A Favorite Christmas

A Favorite Christmas

Who doesn’t love Christmas and the memories it brings?

As you think of your favorite Christmas, what makes it memorable for you? Was it where you spent it, who you spent it with, or the gift you received? Maybe it was unforgettable because of the gift you gave to someone special.

My Favorite Christmas

My favorite Christmas was the time I put my name on every gift under the tree. I have a large family with five sisters, plus my mom and dad. My aunt and uncle came over on Christmas Eve to stay the night with us. While everyone was busy preparing for Christmas Day, I sat on the floor by the Christmas tree with wrapping paper, scissors, and a pen, making new gift tags with my name on each one. I added those to every gift under the tree. The next morning, while my uncle handed out the gifts, the pile in front of me grew larger and larger as I got most of them. The expressions on everyone’s faces were priceless. My mom knew something was not right and as she looked around the room, her eyes stopped on me. I confessed my deed, and she gave the packages, unopened, to their rightful owners. We all laughed, and my family still reminds me of that Christmas. It is a fun memory for us all.

God’s Favorite Christmas

Have you ever thought about God’s favorite Christmas?

Which parts do you think He most fondly remembers?

God created us to have fellowship with Him. But sin penetrated His perfect world and separated us from Him. We could no longer experience life with God, only death without Him. Alone. Heaven must have been lonely with only the Godhead and a mere myriad of angels, and not one human being in sight. He wanted us to live with Him in His home.

God knew the Way to make that happen.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (ESV)

The Father entrusted a young girl with His only Son—a human-carrying deity. She wasn’t the richest or the most experienced or even married. But Mary loved God, and she was the perfect mother for His Son. Even knowing His people would threaten His Son’s life before He was two; God sent Jesus to be born and laid in a manger of hay in the company of sheep and shepherds. Imagine how proud He must have been on that day and how bittersweet it was when Heaven became even lonelier.

The Angel’s Favorite Christmas

God watched as the angels rejoiced in His perfect plan. Their instructions were to proclaim the good news to the lonesome shepherds in a field guarding their sheep that night. God didn’t tell the wealthy or the well-known. Instead, He sent His angels to the shepherds, the ones who protected their sheep and looked for the lost lamb.

They would understand His King.

How the Father must have loved the expression on their faces when His angels ignited the dark sky! I imagine His eagerness for them to behold His Gift.

God looked forward to the day His Son returned Home ushering men, women, and children to live with Him forever. Yet, how grievous the sting God felt knowing what Jesus must endure so He could welcome us into Heaven.

God’s Favorite Gift

 God put His name on His present, too—Immanuel, God with us.

All He wants is for us to accept His gift. Don’t leave this precious One unopened. God’s favorite Christmas is the most unforgettable because of Who He gave us.

Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!

2 Corinthians 9:15. (ESV)

The Albino Turkey

The Albino Turkey

Today’s special Thanksgiving post is by Eric and Joy McPherson. They are contributors to my and co-author, Starr Ayers’, recent book, Room at the Table: Encouraging Stories from Special Needs Families. Eric and Joy live in Mid-Michigan and love spending time with their family. They are the parents of two children and a very animated puppy named Ike, who has inspired many light-hearted tales.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV

           In my attempt at family bonding, I like to bring crafting projects, yummy treats, and table decorations to my parent’s holiday parties. It doesn’t happen at every get-together, although I try to incorporate it into our yearly festivities.

You see, I lived away from my family for many years, and those holiday seasons brought me an indescribable amount of sadness. When I moved back home, I changed my focus and tried something different during the holiday season — doing table projects.

The Perfect Thanksgiving Craft

Last year was no exception; I spent a good part of thanksgiving week researching the perfect craft project. I perused Pinterest diligently, creating a Thanksgiving board of perfection with all of my top choices for the year’s family holiday crafting projects. There were so many to choose from, and with my son, Eli having autism, this was becoming quite a challenge. He has a limited attention span and it was important to me that everyone at the table enjoyed their time together.

