Christmas in Our Hearts

by Betty Owens

The wonderful thing about Christmas is…it’s the only one. (Adapted from the Tigger song).

Yes, there’s only one Christmas, and it comes once a year. I hear some of you shouting, “hallelujah!”

For many of us, the hectic Christmas season can be overwhelming, especially lately, when it seems to last the entire final quarter of the year. However, it’s still a magical, joyous time.

Christmas is one of those seasons that’s new every year–no matter how many traditions you carry over from previous years, there’s always something that’s new and precious.I tend to associate memories with sounds and aromas. Sounds, like the bells of a nearby church tolling seasonal tunes, send me back to my childhood home in San Diego, near the mission at Balboa. Aromas, like molasses cookies baking in the oven, mixed with the fresh scent of pine from the Christmas tree remind me of home. With the visual of old-fashioned Christmas bulbs reflected off shiny glass ornaments—I can almost hear the crackle of excitement in the air, as memories come rushing in.

I didn’t grow up in an overly religious home, so I didn’t always associate Christmas with church services and worship. But, we sang the beautiful carols and hymns I came to love and cherish. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, Angels We Have Heard on High, O Come All Ye Faithful, are a few of my favorites.

As a young teen, after I accepted a friend’s invitation to join her church’s Christmas choir, I was hooked. Something began to change in my heart, making room for the Savior, and the story of His birth.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.~John 1:14 NIV

Christmas took on a new and special meaning, so much deeper and more satisfying than the beloved fairy tale story of St. Nicholas. [Click to tweet]

We’ve had some wonderful posts this December, as our crew members have shared their hearts and warmed ours with beautiful moments, and priceless memories. Taken as a whole, these messages combine to relate the true meaning behind Christmas, and confirm our beliefs in the One born on that first Christmas Eve. I’ve linked them here, if you’d like to re-read them.

December: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Micki Clark’s Christmas Traditions

A Glimpse of Christ

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas; The Reason for the Season

‘Twas the Night before Christmas

What Christmas Means to Me

Now, it’s your turn. What’s your all-time favorite Christmas memory or tradition? What sets your heart aglow as the day approaches? We welcome you to join the conversation. You’re the reason we write, and we love to hear from you.

From our homes to yours, may you have a wonderful, blessed holiday season!

The Writing Prompts Crew

Meet Newest Crew Member–Gail Johnson

gail-johnson-head-shot-9Today we give a big shout out to our newest Crew Member, Gail Johnson!

Welcome to the Writing Prompts Crew. Tell us a little about yourself.

Gail: I am the oldest of five and the only girl. I didn’t play with Barbie dolls until the birth of my daughter. So you can imagine the fun I had shopping with her! My favorite is the 2-story Barbie house. I am a happy wife to an electrician wannabe farmer who owns three tractors and multiple plowing implements. We live on a sand ridge. No one can say we aren’t persistent. I am mama to two of the best kids in the world, Levi (IT Tech) and Lindsay (soon to be a college student). I am a writer and love telling stories through fiction, non-fiction, and songs. My song “Less of Me and More of You” came in the top 5 runners-up in the 2010 Singing News/Solid Gospel Songwriters Search. I am currently working on a memoir for 2017.

How did you become interested in being a writer?

Gail: I don’t know if I ever became “interested” in writing. It is something I enjoy doing. In school, I loved English and history classes. However, in my early teens I laid aside my writing dreams, only creating when I couldn’t ignore the thoughts tumbling around in my head. Eventually, I returned to writing stories and in 2006, I took a creative writing class. Three years later, I enrolled in the two-year Apprentice Course with Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writer’s Guild. In 2014, I signed-up for the Journeyman’s Course.

Can you tell us three unique things about you that we may not know?

Gail:  I write on whatever is closest to me. In the past, I have written ideas on the bottom of my shoe, 2x4s, and napkins!

There are days when I need a craft fix. I can’t help myself. I have to build something. I’ve been known to hang sheet rock and lay brick. I wear a tool belt and use power tools. Yes, I still have all ten fingers!

