My Guest Post

My sweet friend, Linda Ray Center, features my post–For ME, for YOU on her blog today at https://www.lindaraycenter.com/christmas/. Please drop in and say hi, or leave a Christmas greeting.

Thanks!

Four Gifts of Christmas

Family

I think everyone enjoys receiving gifts. That was my husband’s primary love language. He received much more joy from giving elaborate gifts than from receiving them. He squirreled back money all year dollar-by-dollar to splurge on his family at Christmas.

And he loved to give cash. He tried to think of unusual ways to gift that cash to us each year. Silver dollars, bills tucked inside boxes of candy, stuffing cash inside glass ornaments, gift cards, bills tied to our tree, on and on his surprises went for 48 years..

I enjoy gifting the people in my life, too. So, I hope this and the next few blog posts of 2019 will resonate with you as gifts from me.

One of the dearest gifts God gives us is family.

The core family of husband, wife, children is not only to bless us with love, companionship, support, provision and protection. It is also a living picture of God’s desire for us as His family. How blessed you are if your core family is a happy one.

I didn’t say perfect one. There is no such thing.

However, if the time you spend with your spouse and children working, playing, relaxing, serving others is for the most part happy you are richly blessed.

What a precious gift from God!

If you are able to count other loving people when you gather together, that is liked whipped cream and a cherry on top of yummy ice cream.

Grandparents are God’s gift to support and assist parents. They are to add joy and love and a listening ear to grandchildren. Being a grandparent is a delightful responsibility.

It seems that half of my grandkids are destined to be far away from me. That means I have the fun responsibility of making a connection to them happen regularly. I thank God for cell phones, email, Face Time, Duo, Marco Polo, Skype, Zoom and the good old-fashioned USPS. They help me enjoy my grandchildren and influence them to love their parents, their siblings, and their God.

If uncles and aunts, cousins and in-laws are part of your Christmas celebrations you are doubly blessed. My favorite childhood memories of Christmas are those that center around extended family. Just the other day my sister and I tried to count our cousins. We lost count at 40 something!

Family is one of God’s most beautiful gifts if we work hard at being at peace with each other.

As you count your blessings this Christmas be sure to include all those relatives who have touched your life. Be sure to share Jesus with each of them, too.

Have a Merry Christmas!

I Am Grateful

I’m quoting from Then Sings My Soul: 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories (page149) by Robert J. Morgan. He expresses my feelings well:

“One of the strange things about the ‘attitude of gratitude’ is that we tend to exhibit it in reverse proportion to the number of blessings received. The more we have, the less thankful we are.

Among the lessons Viktor Frankl learned in the Nazi death-camp, Auschwitz, was to take time to be thankful and to count your blessings. He wrote that prisoners in the camp dreamed at night about certain things more than others. Bread, cakes, and nice warm baths—the very things we take for granted every day.

Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that if the constellations appeared only once in a thousand years, imagine what an exciting event it would be. But because they’re there every night, we barely give them a look.

I would like to change that.

I would like for us Christians to show the world how to be grateful every day. I would like for us to take time to admire the stars, and stop to thank God for creating them, and allowing us to enjoy them.

I would like for us Christians to teach our children and grandchildren that gratitude is more than saying thank you. It’s a way of life that demonstrates our thanks TO GOD for the millions of things we tend to take for granted. It is a way of life that reminds us moment-by-moment of how small we are, and how great God is.

I would like for us to begin and end each day with grateful hearts.

Gratitude puts our lives into proper perspective.

Now a small gift to you in gratitude.

“Now Thank We All Our God

“For the Beauty of the Earth

Count Your Blessings

Family Traditions

Family traditions root our children in their pasts and strengthen them to grow and branch out into their futures.

Most of us think about holiday events or practices when asked about family traditions. But they don’t need to be limited to special days. A tradition is a custom, belief or practice we pass down from one generation to another. It can have special significance like getting married in great-great grandmother’s wedding gown, or be as silly as a family victory dance.

Traditions help children to feel safe, grounded, in their families. They help children to remember who they are, where they came from, who is always going to be on their side. Into adulthood family traditions continue to have a strong influence on us. They help to tie extended family members together. They help us remember those who went before us.

