Following the Example of the Magi

Image of the Magi

I’ve never thought much about the magi who followed the star from the east in search of a king. Yet…

the wise men have many qualities we’d do well to emulate.

When I’m writing a story, I research umpteen aspects of the location, characters, occupations, weather, etc. that will come into play in my story. For my latest story, I’ve been reading the UK’s Farmer’s Weekly every week to better understand the struggle of farmers and the challenges they and their vets face. I’ve researched changes to laws and subsidy schemes due to changing politics. I’ve researched the effects of WWII on farming to incorporate historical clues into my mystery. The list goes on and on. 

How much more diligently should we search out answers to life’s most important questions?

In their day, the Magi didn’t have such varied and vast quantities of information at their fingertips as we do today. They were highly educated men, who’d likely spent years studying religion, astronomy, medicine and so on. And when they saw a new star in the sky, they diligently searched their ancient texts for an explanation.

Finding it, they gathered gifts fit for a king and journeyed to find Him. 

Based on their recorded interaction with King Herod and his resultant edict, the Magi’s search had likely spanned almost two years. We can only presume that in all that time they continued to earnestly search for the king who’d been foretold. 

And when they found Him, they worshipped Him as a king deserves. They gave him gifts of tremendous value. Jesus was no more than two years old, yet they gave Him the best of what they had to offer.

May we follow their example. 

Best wishes to you and yours this Christmas season. 


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The Best Christmas Gift of All!

Writing stories about the lives of fictional characters has given me lots of insights into my own life.

In a novella I recently finished, my characters were missing out on their happily ever after because of their fears of being hurt…or so I thought.

Closeup of a calligrapher working on a project

I eventually realized that what was really going on is something that happens to a lot of us when our life derails, and we get hurt.

We attempt to control everything within our power, as a means of coping with our fear of the future.

And that quest for a semblance of control can usurp the Lord’s rightful place in our heart and become the thing we cling to instead of God, because we’re no longer willing to trust Him with our future.

If you’re feeling in a dark place this Christmas season, I urge you to trust that God still has an amazing story to tell with your life.

Enkelten ilmestys paimenille, 1815, by Alexander Lauréus

The angels’ proclamation to the shepherds that first long ago Christmas is good news, precisely because our salvation through Jesus is a gift, not something to be earned.

Speaking of gifts…

Friends exchanging gifts at a Christmas party

it’s tempting to think if I just had—fill in the blank—I’d be happy. Children sure think that way when they eagerly write a Christmas wish list.

Child with Christmas wishlist

Yet, oftentimes, it isn’t until the stuff we think we want is stripped away is that we finally see what we truly need. For myself, I’ve noticed that when I don’t spend time with God, dissatisfaction can quickly seep into my days. Have you ever had that happen and find yourself blaming your job, or spouse, or children, or the state of your home, or whatever?

The glorious news of the Christmas story is that you were created by a God who loves you. A God who sent his Son in the form of a precious babe to deliver us from the sin that separates us from Him.

And finding our hope and purpose in Him alone is the best gift we can unwrap this Christmas.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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The Power of Remembering

We authors like to use symbols to enrich our stories. They work so well because we can all relate to having a memento or song or special place that instantly transports us to another time.

The Christmas ornaments I place on our tree do that for me. My mom started my collection by gifting me a special ornament every year until she died. So…as I put those ornaments on the tree, I remember her and my dad and the many happy Christmases we once shared. 

shameless doting nana pic :)
shameless doting nana pic 🙂

Other ornaments were lovingly crafted by my children, and those transport me to many happy memories of making them together. I even have one my eldest granddaughter made for me! 


Now, one of the most special ornaments my mom gave me was this dove. It became an important symbol in my first novel  Deep Cover (Love Inspired Suspense, September 2011).


The undercover cop hero gave the dove to the heroine with these words:

A soaring dove to remind you God is watching over you when I can’t be.

It hung from her rearview mirror and at the end of the novel, after the heroine’s world crashes around her, and literally, around the dove in the car, the hero sets out to rescue and return the gift as a symbol of God’s protection where he failed.

As I opened my box of Christmas ornaments this year and pulled out that dove, it reminded me once again of the story thread it inspired, and more importantly of the truth behind it–that God is watching over each one of us.

With everything that has happened in our family this past year, (read here and here) the impact of revisiting the symbol’s meaning was particularly intense.    

We may not always feel that God is watching over us, but if we’ve surrendered our hearts to him, He has promised to never leave us.