Finally, after hours of contemplation, my husband Eric and I decided we would all color turkey hats together. This was a good idea, of course. I convinced myself everyone would just love it and participate. At the end of the day, we could take a picture of our masterpieces and each other; this was a win, win in my book!

As I reflect on this Thanksgiving day, I love to think about how much fun we all had making those silly turkey hats. Sharing our colored markers and pencils across the long table, helping Grandpa put his hat on correctly. Taking pictures of everyone smiling, laughing, and having fun.

The Albino Turkey

I’m giggling now as I think about my brother Jim and my nephew Sam on this day. They would not color their turkey hats! Telling me their turkeys were special because they were ALBINO TURKEYS—ones that couldn’t be colored.

 It makes me laugh to this day how unique and hilarious the two of them were. They joined forces to remind me how special an albino turkey was, how rare it was to find one, and how being different is not only ok, it’s beautiful. Tears come to my eyes even now as I think about how much those two taught me on my journey toward celebrating and giving thanks for everything. 

This Thanksgiving

This year, Thanksgiving will be at my parent’s house. I looked for a craft on Pinterest this weekend, searching diligently for that eye-catching idea to make a memory last a lifetime.

Things are different this year, as we lost Jim in February.

With an unbearable loss, I only know to reach out to the Lord and hold on to his word. I grasp onto it and repeat it as it sinks into the depths of my troubled heart. I’m reminded of the verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 about giving thanks in all circumstances.

Sometimes, it’s hard for me to give thanks, especially now when my heart hurts. But remembering God’s promises gives me the strength to walk in faith and try to put one foot in front of the other. Believe me, this is not easy, but all things are possible with God.

So, this year, I’ve decided to do something unique and something a little of the same for our Thanksgiving crafting tradition at the table. I will put those crayons and markers out, and I’ll pull out some paper, and we will see what happens. As we all found last year, an albino turkey is rare and special. This is just beautiful.

You can purchase Room at the Table: Encouraging Stories from Special Needs Families here.

A Scenic Overlook and Mountain Experience

A Scenic Overlook and Mountain Experience

Have you ever wished you could have a scenic overlook of your life—a past, present, and future look to see why you’ve experienced the failures, grief, and struggles? Wouldn’t it be nice to see the bigger picture and understand what God is doing?

The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference

A Writers Experience

When I went to the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference last week I was able to visit the scenic overlook at the top of the mountain where we stayed. There were beautiful sunrises and picturesque views, and I took lots of pictures.

While it’s so good to catch up with writer friends and make new ones, the conference can feel like you are drinking from a fire hose.

I took classes on marketing my book, starting a podcast, and branding, as well as how to join various groups that help you become a successful author. I’m still praying about how much to spend in these areas and which of them God is leading me to do.

Then there are the contests…I have a love/hate relationship with them. It’s nice to win an award, but the sting of not placing is tough. Contests are an affirmation for me. It’s nice to know your peers like what you’ve written enough to rate your piece high enough for an award. Contests can also make you feel like you are on the right track.

But what happens when you don’t place? Does it mean that everything you write is bad? No, it doesn’t. We have to trust God with all we do. Our writing, our art, our promotions and jobs, and our education.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:6-8 ESV

The Scenic Overlook

The Mountain Experience

As I drove my friend to the airport, I said, “It would be nice to understand what God is doing!” Of course, she agreed and said, “Wouldn’t we all like that?” It’s true.

I stopped at a scenic overlook on my drive home to Ohio. While there was a steep path going up to the overlook there was another path at the parking lot level to see the same view. Of course, I took the steep path. I didn’t even see the other deck until I was walking back to my car.

As I looked out at the mountains, I couldn’t help but feel small. They were so far away and so high. The trek I made up the path was nothing compared to climbing one of those mountains. We often think of mountain experiences in our Christian walk as highs or the happiest moments in our lives.

