The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson | Book Review

When she receives the news in late 1944 that her baby’s father was shot down in the South Pacific, Amelia Richards loses hope. Jobless and broke, she has nowhere to turn for help but her infant’s paternal grandparents. The only problem is, they don’t know that she–or their grandson–exists. When Amelia discovers that the family is wealthy and influential, dare she disclose the truth of her relationship with their son? Or could the celebration of the arrival of another unexpected baby nearly two thousand years ago be the answer to her dilemma?

Beloved author Melody Carlson pens a story of love, hardship, and reconciliation that will leave readers filled with Christmas joy.

I have been loving WWII books lately, so I was excited to read The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson! At the beginning of the story, Amelia has to make the hard choice to leave her home to try to make a better life for her baby, but her determination is tested and she is faced with an even harder choice. Ultimately, she has to decide to do whatever it takes to provide for her baby, even when it’s the hardest thing she’s ever done…but the story doesn’t end there! You’ll have to read the book to see how it all works out 😉 But you can rest assured that it has a happy Christmas ending!

The book is pretty short and is probably considered a novella; usually I’m not crazy about novellas, since it doesn’t give as much time for the characters and plot to develop, but I think Melody Carlson really struck a good balance with this one. Christmas is the perfect time to read about faith, family, second chances, and happy endings, and this book doesn’t disappoint! If you’re looking for a good story to read curled up by the fire this Christmastime, this one is a great choice!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review. All opinions are my own, and I was not required to give a positive review.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I can’t believe Christmas is less than two weeks away! It seems like Thanksgiving was just yesterday. There are so many things to love about the Christmas season, I wish it would last just a little bit longer! Today I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite things about December and the Christmas season, so here they are, in no particular order.

Christmas lights, buffalo plaid, and homemade peppermint mocha can make any day merry and bright ?❤️☕️

A photo posted by Jen Newendyke (@jenewendyke) on

  • Peppermint mocha // Whether it’s Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or Coffeemate creamer, I can’t get enough of peppermint mocha coffee! It’s my absolute favorite this time of year. I’ve even come up with a quick and easy way to make it at home: put a packet of peppermint hot chocolate in your mug, brew a cup of strong coffee in your Keurig (or coffeepot), add a little milk or half and half, and voila! Peppermint mocha! I’m sure I’m not the first person who thought of that, but it is an easy way to get your peppermint mocha fix (and cheaper than Starbucks, that’s for sure!)
  • Bath and Body Works Winter Candy Apple // This is my all-time favorite scent from Bath and Body Works. I don’t shop there very often, but when I do, it’s almost always to buy Winter Candy Apple shower gel, lotion, hand soap, etc. at Christmastime!
  • Christmas lights // Every year, my dad’s cousin (who lives right down the road from us) decks out his house and front yard with tens of thousands of Christmas lights, and he has them set up to flash along with some Christmas music. He even has an FM transmitter so you can listen to the music in your car while you watch the lights! It’s our family’s annual tradition to go to his house every Thanksgiving night to see him turn the lights on for the first time. As much as I enjoy his outdoor lights, I really love the indoor lights we have at our house: on the Christmas tree, on the mantel, and the electric candles in the windows. There’s just something so cozy and peaceful about Christmas lights at night!
  • The Christmas Spectacular // The annual Christmas program at my church is called the Christmas Spectacular, and it really lives up to its name! They put on 13 performances every year; it’s a mix of dance, drama, music, and an awesome light show. We love to go watch it, and my mom and I also helped as greeters at several of the shows this year. It wouldn’t be Christmas without the Spectacular!
  • Christmas Eve Candlelight Service // One of my absolute favorite Christmas traditions is going to our church’s Christmas Eve candlelight service with my family. We sing Christmas carols, see a few scenes from the Spectacular, and then at the end, we all light the little candles we got on our way in and hold them while we sing Silent Night. It’s a great time to take a moment right before Christmas day and remember why we really celebrate.
  • Hallmark Christmas movies // Sure, they can be kind of cheesy, but they’re also fun, lighthearted, and full of Christmas cheer. And there are new ones every week for the entire months of November and December!
  • Peppermint everything // This kind of goes along with the first item on my list, but I’m a sucker for anything peppermint this time of year. There’s peppermint yogurt, peppermint ice cream, peppermint brownies…pretty much anything you can imagine, including peppermint Oreos! Those are really good dipped in coffee…I know it sounds strange, but it’s delicious!

