Posts Categorized: Holidays

#SweetGiving with Sweet Friends for OCC

October 13, 2016 Holidays, Life Well Lived 2

Operation Christmas Child

Photo Credit: Chelsea Francis

As I sit to write this, Christmas is exactly 72 days away. Ok, scary thought. Because I haven’t really started on Christmas presents yet. . .honestly, I haven’t really even thought much about Christmas, especially as we are all so intensely focused on politics at the moment. I know, I know ~ let’s simply avoid that volatile subject for now and talk about something much more necessary and even FUN!

For the past several years, I can’t remember exactly how long ago we started, but I know it’s been years and years {so sad thinking how my oldest is 24!}. Anyways, while my children were growing up each year they would pack a Christmas shoebox for a boy or girl dependent on their age at the time for Operation Christmas Child.

Last year, I started the tradition with my sweet grandsons. The youngest little monkey was 4 and the step-grandson was 7 – perfect ages to begin sharing the idea that not every child wakes to an abundance of gifts on Christmas morning. This video helped both boys understand who they were creating special gift boxes for. For about a month we collected small items that would fit in a shoebox, with the 4 year old choosing toys and gifts for a 4 year old boy and the 7 year old doing the same for his age. It was fascinating to see what they picked as gifts they would want if they had no toys at all.

This year I invite you to join us in preparing gift boxes. It is a wonderful way to teach empathy while helping children around the world.

Just in case you’ve never heard of Operation Christmas Child please allow me to share its’ mission

Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, demonstrates God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, shares the Good News of Jesus Christ. We collect and send simple shoebox gifts filled with toys, school supplies, and hygiene items to children affected by war, poverty, disaster, famine, and disease. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to over 124 million children in more than 150 countries and territories.

Who is Samaritan’s Purse?

Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ.

If you would prefer to make a donation in honor or memory of someone visit Samaritan’s Purse Gift Giving Catalog filled with specific gifts for individuals and families around the world. For example, with a $20 donation you can make it possible for a child to learn to read and write! And I know how important reading is to us book lovers, right?!?

My good friend Kirsten from Sweet Tea and Saving Grace is providing tips and resources to help create your shoeboxes. Also, Samaritan’s Purse has a Pinterest page with tons of ideas for preparing your shoebox. And, if like me, you are not a part of a church that collects the shoeboxes it is easy to find a local collection point with Shoebox Collection Point resource. Simply enter your zip code and voila, a collection point within a few miles of you will be shown.

I love this coloring page provided by Samaritan’s Purse to include in the box. It helped bring home the message of giving to my grandsons and allowed the child who received the box to ‘know’ the child giving on the other end. If you want to follow along with my grandsons and me as we prepare our shoeboxes, please do so on Facebook or Instagram.


Thank you for allowing me to share this important work with you. Please do share any tips or ideas you have for creating a shoebox in the comments. I’d love to see how we all join together to bring hope and light to children around the world.

Many blessings Dear Hearts,



A Christmas Wish

December 24, 2015 Book Talk, Holidays 3


A favorite verse of mine that resonates all year. It’s one I come back to whenever I’m troubled, and just as often, whenever I’m filled to the brim with love.  {I especially prefer the ‘filled to the brim’ times!}

My wish for you this Christmas is for love to fill your heart and your home all the way to the brim. That you have a faith to see you through the good times and the bad. And that an endless spark of hope keeps you perpetually moving forward.

A very happiest of Christmases to you, my friends.




First Book of the New Year

January 1, 2015 Book Talk, Holidays 18

Happy New Year Darlings!  Was your New Year’s Eve fun and exciting or relaxing and hopeful?  Mine was spent hanging out in a hotel room in Arizona digging into a delicious new book! {I also spent some time writing out my New Year’s resolutions}.

My pal Sheila from Book Journey is hosting a unique link-up for this special first day of 2015 ~ “First Book of the Year”

For the momentous occasion I chose Things Half in Shadow by Alan Finn.  A little mystery/thriller, supernatural happenings, historical detail and Civil War aftermath. . .so much packed into one promising read!

things half in shadow by alan finn

The year is 1869, and the Civil War haunts the city of Philadelphia like a stubborn ghost. Mothers in black continue to mourn their lost sons. Photographs of the dead adorn dim sitting rooms. Maimed and broken men roam the streets. One of those men is Edward Clark, who is still tormented by what he saw during the war. Also constantly in his thoughts is another, more distant tragedy–the murder of his mother at the hands of his father, the famed magician Magellan Holmes…a crime that Edward witnessed when he was only ten.
Now a crime reporter for one of the city’s largest newspapers, Edward is asked to use his knowledge of illusions and visual trickery to expose the influx of mediums that descended on Philadelphia in the wake of the war. His first target is Mrs. Lucy Collins, a young widow who uses old-fashioned sleight of hand to prey on grieving families. Soon, Edward and Lucy become entwined in the murder of Lenora Grimes Pastor, the city’s most highly regarded–and by all accounts, legitimate–medium, who dies mid-seance. With their reputations and livelihoods at risk, Edward and Lucy set out to find the real killer, and in the process unearth a terrifying hive of secrets that reaches well beyond Mrs. Pastor.