However, when I look at these mountains, how often do we think about the trip to the mountain? Only those who prepare for it get there.

The Trek to the Mountain

Six essentials we need before climbing a mountain

!. Equipment: the right boots, outerwear, pants, and layers of clothing for the heat and the cold weather.

2. Food and water: That kind of hike would take a lot out of us physically. We would need to carry enough food and water to stay hydrated.

3. Protection: We would need bear spray at least to protect ourselves from any predators that might follow us or block our path. Also, there might be underbrush. We would need to have a knife to get through the undergrowth that may hinder or prevent us from getting where we need to be.

4. Rest: We could not do that hike in one day. We need to rest.So we would need to have a sleeping bag and/or tent to camp out in.

5. Preparation: That hike would not happen in a few hours or a day. A trip like that could take days. Be ready for the trip. Rest up and exercise to prepare your body for the climb.

Do you see the parallels in our Christian walk?

Spiritual Mountain Highs

Six essentials before we get to that Mountain High

What do we need to prepare for a spiritual mountain high experience?

1. Equipment: Prayer and God’s Word. We need the Holy Spirit to prepare our hearts and the Word of God to equip us.

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21 ESV

2. Food and water: Jesus. He alone can keep us going in our Christian walk—whether it is a mountain high or a valley low.

Jesus. He alone can keep us going in our Christian walk—whether it is a mountain high or a valley low.

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” John 6:35

“But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14

3. Protection: Satan is our predator. He lies in wait to overwhelm us or convince us to stop so we will not make it to the mountain. Are you ready with God’s armor? In the Old Testament, men in a covenant relationship switched their armor with the other. God has given you His armor to fight satan’s attacks.

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:11 ESV

4. Rest: Our “walk” with Christ is a marathon, not a sprint. We need to rest–that’s why He gave us the Sabbath.

“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.” Hebrews 4:9-10

5. Preparation: Just as we wouldn’t climb a mountain without preparing, we can’t have a mountain-top experience with God without some preparation.

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. “ 1 Peter 1:13 ESV

Heaven–the Scenic Overlook

So, while we don’t get that scenic overlook experience in this lifetime–a chance to see and understand all God is doing, we will someday in Heaven. Everything we have gone through will make sense. God was working on your mountains and in your valleys, He is working now and will continue to do a good work within us until the day we die.

Long Expected- Hope Fulfilled

Long Expected- Hope Fulfilled

For the month of December, you will see more posts than usual in your email. This month I wanted to celebrate Christ’s birth by getting some friends to share a story or posts this month.

I have six guest posts for the month of December. I hope you enjoy their stories as much as I did.

This week’s post is from Sharon Beth Brani. She writes a beautiful story of adoption–after many years of waiting for a child, she gets a Christmas miracle. Please enjoy her story.

The Wait

I spun the globe as I sat on the living room rug. “Where do you want to go?” the social worker had asked.

    The question puzzled me. Where? After many, many years of longing to hold my own sweet-smelling baby, it almost seemed foolish to think about. A broken marriage and, along with it, dashed dreams of that happy family. Where? That wasn’t the question. It was more if God would choose to bless me. Up till now, the answer had been no.

     “Lord, I’m willing to go anywhere,” I whispered aloud. With that, the adoption wheels rolled and now I was sitting in a small room upstairs in the Russian orphanage with three other couples. Waiting. Longing. Simply.

The clock ticked slowly on this Christmas Eve.

     My thoughts wandered back to my family in the states. I knew they were praying for me as I completed the adoption of my 6-month-old daughter. The tension was great. We waited for the signal to quietly get our little ones and slip them out of the orphanage into the frigid cold—waiting to catch the overnight train back to Moscow—waiting to get everything completed so we could bring our children home.

    On this Christmas Eve many years ago, the waiting was painful—the longing even more so. Would disappointment win again?