What are your favorite things about the Christmas season?

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room


December is here, and with it, the beginning of the Christmas season and of Advent.

Christmas brings a lot of joy, but it also brings a long to-do list. On top of our normal school, work, cooking, cleaning, and errands, we’re now expected to go Christmas shopping, go to Christmas parties, decorate our houses, and bake all kinds of sweet treats. There’s nothing wrong with those things; in fact, there’s something very right about celebrating sweet Christmas traditions. The problem is when we participate in all this busyness for the wrong reasons; to project a certain image or to live up to unrealistic expectations, placed on us by others or ourselves. This year, I don’t want to let everything I need to do take the place of who Jesus is calling me to be. I want to make and take the time to slow down, savor the season, and remember the real reason we celebrate.

When I was growing up, we never really celebrated or even mentioned Advent. Sure, we had one of those mini Christmas trees you put a specific ornament on each day of December, but that was the extent of our Advent activities. Now that I’m an adult, I decided that this year I want to take part in the tradition and prepare my heart, not just my house and my shopping list, to appreciate and celebrate the meaning of Jesus’ coming. So I picked two different things to do to for Advent: I’m following along with the She Reads Truth Advent study and reading The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. The SRT reading plan, called Advent 2016: Christ was Born for This, started last Sunday and goes for 29 days. The Greatest Gift has daily readings that go from December 1st-25th, so I’ve only read a couple of days so far, but it looks like it will be really good. I have read Ann Voskamp’s blog, but this is her first book of hers I’ve read, and I’m looking forward to savoring it this Christmas season!

Do you do anything for Advent? What do you do to simplify and enjoy the Christmas season?

When Your Soul Needs Christmas

When Your Soul Needs Christmas | Grace to Grow Blog

I told myself I wouldn’t do it.

I said I wouldn’t listen to Christmas music until November, maybe not until Thanksgiving. But somehow I found myself listening to the new Pentatonix Christmas album six days before the end of October. How did I get here? What have I done??

Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but there are a lot of people out there who can’t stand the thought of listening to Christmas music too soon. Usually, I’m one of those people who wants to save traditions until the appropriate time. I’m afraid that if I don’t, they will lose some of their meaning and I won’t appreciate them as much. But for the last couple of years, I’ve been a little easier on myself when it comes to Christmas music.

There are a lot of things throughout the year that can weigh on our spirits, from mundane life to real trials. This year, we’ve just been through a lot as a nation, culminating in our election and the ensuing riots last week. I’ve had kind of a rough year personally, and maybe you have too, but Christmas is a time of year when we can stop and reset, when we can let the meaning of Christmas lighten our spirits. We can let the love, joy, and peace of the season soften our hearts and refresh us for the new year. Most importantly, it reminds us of the love God showed us when He sent His message of hope, joy, and peace through His son, a baby boy who would grow up to save us from our sins and the struggles of this world.

I’ve realized that I don’t want to relegate Christmas to just a month or two out of the year. No, I’m not going to leave my tree up all year (I love traditions, after all!), but this year, I need Christmas a little early. I don’t know what’s going on in your life, but maybe you need Christmas a little early too. So turn on the music if you want to, and let it sink into your mind and heart. Let God fill you with His peace and hope. Let the simple pleasures of Christmas, whether it be the music, the cheesy Hallmark movies, the lights, the red Starbucks cups ;), and especially time with family and friends, bring joy to your soul.