David repeatedly writes in his psalms that he “meditates” and “remembers,” especially at times when God seems slow in responding to his prayers. For example: “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.” (Psalm 143:5)

Remembering times of blessing and remembering how the Lord has carried us through tough times helps to keep our focus where it should be–on the author of our faith. 

This year I certainly experienced the truth of these words: “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

My prayer is that each one of you will experience His love in a richer way this Christmas season.

A Writer’s Christmas List

Well, it’s that time of year again when the family is asking for Christmas gift ideas. So…I thought I’d help out all of you out there with writers in your lives.

1) Chocolate 

This really shouldn’t need further explanation. It both consoles and re-energizes overtaxed brain cells.


2) A Pet

Another no-brainer. Walking the dog is a great time to dream up the next scene in a book. Not to mention an excuse to leave the desk. After all, too much sitting is not good for one’s health. The bonus is a pet gives a writer something to post on Facebook.  😉


3) Post-it Notes

Go for the multicolour stacks. There’s no better way to procrastinate writing, ur work at solving a plot problem, then jotting down summaries of every scene you’ve already written and of those you plan to write, in a different colour for different points of view, and moving them around on a story board until they work the way they’re supposed to.

as you can see, I’m in dire need of more post-it notes!

4) Chocolate

The importance of this essential nutrient to a writer’s creativity cannot be underestimated.

5) Research Trips

Writers are always told to write what they know, so…let them see, hear, smell, touch, and taste the adventure. Yes, that’s the car from Back to the Future. What can I say? My honey bunny spares no expense to ensure I get the details right, by going to the source…whether it happened 200 years ago or 200 years in the future. 😉

back to the future

Or a nice card works too! 

Happy shopping!


Merry Christmas!

These days I’ve been pretty much glued to my keyboard finishing up copy edits and page proofs for my publishers for my two 2015 books, while also trying to finish the first, very, very, very rough draft of my next book. But…

I wanted to take a moment to wish you, my dear blog readers, a blessed Christmas.

Christmas Greetings


Also if you’re on Facebook, I wanted to let you know that I am one “like” away from having a 10-winners book giveaway to celebrate hitting 1000!

The winners will be chosen randomly from all the names that have interacted with my page since the beginning of November, so be sure to check in to see if your name is posted and message or email me if it is. If your name is selected and you already have all my books, (after I tell you how wonderful a person you are 😉 ), I’ll let you have your pick of an advanced copy of either of my 2015 releases as soon as they are available or I can gift the book of your choice to a loved one.

Christmas Reads – Part 3 – Christmas in Canada & CD Giveaway

For this month’s Christmas Reads profile, I’m delighted to invite two-time national award nominated singer/songwriter and freelance writer, Sally Meadows, to tell us about her music and newly published stories. I had the privilege of meeting Sally at this year’s Write Canada conference.

Sally and Sandra

She’s  from Saskatoon and just had her first two short stories published in two different anthologies. This fall she is also promoting her Christmas CD Red & White, which is fabulous. Take it away Sally…


Thanks so much for hosting me, Sandra! This fall marks the publication of my very first short story, called “Love, Shania and the Whispered Wish” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada, which has been #1 on The Globe and Mail’s (Canada’s national newspaper) bestseller list for the last two weeks! My story starts on my wedding day – I was married shortly before Christmas, 27 years ago – and the very first feedback I received on my story was that it is “very romantic”! Here’s a scrapbooked photo of my husband and me coming down the aisle just after we said our vows.


My story was inspired by my very first wish as a newlywed – that one day I would sing and play the piano in beautiful settings, just like the lovely brunette who serenaded us with Christmas music at the honeymoon resort. Little did I know back then, that not only was that whispered wish going to be fulfilled, but maybe – just maybe – the singer who inspired me all those years ago was none other than one of Canada’s most beloved stars, before she was discovered.


My story ends with a mention of my Christmas CD Red & White, so it’s so cool that I can promote these together this fall! My Christmas album includes four original songs and eight Christmas classics, so there’s something for everyone. I am especially proud of my song “This New Year”, which was shortlisted for a 2014 Word Award in the category of song lyrics.

Click Image to buy at iTunes
Click Image to buy at iTunes


While my story “Love, Shania and the Whispered Wish” is all about the joyful aspects of my musical journey, my story “Choosing to Praise”, which appears in the book “Organized Obstacles: An Underdog Anthology”, has a more serious note as I discuss the challenges I have faced in music ministry. But it also has a happy ending, as do all the stories in this book. Each story inspires and provides hope as the author chronicles how he or she has turned his/her stumbling blocks into stepping-stones, rising above “underdog” status to become an “overcomer”.