When I was five-years-old, I taught myself to play piano by ear while observing other pianists. Since then, music has been a big part of my life. I wake with music in my head. I am always listening, writing, or singing a tune. Through the years, my son has learned all he has to do is get the tune in my head, and I will eventually finish the song. He especially likes humming Christmas carols in July!

gail-johnson-head-shot-9Gail Johnson is a writer of fiction/non-fiction stories and songs. She has published articles and interviews on the web, in the local newspaper, and church magazines. She is currently working on a memoir for 2017. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

Gail and her husband live in Georgia on a 53-acre farm they share with a myriad of wildlife. Married for 29 years, they have 2 beautiful and loving children. They also have 3 dogs, a Shih Tzu named Gracie, Suri, a Schnauzer, and a rescue pup named Doug.

A retired cosmetologist and home school mom, Gail enjoys photography, reading, and listening to music. She also enjoys watching BBC and GPB television. You can connect with her on her Blog: Center of His Wheel, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+Goodreads, and Pinterest.


Vacationing in the Caribbean? Check This Out!

By Karen Jurgens

Cayman Islands Sea

Seven-Mile Beach

Pearl-white sands … azure skies … crystal blue waters … tropical breezes … a golden-hot sun. Welcome to the Cayman Islands.

Upon arrival at our Seven-Mile Beach hotel, an Islander dressed in uniform offered guests pink lemonade in champagne glasses. Through the lobby reggae music danced, its drums beating out Caribbean tunes, leading straight out to the pools and the beach beyond an avenue of palm trees. Just about anything we could wish for was at our fingertips—from thatched huts housing beach towels and beach rental equipment to food and drinks for guests to enjoy on their lounges under umbrellas or shaded lanais.  We enjoyed floating peacefully on rafts, swimming in the calm, aqua waters and taking long walks on the seashore. Laying aside stress and worries for an entire week guaranteed a peaceful and relaxing vacation for my daughter Cait and me.

Most people love to go on parasailing excursions, flying high above the water under colorful sails. Others enjoy submarine expeditions to view the huge turtles in the underwater world for which the island is famous.(I couldn’t bring myself to try the turtle soup, however.) Those who enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving can examine coral, exotic fish and more turtles.

Georgetown, the capital city, offers shopping for island clothing and mementos. Rambling in the shops also turns up rum at Tortuga’s, famous in the Caymans. Rum-soaked candy and rum-flavored coffee are among some of its most popular souvenirs.

Since our hotel’s gourmet restaurant happened to be closed for renovations, we explored the island for other dining experiences. One of our favorites was at the hotel next door, the Ritz-Carlton. The first night there we feasted on fresh seafood at Five.

One of their outdoor restaurants was a pizzeria named Andiamo. The sauce was so delicious with tomatoes, spices, and garlic–I can still taste those amazing flavors.

Another night we hopped in a cab and ventured out to an eaterie called The Wharf which juts over the water. Our table gave us a front row seat to a magnificent sunset with bubbling clouds playing hide-and-seek with the setting sun.

And an Italian steakhouse, Eduardo’s, came highly recommended. The steak smothered in a pepper sauce made its appearance looking like a lobster on my plate.

A fancy steak at an Italian restaurant

Seven-Mile Beach

The best food we had on the island was our last night at The Calypso Bar and Grill. We sat outside next to a dock with rows of yachts and enjoyed the sunset along with their fantastic crab cakes. These literally melted in your mouth.


The snapper with cream sauce was divine, and the toffee pudding we had been in search of (apparently an island specialty) didn’t disappoint.

That meal was a wonderful conclusion to our lovely vacation in the Cayman Islands.

Please enjoy a snapper recipe from the Caymans!

Whole Snapper Baked in a Salt Crust Recipe

Seven-Mile Beach

Writing Prompt: Describe an island vacation. What were your favorite things to do? Where did you dine? Can you share a recipe?