Here are some quick ideas for traditions to establish for your family. Please don’t try to adopt all of them. Add one or two each year to your family’s customs.

  • Weekly family dinners. Set aside one night (or maybe a Sunday afternoon) each week and keep it sacred. It doesn’t necessarily have to be pot roast and fine china. Your family dinner might be spaghetti or hot dogs. But make sure everyone in your family is there. Consider making extended family part of the event.
  • Bedtime rituals. We know these are key to very young children. But don’t fall into the habit of saying, “good-night” and letting the kids put themselves to bed. It might be just a kiss on the forehead, or a tucking-in, or a certain book or prayer. But incorporate it into who your family is.
  • TV athletic events. Have your own tail-gate party without the tail-gate.
  • Mealtime devotions or prayer rituals.
  • Birthday breakfast in bed.
  • Washing the car together every Saturday.
  • Evening walks in a nearby park.
  • Worshipping together weekly.
  • Birthday meals (special for the birthday-ee)
  • Movie or Monopoly night.
  • Vacations to the same spot every year.
  • Making hand-made Christmas gifts for each other.
  • Christmas breakfast deluxe instead of Christmas dinner.
  • Making holiday cookies for neighbors.
  • Serving a homeless shelter together.

The possibilities are endless. Expense and bother are not required to turn ordinary activities into family traditions.

  • Make them sacred—nothing short of dire emergencies prevents them.
  • Make them yours—they help define who your family is.
  • Make them precious—fun or solemn, they’ll be memorable

What are you thankful for today? Remember your ABCs of Gratitude. Today is the T day. How handy!

I am grateful to God for Traditions. They add security, joy, and fun to my life.

And I’m thankful for Teaching and Teachers. What an awesome responsibility and joy it is to lead someone else along the path of lifelong learning. Introducing people to new things and helping them remember important old things.

Write2Ignite Conference Recap

What a joy to spend time with old friends — especially old writing friends! And this year I had the fun of bringing my grandson, Mikey, along for the Teen Track.

The Write2Ignite Conference for Christian Writers of Literature for Children and Young Adults is dear to my heart. More than 10 years ago I helped to start the Conference. It’s still equipping Christians who write.

It’s still encouraging them to keep on serving the Lord.

It’s still providing them with skills to improve their craft.

It’s still helping them make connections in the industry.

In September I once again led a couple of workshops on writing picture books. I can’t imagine having more fun. I mix writing and picture books and God’s Word and encouraging and teaching together to make the best mix ever.

If you write for children of any age or for young adults please check it out for September, 2020.

Now, a tip of the hat to my good writing buddies at Write2Ignite!

I am grateful to God for my Write2Ignite family.

What are you grateful for? Are you remembering your ABCs of Gratitude? Today is the day for M.

Thank you, God, for Music. It touches the deepest parts within me – my spirit, my mind, my soul. Thank you, God, for the beauty and power of music.

And, God, thank you also for my Mama. She had many flaws. She went through many struggles. But she never gave up. She was a fighter. And she taught me by her example to keep on learning, keep on loving, keep on living against all odds.

Picture Books-Love

These titles are linked to Jean’s reviews of the picture books.

If I Didn’t Have You
Loved to Bits
LOVE
Daddy Depot
You Nest Here With Me
Josie Jo’s Got to Know
Love is Kind

P.S Are you remembering your ABCs of Gratitude? What are you thankful for that begins with the letter F?

Family, of course! God first, Family second.

Friends. There have been several times in my life when my friends kept me afloat emotionally, spiritually, even physically. I am so grateful for the friends God brought into my life over these past 70 years.

The ABCs of Gratitude

I’m setting a challenge for myself this November. Want to join in?

Each day (beginning November 1, 2019) I’m going to list and thank God for one or two meaningful things in my life that begin with a certain letter of the alphabet.

I’ll begin with A (naturally.)

Today I thank God for:

Aunt Ginny. She’s 95 (I believe) and the last of my Daddy’s siblings to remain alive on this earth. She probably doesn’t know it, but Aunt Ginny had a powerful influence on my life. She’s one of the biggest reasons I became a schoolteacher. As a kid I “helped” her prepare for her kindergarten students. I spent hours in her empty classroom pretending to teach my own classes.