Organized Obstacles BOOK COVER 2014

I thoroughly enjoyed writing these stories and songs, and my sincere hope is that you as reader and listener will enjoy them too! Here’s how you can connect with me: I’d love to hear from you!

Twitter: @SallyMeadows

Sandra again: Sally is giving away one Free download card for her CD “Red & White”–the full album. To have your name added to the hat, please leave a comment or question for Sally and let us know your favorite Christmas song.

A name will be randomly chosen from all comments on Sat. Nov 22nd.

You can also find the books and music CD at Amazon and Sally’s webstore:

Christmas Reads – Part 2 – The Forest Ranger’s Christmas

Autumn LeavesWelcome to part 2 of my Christmas Reads series, but first Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian blog readers!

As regular Love Inspired readers know, the Christmas stories start rolling out this time of year, and I was fortunate to win an advanced copy of Leigh Bale’s October release, The Forest Ranger’s Christmas.

If you’re collecting Christmas stories, a couple of Christmas-themed Love Inspired Suspense that are also in stores this month are Holiday Defenders, a collection by various authors, and Covert Christmas by Hope White.

Identity Withheld Holiday Defenders covert christmas

And I’ll put in a plug for my November release, Identity Withheld, since it is also Thanksgiving/Christmas themed, and already available directly from Harlequin. 😉

I don’t read many of LI’s contemporary romance, since as a primarily romantic-suspense/mystery reader, I tend to like a lot more going on in the novels I read, but The Forest Ranger’s Christmas was a nice change of pace for me with a lot more focus on the romantic conflict than the external conflict, which tends to be the main fodder of my own novels.

The Forest Rangers Christmas

A Small-Town Christmas

Josie Rushton’s in Camlin for the holidays—but not for long. She has just a few weeks to persuade her ailing grandfather to leave his small Nevada town and move closer to her Las Vegas home. But after seventy-five happy years in his house, Gramps isn’t going anywhere. Josie can’t imagine what’s so great about Camlin. When she meets single dad and forest ranger Clint Hamilton, she quickly begins to see the appeal. Clint shows Josie the joys of living in a close-knit community, especially at Christmas. She’s soon falling for the town, Clint’s charm and his adorable daughter. Can Clint convince her that love and family are the best gifts of all?

This book received a 4 1/2 star review from Romantic Times!

It does a great job of showing the challenge of caring for aging parents, or in this case, grandparent. And who could resist a handsome forest ranger who’s always eager to lend a helping hand?

Award-winning author, Leigh Bale, is the daughter of a retired U.S. forest ranger, and holds a B.A. in History.  Married in 1981 to the love of her life, Leigh and her professor husband have two children and two grandkids.  You can reach her at

Your Turn: Do you have other Christmas reading recommendations?

Christmas Reads – Part 1 – Snowflake Tiara

I know, I know, it’s only September, still 3 months and 3 days until Christmas! But…

one of the ways I treat my overworked brain at Christmastime is by indulging in a month-long fest of reading Christmas themed romance novels and novellas. I start collecting them as soon as I find them and I decided that this year, I’d share some of those finds with you. My first is…

Snowflake Tiara by Angela Breidenbach and Valerie Comer

book cover of Snowflake Tiara

This is a Christmas romance, with two books in one, celebrating Montana’s 125th anniversary. They both have the same great hook:

What if you were caught doing something good, but the man you loved didn’t see it that way?

Now usually, I collect the Christmas novellas I find and save them for December, but I actually read these two novellas while traveling earlier this month. They were a fabulous way to fill in all those hours between flights. They are both set in Helena, Montana, and center around a fictional beauty pageant–the first a hundred and twenty-five years ago, and the second this year.

In the first novella: The Debutante Queen by Angela Breidenbach ~ 1889 (Helena, MT)

Calista Blythe enters the first Miss Snowflake Pageant celebrating Montana statehood to expose the plight of street urchins. But hiding an indentured orphan could unravel Calista’s reputation, and her budding romance with pageant organizer, Albert Shanahan, if her secret is revealed. Will love or law prevail?

I’ve got to admit that I was so swept up by the historical details that I was convinced that Angie and Valerie based the books on a real event. But Valerie has since told me that no, the event is completely fiction, although Helena was the wealthiest city in the world per capita in 1889 (thanks to the gold rush), so it’s not too big a stretch that someone may have considered something of that nature.