Blending historical detail with flights of fancy, Things Half in Shadow is a riveting thriller where Medium and The Sixth Sense meet The Alienist —and where nothing is quite as it seems …

Do share ~ what are you reading this first day of 2015?!?


An Easter Wish

April 20, 2014 Book Talk, Holidays 2

Throughout the world today many will be celebrating Easter.  Whether you are a Jesus-follower, non-believer or just don’t know what to think, it is my wish that this day brings you love, light and peace.

Do not abandon yourselves to despair.-2


what are your plans for the day sweet friend? a day with family? friends?

a good book? movie?



A Few Favorites From 2013

December 29, 2013 Book Talk, Holidays 16

I read a pretty eclectic selection of books and not necessarily the newest releases {apparent when you scan through the favorites list below}.  But, I met my goal for reading this year, and now I’m wondering if I’ll get a Six Flags Ticket or Atlanta Braves ticket or even more preferably, an Atlanta Falcons ticket for accomplishing my reading goals this year?!?  Hmmm, do they give out prizes to the reading adults yet?!? 😀

7949816Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly:  I listened to the audio version and was blown away!  A fantastic novel paired with amazing narrators = Favorite Audiobook from 2013!

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain:  I knew I was introverted before reading this. . .after reading Quiet I knew I was in the company of many famous introverts such as Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks.  This book made me proud to be the “quiet” person that I am.   Definitely my favorite non-fiction book read in 2013!

Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight:  I shared my aversion to 4 letter words in this post ~ especially ones that begin with d and end with iet!  Slimmer makes health sense to me and the recipes are easy, tantalizing and good for you!  My favorite cookbook for 2013!

Little Dinos Don’t Bite:  This came at an opportune moment during the Little Monkey’s 2 year old stage in life.  He never really got into biting (thank God!) but he did bite books & stuffed animals & toys & washcloths & clothes & . . .well, you get the idea 🙂  Favorite picture book and for good reason!


17080054Mister Max and The Book of Lost Things:  a precocious 12-year old, missing parents, numerous references to great plays and literature, and lost things in need of finding = favorite middle-grade read for 2013!

Thirteen Reasons Why:  a novel to wrench your heart out and found on too many banned book lists; Thirteen Reasons Why has been a Young Adult + Banned Book Favorite for years.  Should be required reading for every adult who works with, knows one, or has ever been a young adult.

Proof (Bloodline Trilogy #1):  it’s always a profound moment when a book you begin suddenly sucks you in and won’t let go until the last sentence is read.  Proof was that surprise book for me this year.  Unexpected. Exhilarating. A Knock-out.  Favorite Christian Fiction for 2013.

The Silent Wife:  This year was the year of the psychological thriller and while everyone was talking Gillian Flynn {for good reasons}; I found A.S.A. Harrison to be the one to get under my skin.  Favorite Mystery/Thriller from 2013!

The Elegance of the Hedgehog:  Our “Girls with Books Bookclub” selection for November and one that I hated during the first couple of chapters.  Am I so glad I persevered because this one soon overtook me.  Favorite book club read for 2013.

Once We Were Brothers:  This was another surprise hit for me and the world as well.  Started off as a self-published novel and after selling over 200,000 copies was picked up by St. Martin’s.  Don’t you just love stories like that!  Favorite Historical Fiction for 2013.

15808242City of Dark Magic:  Quite the unexpected surprise when I read this one!  I thought it was YA and all of the sudden it very clearly was, um, very much adult.  Nothing over the top or getting into the Fifty Shade of Gray mode, but this one is adult.  But hilarious.  And fun.  And magical.  Favorite Genre-Busting Novel of 2013.

I don’t have an overall favorite from this past year ~ the last time I had one of those was after reading 11-22-63 by Stephen King and I’m not even a Stephen King fan!   Nothing has quite surpassed that one yet.

 This past year was my year of hospital visits.  Three surgeries, 5 ER visits and countless doctor appointments.   And 2014 is going to be my year of accomplishment.  I’ve already set that resolution, made that goal, announced that intention, provided a clear purpose, etc. etc..  For 2013 though, I’m so full of gratitude for surviving the year, blogging for year no. 4, and still having the ability and desire to do it again next year.  Thank you for being a part of this reading journey and life adventure.

How about you?

Do you have a favorite from 2013 or are you stuck on a fave from a few years back?  

I’d love to know what your favorite is so I can pump up my TBR list for 2014!