And, she’s a godly woman. Aunt Ginny taught her ladies’ Sunday School Class for more than 50 years until she recently decided she just isn’t quite up to it anymore.

Plus, she is responsible for telling me many family stories—memories of her childhood. Fodder for my books.

Thank you, Lord, for Aunt Ginny.

Next, I thank God for aromas. I am mad about the luscious aromas of spices when I cook. In my family I’m known as the spice-lady. The heavenly smells of basil and rosemary. Yum! And what can beat the aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg in the oven. That luscious smell of chili and oregano, cumin, and turmeric, onion and garlic woo me into the kitchen. Who can possibly resist the fragrance of yeast bread in the oven? Or coriander, ginger and cardamom sprinkled over meat? Lord, I’m getting hungry thinking about it!

I love other aromas, too. Lavender and vanilla. And that fresh smell of just washed sheets! What about the delightful smell of a clean baby snuggled in the crook of my neck?

Thank you, God, for the gift of aromas.

I dabble in poetry. This piece I wrote years ago during one of my quiet times with God. I hope it draws you into God’s presence.

A Fragrance Sweet              

Grasses, grains, golds and greens

That grew on paths below,

Fragrance sweet that grew at His feet,

Now lingers on His robes.

Though He left this world behind

Though now we are apart

The perfume of the earth He made

Still hovers in His heart.

Enfolded in His arms, I’m wrapped

In flowers, humus, rain,

A sweet reminder of the earth

His fragrant robes contain.

Won’t you share YOUR “A” words of gratitude in the comments? I’d appreciate it.

Winner of Book Giveaway

TA-DA!

We have a winner of a free copy of my debut picture book God’s Blessings of Fall.

Congratulations to    JOYCE MCCULLOUGH!!!

Please email me your mailing address at jean@jeanmatthewhall.com.

Thank you all for participating. I pray you and your children enjoy my little book. And, that it becomes a part of your family’s Thanksgiving traditions.

Go, help your children find some colorful leaves and press them in a book!

Make some autumn memories.

Interview at BlogZone

Please pay Nancy I. Sanders a visit to read her interview with me.

And, please leave a comment! Thanks, ya’ll.

YUUUMMM!

Book Give Away

It’s here! It’s finally here! After more than 10 years of waiting. God’s Blessings of Fall is finally made of paper and ink. I can finally hold it in my hands. I can at last see something tangible I will leave behind on this earth after I fly off to heaven.

LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW OR ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE (JEAN MATTHEW HALL AUTHOR) FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A COPY OF God’s Blessings of Fall.

Wow! That sound like a long time. But I look back and see that God took that long to get my writing skills to this point. He took that long to get my personal life prioritized for this journey. He took that long to find the right publisher and illustrator to make this a lovely book.

It took that long for me to come to peace with the snail-paced journey that is traditional publication.

God’s Blessings of Fall was one of the first book manuscripts I worked on. The idea came from “Write what you know.” A popular bit of advice for new writers. It also came from watching my four-year old grandson playing in the back yard with fallen twigs and amber leaves. He was wrapped in fleece from head to toe and delirious with joy at the changing colors of the season.

After many revisions and much time hibernating on my hard drive God’s Blessings of Fall finally came to life thanks to editor Rachel Pellegrino of Little Lamb Books and illustrator Olya Badulina.

God’s Blessings of Fall is a lyric celebration of God’s creativity expressed each fall, and a celebration of nature’s signs and symbols of the season in field and woodland. The musical language encourages young children in language development, and in expressing gratitude to God for His gifts of fall.

Critters who fly, climb or creep.

Food to gather. Warm nests to keep.

All are getting ready for a good night’s sleep.

God’s blessings of fall.”

LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW OR ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE (JEAN MATTHEW HALL AUTHOR) BY MIDNIGHT EST OCTOBER 29, 2019 FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A COPY OF God’s Blessings of Fall.

I’ll print them out, shake them up, and have my grand daughter pluck one name out of the bag on Wednesday morning October 30.

LEAVE A COMMENT IN BOTH PLACES FOR TWO CHANCES TO WIN!

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