are short, the nights long. Perhaps that’s one reason lights are such a big part of our Christmas decor.

When I think about the spiritual aspect of Christmas and light, one of the first things that comes to mind is all the Old Testament yearning and prophecies about the coming of a light-bringer.

It starts as far back as Numbers 24:17:

“I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel…”

and continues with the prophets, like Isaiah 9:2:

“The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined”

and Malachi 4:2:

“But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings…”

Light was a big part of Jesus’ birth too.

– The wise men from the east followed the light of a star: – Matthew 2:2,9.

– The glory of the Lord shone around the angel that appeared to the shepherds – Luke 2:9.

– The old man Simeon who blessed the infant Jesus at His presentation in the temple proclaimed Him “‘A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles'” – Luke 2:32.

When Jesus grew up He was recognized as light by His disciple John – John 1:4.

– He declared Himself the “light of the world” – John 8:12.

– Someday He will be the light of a heavenly city – Revelation 21:23.

This month, let’s write about LIGHT.

  • Perhaps our piece will be an essay about or poem to the lights of the season.
  • Perhaps we will write about a Christmas memory in which light (candlelight, starlight, moonlight, tree lights) played a special part.
  • Perhaps it will be a story in which the light of realization dawns on a character.
  • Or maybe we’ll want to write about how Jesus has illumined our hearts, lives and homes.

May the lights of December take on added significance as you ponder and write about LIGHT this month.

It’s December!

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12-11~112November, the crazy month of writing challenges is over!  A few years ago I submitted myself to NaNoWriMo. For the last couple of Novembers, I’ve participated (somewhat) in the November Poem-A-Day Chapbook Challenge (prompts, initiative and encouragement supplied by Robert Brewer the blogmeister at Poetic Asides, Writer’s Digest’s blog for poets).

I participated in that this  year as well and have come away from November with 22 new poems. (Not all of them following Brewer’s prompts, and so I am disqualified from entering his Chapbook Contest  on two counts—because I didn’t write every day and didn’t follow the given prompts. But that’s okay. The object of the exercise was to write.)

A nice sideline of this year’s Chapbook Challenge was that reader/poets supplied the prompts. Brewer asked for a few more at the beginning of the month, I emailed him one, and lo and behold, it was the prompt for yesterday, the last day of the challenge!

Christmas creche

Our Christmas creche

Now it’s December! Yesterday I began decorating the house. Hubby went to assemble the outside lights and found they were missing! It’s the fault of the bottom story flood we had this February, when everything damp got carted away by the restoration company. We got most of it back, dried and restored and thought we had those lights too.

After looking high and low, hubby drove off to the store to buy new ones. But I wasn’t satisfied we didn’t have those old ones somewhere. Where or where could they be?

I decided to look once more through every inch of the crawl space, their customary home. There, in the shadows,  was a tall box filled with clothes hangers, but, I found when I tried to move it, suspiciously heavy too. I decided to dig to the bottom and voila! Cords, wires, bulbs upon bulbs! The lost was found!

This month I’m having a sale on my novel. Check out the December Sale page. It would be a pleasure to put a copy of Destiny’s Hands (a signed copy if you like) in your hands, or the hands of someone you love this Christmas!

Happy December!!