What to do when you want to safely break away from your Covid routine before the holidays, but have few options? Well, Galena, of course! I love this historic town. It's our go-to getaway in a pinch. This year, due to the coronavirus, things look different - masks worn everywhere, 6 foot spacing encouraged, and limited dining options. But true to form, the town is beautifully adorned for Christmas. Yay!
Does History Inspire You?
We drove around the hilly neighborhood, enjoying the decked out historic homes. Galena dates back to 1826, and the buildings reflect the Civil War era - not surprising because this was General Grant’s home.
Who Doesn't Love a Hearty Breakfast?
One treat I particularly enjoyed was wandering in and out of Main Street shops, also delightfully decorated for the holidays. Lots of eye candy here! Not to mention this is one of my favorite boutiques - Carlotta’s Studio. I make sure to visit each time we are in Galena.
Dan’s favorite pastime is eating out - especially for breakfast. Below our cozy Airbnb was the owner’s restaurant, Big Bill’s. Their food was scrumptious and the double expresso strong and rich - just the way I like it!!
Historic Homes Become Restaurants
Our warm and inviting studio was perfect for our needs - a few minutes walking distance from the center of town, a big screen TV and electric fireplace for movie watching and a complete kitchen for cooking dinner. The above photo shows the red Galena brick walls so prevalent in this area. The images are of the flooding this town experienced in 2017, artfully snapped by our young landlord’s mother, Michelle. You can find her photos at Michelle Deiter Photography.
As I've mentioned, dining options were limited, but the De Soto House and it's three restaurants (for breakfast, lunch and dinner) were open! So, after taking pics of their stunning decor, we settled into a lovely meal, COVID precautions in force. Below is a slideshow of other interior images . . .
The Reason for the Season
I trust you are able, even in this season of lockdowns and political unrest, to find peace and joy - and hope. Immanuel - God is with us - in His Son, Jesus Christ. We need never fear, for He sees the past, the present AND the future. He is in control, and has a purpose for everything that comes into our lives. And someday, He will reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
May you and yours have a Blessed and Merry Christmas and a Happy, Joy-filled New Year!!
Oh. I must catch my breath! Did I truly see such a magnificent creature and live? I paled. My heart pounded as the mighty angel, dressed in a flowing white robe with searing eyes that pierced my soul.
Have you been floundering in the dark lately? Or maybe you're not aware your light has dimmed. Maybe, you are just living life as it comes, but underneath, are realizing there is something more.
I believe that's the way the shepherds felt over 2,000 years ago on the night Jesus was born. Since this is the Christmas season, I want to share a portion of my Christmas Musings written in 2012. For another character sketch in this series, here is the link for the Magi's story. I hope you are blessed by my interpretation of what happened many centuries ago and many miles away. How would you have responded that night?
Our family had the opportunity last Saturday to watch A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks, who, by the way, did a fabulous job portraying Mr. Rogers. It would not surprise me if he won an Oscar. It helped me understand the heart behind the man so dearly loved by his young viewers.
“Words mean things” reminds my husband, when I’ve not clearly explained something, or use the wrong words in my conveyance of a concept. Since I’m an author, I know just how powerful words can be. And surprisingly, so are mere letters.
How many times do we let our minds wander, for no good purpose? Unfortunately, it commonly occurs while we are listening to a sermon. Or a lecture. Times when we need to be paying attention. Last Sunday, I was guilty of that very habit. But it lead me to a treasure to ponder. My mind went from wandering to pondering. And then, it ended in wonder. A perfect state to be caught in during the Christmas Season.
From wandering to wondering. The letter “O” made all the difference. . .
I don’t know about you, but I have too much stuff — on the inside and outside. In my house. On my schedule. Swirling about in my head. I'm a Minimalist wanna be.
When I stopped in World Market the other day, I was bombarded with colors, shapes, scents and clutter. A good kind of clutter, but clutter none the less. Materialism at its best.
Since my debut MG historical fiction, "The Heart Changer" releases in Spring of 2019, I'm capturing photos of hearts. This one above from the Market is an example.
In 2012, I was inspired to write, “Christmas Musings” as I pondered the reason for this season. Each cast of characters, each scene of the account tells a story of its own. So, since Christmas is traditionally about gifts, who were the first gift givers? Here’s a peek into their journey. . .
A few years back, I did some shopping in our local mall (formerly the largest in the nation, at a time when malls were a new concept.) I, of course, expected to see the typical Santa scene, with lines of tots waiting to sit on the lap of a grandfatherly figure to share their most-wanted wish list.
But what I found was the "Ice Palace". Hmmmmm. That's unusual. I thought. Where's Santa? And who will be inside to greet the children when they reach the interior of the palace?
And then a chill came over me. And thoughts of the White Witch in The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe. She had placed a spell on Narnia, so it was "Always winter, but never Christmas." A harsh environment with no hope of joy, peace and celebration.
Edmund encounters the White Witch riding on a sleigh pulled by white reindeer. He has stolen away from his brother and sisters, curious of this "witch" spoken of by Mr. Beaver. And, because of his rebellious spirit, is intimidated when Aslan, the true King of Narnia's name is spoken. Queen Jadis is aware of a prophecy that will foil her plan, and bring Christmas back to Narnia. Four human children, Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve, will have a part to play in the return Aslan who will save Narnia from the harsh, cold spell it is under.
So, she is thrilled when she finds Edmund on the road. The White Witch entices him into her sleigh, and proceeds to fill him with his favorite treat: Turkish Delight. (When you have tried this rose-flavored delicacy, you will understand why!) She distracts him, so he indulges himself with more and more candy, until that is all he can think about. This greed causes Edmund to betray his siblings to the Queen of Narnia. Secretly, she plans to destroy them, and thus prevent Aslan from bringing back Christmas.