     The clock ticked slowly, and I watched as the hands moved to 11:00 pm. When would they give the signal? Would this be the Christmas I’d remember for always?

    Many years ago, Jesus was born into this dark and hurting world. He came. Quietly. Simply. While the world slept, all the angels sang, “Glory to God in the Highest.” The long waiting was over — Hope was fulfilled.

   Many years ago, Jesus was born into this dark and hurting world. He came. Quietly. Simply. While the world slept, all the angels sang, “Glory to God in the Highest.” The long waiting was over — Hope was fulfilled. #ThisSideofHeaven #SharonBethBrani #LongExpectedHopeFulfilled

 Hope Fulfilled


I rubbed my hands together and caught the anxious eyes of another mom-to-be. We were all tense.

    Suddenly, the door opened, and the Russian facilitator gave a simple nod. My heart jumped.

    Joseph knew when it was time. He never forgot it.

    Mary knew and leaned in with all her trust in her Lord.

    And I knew.

    I followed the others up the darkened steps to the baby room. Then the nurse stepped out into the hall and put the warm, sleepy body of my baby girl in my arms. Quickly, I removed her Russian clothes and dressed her in a new pink traveling outfit. Wrapping her in a soft pink blanket, I picked her up and walked down the hallway to the door. The door that led to life. And love. And a whole new world.

    The cold hit my face as I carefully walked down the steps into the night. And my heart kept saying, “Thank you, God. Thank you for this amazing gift. Glory to God.”

    Suddenly, the wonder of what was happening filled my soul, and I glanced heavenward. It seemed at that moment as if I was all alone with God. Snowflakes circled me and pure joy overcame my soul.

    Then I heard the softest sound that seemed like music. I listened carefully as more snowflakes fell around me. Then I heard it again. It seemed like the sound of angels singing. Once more, God had broken into the darkness, giving hope. A hope that would forevermore change not only my life but the lives of many around the world. My heart overflowed and still does with the wonder of His faithfulness and forever love.

Meet Sharon Beth Brani

Sharon Brani is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Virginia, a Board Certified Coach, an educator, published freelance writer, and speaker whose life is committed to helping people discover the way life is meant to be.

She gets excited teaching people how to develop a greater sense of purpose, peace, and passion in their lives.

Sharon is the mother of two daughters whom she adopted from Russia. As a nurturer, she is well equipped to coach parents at every stage of the adoption process. Her personal experience as a single parent as well as her career as a teacher for over twenty years gives her a rich foundation from which to counsel, coach, and consult.

Her book: The Unforgettable Christmas Journey


Facebook/Instagram: Sharon Brani CoachingWebsite: https://heartprintscoaching.com/

An Angel in Waiting

An Angel in Waiting

For the month of December, you will see more posts than usual in your email. This month I wanted to celebrate Christ’s birth by getting some friends to share a story or posts this month.

I have six guest posts for the month of December. I hope you enjoy their stories as much as I did.

Whitney Ward’s story is touching and supernatural. Do you believe you have met an angel? Read her story!

My eyes opened in shock as the tube in my nose gave my body the oxygen it so desperately lacked. I immediately noticed the eight doctors and nurses crammed into my tiny hospital room. “What’s my hemoglobin?” I asked in a hoarse whisper.

My mother leaned close and caressed my brow. “You remember a few years ago when your hemoglobin was 4.8, and you were really sick? Well, it’s kind of like that now.”

Nightmare in the ICU

I suffered from rare autoimmune and immune diseases, so battling a low hemoglobin blood count was a hurdle I jumped over many times. A normal hemoglobin range is between 11 to 14. It’s the part of the blood that carries the oxygen throughout the body and to the brain, so when it’s low the body isn’t getting the oxygen it needs to function and in extreme cases, the mind can’t remain lucid.

