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Christmas, Snow, and the Grinch

The sun dazzling on the snow
“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons, it came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before …
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store?
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”
-Dr. Seuss, American Writer, from The Grinch Stole Christmas

December has arrived to Prague with a blast–a big blast of snow! This week, what began with around twelve inches has at least doubled to over two feet. This is all at a place where the locals say they get no snow, and where the schools offer no “snow days”. It’s quite an adventure!

For about one hour this week, the sun peeked out from behind its winter cloud covering and shone in all its glory over the snow.

The sun dazzling on the snow
The sun dazzling on the snow

No diamond can compete, I think. There is no more intense sparkle than of the sunlight on snowflakes.


And the excitement of snow — there are snow forts, and snow balls, and snow angels to make. And sledding, and skiing, and sliding to do. The snow makes toys and games from the store a bore. Instant JOY!

In the midst of the holiday shopping, buying and wrapping gifts, and attending holiday parties, it’s easy to get swept away in the popular spirit of the season: busy-ness. But busy-ness, for me, also steals away the joy that can be found in the simple things, things that come without wrappings and ribbons, without tags and boxes, without the sparkle and glimmer of store-bought things with high price tags.

Maybe the real joy in Christmas can be found in spending time away from the busy-ness, giving of our time to others. Making snow forts. Throwing snow balls. Laughing, wrapped in the smaller, gentler things that Christmas brings. Like the Grinch so eloquently pointed out, the JOY found in Christmas must come from a whole lot more than wrappings– a joy that started 2,000 years ago in a humble manger.

Starting the Conversation: This week, what are ways you can find to escape the run-around surrounding Christmas? How are you able to remember to embrace the simple in the midst of the media storm promoting sales for the holidays?

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The Fragrance of Christmas

As Christmas approaches, and life becomes busier with the celebrations of the season, I enjoy settling down for a few minutes each day to remember the reason for the joy we have. I’m sharing an excerpt from my daily devotional, The One Year Mini for Busy Women, published in Tyndale House’s The One Year Brand line. Daily inspirationals / devotionals are a great way to slow down, and reflect for a few minutes each day.


Prague, Wencesles Square at Christmastime

December 6
She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger. (Luke 2:7)

Every perfume counter at the mall offers a new fragrance. Department stores are decked out in the sparkly splendor of the season. Beside every store’s entrance, a person rings a bell and asks for donations. In a world decked out for the holidays, it is time to spend money on gifts wrapped in glittery papers. In the bustle of buying, we can be far from experiencing Christ’s birth.

When Christ was born, he was not greeted by fragrant perfume, but by the aromas of a cow barn. Instead of the flashy lights we find in every store, Jesus was born under the pale light of a star. Instead of ringing bells and jingling money, Jesus heard the movements of cattle. There was no fanfare of radio jingles, but Jesus’ birth was announced by the glorious radiance of an angels’ choir. Jesus’ world was far different than the world we know.

This Christmas season, step back from the familiar commercialism and experience the simple truth and beauty of Jesus’ birth. Make time to reflect on the sights and smells, the sounds and feel of Jesus’ manger on that first Christmas Day. Jesus’ gift of life began that starry night.

What do you do during this busy season, to help slow down and enjoy the Christmas season?
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2009 Book Recommendations (from my shelf)

The View of Prague, the Vltava River, and the Prague Castle from Strahov Monastery
The View of Prague, the Vltava River, and the Prague Castle from Strahov Monastery
The View of Prague, the Vltava River, and the Prague Castle from Strahov Monastery


Around Prague, new wintertime scents linger on every corner—logs burning on raging fires, sugared chestnuts roasting at street vendors’ carts, and the tangy aroma of Czech mulled wine. Adding much shorter days, frostier nights, the twinkle of lights on Christmas trees, the sounds of seasonal operas and the Nutcracker from the National Theaters, and the impending celebration of the Czech St. Mikulas Day, we know the Advent season is upon us.

With December here, I’d like to recommend a few great books from the stack (more like a towering stack) we’ve read here in our house this year. Books always make great gifts, and stocking stuffers …

Yesterday, I had the privilege of seeing the Strahov Monestary on Petrin Hill in Prague, which includes libraries with books dating back to the Ninth Century. It was a complete Wow experience—amazing to witness the works of the ages collected in such a beautiful place.


the 9th Century New Testament

I’m currently reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, a European bestseller. The book includes the story of a book, found in a very special library. I believe Zafon says this about libraries so poetically, I have to insert his words to share with you:

“’This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it’ … I wandered within the winding labyrinth, breathing in the smell of old paper and dust. I let my hand brush across the avenues of exposed spines, musing over what my choice would be. Among the titles faded by age, I could make out words in familiar languages and others I couldn’t identify. I roamed through galleries filled with hundreds, thousands of volumes. After a while it occurred to me that between the covers of each of those books lay a boundless universe waiting to be discovered …”

My Shortlist of Book Recommendations: (click on title for link to Amazon)
Women’s Fiction:

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer

For Children, Fiction:

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis

Adult Non-Fiction:

The Hole in Our Gospel by Rich Stearns

The Noticer by Andy Andrews

And … (if I may) my book: The One Year Mini for Busy Women by Jennifer Lyn King
I hope you, or those on your list, enjoy one or more of these as much as we have …

Happy Reading!