The Debutante Queen mentions the first recorded American pageant in Delaware, which took place a few short years before 1889. While her heroine and hero, Calista and Albert, are fictional (as is his inn), many of the other characters and locations and historical tidbits are real.

In the second novella: More Than a Tiara by Valerie Comer ~ 2014 (Helena, MT)

Marisa Hiller’s interest in competing in Miss Snowflake Pageant for the city of Helena’s 150th anniversary is at zip, zero, zilch when she discovers the official photographer is former boyfriend, Jase Mackie. Can Jase make amends for past mistakes and offer her, not only a tiara, but a partner in her crusade to help needy children and families?

True to her farm lit roots, Valerie does a fabulous job of marrying two seemingly incompatible worlds, that of farmer and beauty queen. I love how she weaves in her own personal passion for local grown produce.

I asked Valerie what inspired their collaboration on Snowflake Tiara pic of Valerie Comer and Angela Breidenbach

Here’s what she had to say: Angela entered pageantry as a means to develop her platform as a speaker and author. Being Mrs. Montana International 2009 has expanded her opportunities to speak on an increasingly wide basis, which is something Angie loves to do!

I, Valerie, have never entered a pageant, nor played a contestant on television. In fact, I grew up a little Mennonite girl in a traditional household, where beauty, elegance, and grace were not celebrated. Writing More Than a Tiara (my novella in Snowflake Tiara) gave me opportunities to internalize God’s views.

We hatched the general idea of writing a novella duo together several years ago, but agreed immediately we’d only do it if the stories fit both our brands. Angie loves turn-of-the-century Montana, and I love to write farm lit. It took several Google hangout sessions before we narrowed in on the pageantry themes with my character’s platform centered on real food. Focusing both novellas on children in need, both in Helena and around the world, further pulled the stories together.

As we worked back and forth, brainstorming, sharing snippets, critiquing, and editing, we were able to tighten the connections between the stories and themes.

We’re both delighted with how the stories developed, and are thankful that our readers are enjoying the collaboration as well!

Sandra, again. The stories are fun and I wholeheartedly recommend this unique pairing for my blog readers’ Christmas reading list.

This book is available in print, but is under $4 on Kindle. Learn about other novels by these talented authors by clicking on their names above the book image to link to their individual websites.

Your Turn: Do you like to indulge in Christmas-themed books or movies as the season approaches? Or crafting or decorating? 😉




Wishing You a Blessed Christmas Celebration


I snapped the above photo during a candlelight stroll through Niagara-on-the-Lake this past weekend–a beautiful reminder of the most precious gift we can ever receive.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

May His light shine through you this holiday season.

I’m taking a blogging holiday for the rest of December but hope to “see” you here again in the New Year. Or on Facebook (posts in the sidebar of blog) before then. 😉 

All the best!

Season of Joy

Can you believe there are less than two weeks until Christmas?!

I love to indulge in lots of Christmas reading this time of year, and today, I’d like to tell you about a November Love Inspired book I read last week. 

Season_of_JoySeason of Joy, by debut novelist Virginia Carmichael, received a 4 1/2 star review from Romantic Times and has been nominated for a Reviewer’s Choice Award.

I agree with the reviewers. This is a great book.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

As the holiday season approaches, wealthy CEO Calista Sheffield wants to give instead of receive. So she volunteers at a downtown Denver shelter, never expecting that her own scarred heart will be filled with hope and healing. The mission’s director, handsome Grant Monohan, has devoted his life to helping those in need. But his harrowing past—and what he sees every day—makes him wary of Calista. Unless she shares her painful history, he’ll never believe they can have a future. But a future with Grant at the shelter is the only Christmas gift Calista truly wants.

Read an excerpt of Season of Joy by clicking here.

I really liked how Carmichael portrays the lingering effects of one’s upbringing on one’s life choices and perspective about God and sense of worth, as well as the obligation to take personal responsibility for moving past them.

Your Turn: The novel raises lots of great topics for discussion. Here’s the one I’d like to discuss today:

Calista’s father was cold and unloving toward her, but warm and friendly to others. How can hypocrisy do more damage than domestic violence? Do you think it’s sometimes easier to be loving to strangers than to those whom we live with day in and day out?

P.S. My Christmas newsletter will go out this week, too. No new Christmas story this year, unfortunately, but…every newsletter, I do give away a complimentary book to a randomly chosen subscriber. If you’d like to subscribe click here.