Even in my sickly state, I saw the hopelessness in the medical professionals’ eyes. I was aware of their nervous glances.

I understood for the past two hours I was locked inside my body, unable to speak, incapable of doing anything but stare.

The deafening silence of the doctors and nurses gave me the real answer: This was nothing like the time when my hemoglobin dropped to 4.8 — it was worse.

“Do you know your name?” the ICU attending compassionately asked to see if I remembered my identity.

I shook my head, “It’s Whitney.”

“Where are you?” The doctor wanted to see if I was in touch with reality.

“I’m on the Hemoc floor.”

“What day is it?” Was my sense of time still intact?

“It’s Tuesday night.”

I answered the questions correctly, but the test I just aced didn’t change the nightmare we were all living: My hemoglobin had dropped to 2.8 and I was fighting for my life.

The ICU staff rushed me to their unit. On the way, the specialists prepared my parents for what lay ahead. I would have to receive several units of blood, the IV treatment I took every six months, and an antibiotic. I had never taken this antibiotic before and it commonly causes an allergic reaction where a person’s whole body turns red.

They warned my parents it was imperative I didn’t experience any reactions to the treatments they were administering because my body could take no more trauma.

This news devastated my parents because they were painfully aware I had always had an allergic reaction during blood transfusions and to my IV treatment—so how would I survive?

The Angel in the Waiting Room

The staff directed my father and mother to the waiting room while they took me to a room to be hooked up to machines. The only other person in the waiting room was a man sitting at a computer. This was unusual because the ICU was maxed to capacity with patients. My parents were very familiar with waiting rooms, so they knew there should have been more family members holding vigil for their loved ones.

Sitting down, they took advantage of a nearly empty waiting room and began calling family and friends, asking them to touch Heaven on my behalf.

As my mother talked to one of her dear friends and shared the heartbreaking details, she began sobbing. My father took the phone from her to finish explaining the dire situation.

Suddenly, the man got up from the computer and walked across the room to my mother.

“What’s the child’s name?” he asked compassionately.

My mother stared into the clearest and bluest eyes she had ever seen. “It’s Whitney.”

“Okay, I’ll put her on The Prayer Chain.” Then he turned around, walked out of the waiting room, and my parents never saw him again.

He didn’t say I’ll put her on my church’s prayer chain or I’ll let my pastor know—he said The Prayer Chain.

The next night, the ICU waiting room was completely full.

Living Life to the Fullest

My parents are convinced the man was an angel sent from God. For the first time in my life, right after he left, I did not have a single reaction to my treatment, transfusions, nor did my body turn red from the new antibiotic. My body did a complete 180, and I  got better quicker than any of my doctors thought medically possible.

They admitted me into the hospital on Monday, December 19th, 2011, and I got to come home on Saturday, December 24th, 2011 — The best Christmas gift ever.

Two weeks later, I went back to college to finish my degree, and in May 2012; I graduated with a Bachelor’s in creative writing.

Looking back at that Christmas seven-ten years ago, I marvel at the timing and pieces God intricately sewed together during that week so I could remain on this earth. #WhitneyWard #ThisSideofHeaven #AnAngelinWaiting #ChristmasMiracle

Looking back at that Christmas seven-ten years ago, I marvel at the timing and pieces God intricately sewed together during that week so I could remain on this earth.

The best part of the story, though?

God placed His healing hand on my diseased body, and I went from fighting for my life to living life to the fullest.

I never have doubted when the miraculous turnaround happened in my body—The minute the kind man told my mother he would put my name on The Prayer Chain. Not everyone gets to attend to angels unaware, but I’m so thankful God gave my parents and me the peace and assurance we needed in our darkest hour through an angel in the waiting room.

Meet Whitney:

Whitney Ward

Whitney Ward is a public speaker and writer who seeks to encourage her audiences to overcome their circumstances. As someone who has a disability, it is her wish to give hope to others with illness so they will persevere and scale every mountain they face.