And that's when it hit me. Those of us who celebrate the birth of Christ at this time of year are being distracted by the goodies of this world. Stuff. Celebration. Santa. Food. And more stuff.
But what about Christmas? Have we forgotten about the Christ Child? The one who came to earth to save it from Satan's power? To bring freedom, joy, light and forgiveness?
I think so.
In Matthew 2: 9-11 it says:
"After hearing the king, they (the Magi) went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh."
What gift will we bring to the feet of the Christ Child? How will we worship Him today?
I hope I will give Him my heart, and not a wish list. I want to worship the God of the Universe. Not the god of pleasure and possessions. I want to worship the King. . .
Hmmmm. He's non-existent in quite a few nativity scenes in my neighborhood. As my imagination ran wild a couple of years ago, I pondered 'what would happen if' . . . and came up with this 349 word story that solved the mystery.
It's a theme that has been on my heart for quite a while . . .
Help! Baby Jesus is Missing!
Molly stood in front of her neighbor's house, looking at a forest of lighted decorations. There was a snowman, a tin soldier, a candy cane, a candle, and of course - Santa and his reindeer.
In the center were Mary and Joseph, bowing low over the manger. But, it was empty! Where is the Christ Child, Molly wondered?
"It's His birthday soon. Jesus can't miss His own party!"
Maybe the tin soldier would know.
"No, Miss," he said, "I'm just keeping the peace. Try the snowman."
The snowman looked strange.
"Have you seen Jesus?" she asked.
"I can't see. They've forgotten my button eyes. Sorry! Maybe the candy cane can help."
She hoped so. But Molly was disappointed.
"I'm too busy straightening my pretty red bow. I haven't seen him."
"We must find him," she said in despair. "Christmas is coming soon!"
"Ask Santa," the candy cane suggested.
"Yes!" Molly said. "Santa would know."
She tugged on the sleeve of his red velvet suit.
"Santa? Santa! Jesus is missing. Can you help?"
"Can't stop now, little girl. It's almost time to deliver my gifts. Ask the candle."
So she did.
"Mr. Candle, can you help the Christ child find his way back to the manger?"
"Not tonight. Ask His parents."
"Mary? Joseph? Where is your Son?"
"He's coming soon, child. Very soon. He will be pleased to know you were waiting for Him," said Mary.
"Those who are wise seek Him," said his father. "Be patient, and He will appear."
Molly waited. Two whole days. On Christmas morning, there in the manger, was Jesus. Hands outstretched. His parents lovingly bowed in reverence.
Molly clapped her hands in joy.
"He's here! Just in time. Happy Birthday, Jesus!"
The lawn decorations joined in.
"To the Prince of Peace!" said the soldier.
"You warm our hearts," said the snowman.
"Our sweet baby Jesus," the candy cane said.
"The greatest gift!" said Santa.
"The light of the world," said the candle.
"Wise men still seek Him," Joseph declared.
"Our waiting is over," said Mary.
"You've finally come!" Molly said. "Welcome to our world!!"
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!
It's that time of year again!
And what is on YOUR Christmas list? Or do you like to be surprised?
Well, in the spirit of the season, here is a short story I wrote three years ago for: SUSANNA HILL'S 4TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!! Since I couldn't write a holiday story without mentioning the Reason for the Season, here is my entry, keeping under the 350 word count with a reference to weather:
THE UNEXPECTED GIFTS
The house awoke early. It was Christmas morning! The snow outside was gently falling. The family
gathered to open gifts under the glistening gold and silver tree. Suddenly the wind began to howl. It raced around and around the house until it forced itself though a crack in the door. In it came, swirling around the Christmas tree.
The little family pressed close together. They watched in amazement as the gifts began to rise and dance around the tree. Around and around they went in all their bright and dapper wrapping. Then, just as mysteriously as it came in, the wind ceased its roaring, and became a gentle breeze. As obedient children, the packages landed together under the tree once more.
The wind blew back out the window, and into the morning, as quickly as it entered.
"What was that?" asked Mother.
"Amazing," noted Daddy.
"Whee. . .what fun!" said brother Donald.
"Oh, no!" said sister Wendy. "The tags are gone. They have blown away!"
"It's a muddle," said Sarah, "but what an adventure!"
The family each took a gift from the pile, and opened it.
"This shirt is TOO big," said Donald.
"These socks are TOO small," said Daddy.
"But this scarf is JUST right!" said Mother.
After much laughter and joy, the family read the story of the first Christmas.
"There were plenty of surprises on that night long ago, too," said Daddy.
Sarah agreed. "The shepherds were surprised to see Angels in the starry sky over Bethlehem."
"And the wise men were surprised to find the Baby Jesus in a stable instead of a big fancy palace." Donald pointed to the nativity display.
"And Mary was surprised at the Wise Men's gifts. Gold, for a king, frankincense for a priest, and myrrh for a prophet," said Mother.
Wendy frowned. "But those were grownup gifts."
"I think Jesus used them later. When they took the long journey to Egypt," said Sarah.
"Maybe Donald will use Daddy's shirt when he gets bigger," said Wendy, her eyes brightening.
There was joy all around that Christmas morning. They would never forget the day the wind mixed-up their gifts!
Make sure you go to Susanna Hill's website here. Even though Susanna is not hosting a contest this year, she has lots of goodies on her sleigh. Uh, I mean- her website.
MERRY AND BLESSED CHRISTMAS and HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all . . .
And to all a good day!
My MG Biblical fiction "The Heart Changer" debuted in 2019 with Ambassador International.