For you: What are some of your favorite books you’ve read this year?

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Last Sunday, the sun shone bright though the weather here in Ohio was frigid and snow covered the ground. At church that morning, the stained glass windows glowed with an exceptional brilliance. Certainly the sun and its effect on the blanket of snow had something to do with the blues and reds and yellows and purples blazing in living colors and etching an imprint into my mind. But also, the beauty of the light coming through the glass felt significant because of our Pastor’s sermon. He mentioned that in a day when the dark comes at us in the form of diminished bank accounts and home values, and the dark advances in the gloom and doom of the job market and a recessed economy, we are ever more in need of the Light coming to us at Christmas. The gospel of John begins with the Light—“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” What good news for us and in our times!

Somehow, in the beauty of the stained glass, a connection can be made to life—maybe that we were created, each of us with a different hue and cut to offer the world. But when we join our lives and work together to bring light into the darkened world, a beauty of a new kind can be seen.

Several years ago, we thought as a family that we’d like to help a child in need, so we did some research and found a fantastic website that connects ordinary people with children in need, World Vision, found at We decided to cut back on a few things like Happy Meals and other trinket toys and use that monthly money toward supporting a child. When that child wrote us his first letter and sent a photograph, we were hooked. Barton in Kenya became part of our family. When World Vision gave us the chance to send an extra monetary gift for Christmas, we decided to cut back on the things we could get for ourselves and share some of that money with Barton and his family. Later, when we received a photograph showing how they’d used that Christmas gift money to meet their immediate needs, we were stunned. Not only had Barton’s family purchased a cow, but also two goats, a pair of work boots for the dad, a set of school clothing for Barton, a bag of rice, and a new stack of school books. We still have the photograph, along with the others from years in between, hanging on our refrigerator.

This Christmas season might be different than the rest. Sure, money all around is tighter for most. And the darkness seems to be getting the upper hand for many. But when we take our small and insignificant lights and put them together, the impact we can make on the dark is enough. Enough to make a difference in the world. Enough to bring new light into another’s life. And sometimes, from a simple gift, we can gain the gift of a whole new perspective and experience the immense joy of giving. Like a stained glass, the simple gifts, when added up and combined together, can change the landscape of the world.

Thank you in advance for sharing your stories in comments of the joy you found by sharing!
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Great Books for Giving

Shopping is not my favorite thing to do. In fact, I think I’m not a very good shopper. These past twelve years, I have to admit I’ve wholeheartedly adopted Brian’s shopping method: have a list, find the items on the list, buy them and get out … quick. I tend to go as long as possible without setting foot in a store besides the grocery, and the mall comes in absolute last. So this shopping season, I’m spending my time on things I enjoy (being with the family, writing, entertaining) instead of things I don’t. And the shopping is getting done in quick spurts.

Given this year’s floundering economy, the publishing industry has come up with a few catchy campaigns to get people to buy books as gifts and bestselling book lists are easy to find. For me, Amazon is my top book source because of its infinite selection of books from which to choose and for their free super saver shipping offer. Amazon is almost a pain-free shopping experience.

To me, Books make great gifts because 1) they’re easy to wrap, 2) they’re easy to buy, and 3) they make great keepsakes when the giver signs inside the cover. So, to start some ideas flowing for great Books to give as Gifts for the 2008 Christmas season, I’m jotting down a few of my favorites and the link to buy them:

For kids:
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney: A great classic story with beautiful illustrations; one of my lifelong favorites
Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin: Hysterical read every time

The Gold n’ Honey Bible: We’ve all learned so much from this well-written children’s Bible storybook
The Doppleganger Chronicles by G.P.Taylor: A great new illustra-novel that all kids will love
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson: The all-time classic favorite at our house … can’t read it enough!

For adults:
Leadership Promises for Every Day by John Maxwell
Ordering Your Private World by Gordon McDonald
Mistress of the Revolution by Catherine Delors: Both Brian I loved this historical fiction novel—right now it’s bargain priced at Amazon for $6.99!
The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner: One of Publishers Weekly’s favorites for the year
The One Year Mini for Busy Women by me, Jennifer King: Not that I’m biased as the author, but I have to be J: For the busy woman of any age

Happy (Quick) Shopping this year!