today’s book: gifts visible & invisible by carolyn astfalk
Christmas is only 16 days away according to Google (if we get to Dec 25th and we have days left over, blame Google, not me lol.), BUT now ’tis the season when I start craving cozy Christmas reads. (Okay – I crave them all year round but now’s when I can get away with talking about them LOL) This year I’m continuing my annual blog series spotlighting new and recently-released Christmas reads, and I’m super excited! Christmas books make me happy!
So… snuggle in, grab your fave hot beverage and comfiest blanket, turn on some Christmas tunes and start your own bookish Christmas list! Oh… and did I mention there are GIVEAWAYS with EACH POST in this series??!! (Because authors are awesome!)
Today’s next featured book is a collection of Christmas-themed short stories by eight CatholicTeenBooks.com authors + one of those authors talks about Christmases gone awry!
GIFTS VISIBLE & INVISIBLE
GENRE: Inspirational Christmas Short Story Collection
PUBLISHER: Catholic Teen Books
RELEASE DATE: October 1, 2019
THE OUTLAWS’ FRIEND: Setting out in a raging blizzard with nothing but an outlaw’s trunk and a heart clenched with dread, Barney leaves the warmth of his family for the cold unknown. Will he find the courage to obey the command?
IN THE STEPS OF A SAINT: What could an ancient Christmas carol possibly have to do with Andrew’s life? He’s about to find out!
A PERFECT CHRISTMAS: No tree, no cookies, no gifts. Not a single flake of snow. With sick siblings, Dad stranded, and Mom overwhelmed, will Christmas come at all to Marigold’s topsy-turvy home?
OPERATION GIFT DROP: In a dystopian future, Bolcan wants to prove his skills as a rescuer but this is a crazy mission: deliver gifts to Aldonians by stealth and at risk of capture.
CHRISTMAS ANGEL: Meg’s unforgettable Advent journey begins when four simple words challenge her idea of a perfect Christmas.
SIGNS OF CHRISTMAS: Christmas without her friend Sal isn’t the same, but Antonina finds a new friend whose circumstances have her rethinking the value of a gift.
JUST JESUS: Christmas had always made sense to Vanessa, until her yuletide festivities are called into question by a new kid named Luke and a mysterious wood carving.
A VERY JURASSIC CHRISTMAS EVE: Joshua’s perfect Christmas Eve is upended by the plight of a starving mamma dino and her babies. Meanwhile, Darryl and her family risk their lives for a holiday guest in the perilous, raptor-infested mountains.
christmases gone awry
by Carolyn Astfalk, author of “A Perfect Christmas” in Gifts
I could regale you with my tales of the Halloween we locked ourselves out of the house while trick-or-treating and had to have the local police jimmy our lock. Or the time we ran out of gas on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on the way to Thanksgiving dinner. Or maybe the Easter our child with a stomach bug had to carry an Easter bucket instead of an Easter basket. But we’re talking Christmas here, so let me tell you about Christmases gone awry.
Christmas is in special danger of failing to meet expectations because we often set the bar so high. Are the cookies baked, boxed, and delivered? Is the house cleaned and decorated? Have the perfect presents been selected and wrapped? Were the cards addressed and mailed?
We can do the same with the spiritual side of Christmas too. Have I been properly observing Advent, if that’s part of my tradition? Am I ready to welcome the infant Jesus into my heart? Have I carved out enough silence between the Hallmark movies and ubiquitous Christmas songs and carols to hear God’s still, small voice?
What I’ve learned is that regardless of my unmet expectations—and there have been many—Christmas comes. Our Savior isn’t waiting on us to arrive. Thank God! He doesn’t come to us as a helpless infant in spite of our shortcomings, but because of our shortcomings. That’s what my contribution to Gifts: Visible & Invisible, “A Perfect Christmas,” is about.
It’s all well and good to celebrate His birth in big and small ways, to celebrate and feast—oh, the feasting!—but perfection is not required. Better to laugh at our mishaps when things go awry than to spoil our peace by worrying over non-essentials.
At sometime during the early childhood Sunday School years, I made several “crafty” Christmas ornaments. One was a Styrofoam ball covered with birdseed and wax. Another was an ice cream cone topped with a red satin Christmas ball. (It was the 1970s. Don’t judge.) Each year, those ornaments re-appeared from the depths of our cardboard Christmas boxes.
Our family dog had never taken a special interest in our Christmas tree. One particular year, apparently hunger gnawed at her belly, and she found that years-old stale cone irresistible. In her quest for a snack, she knocked over the entire tree, garland, balls, lights, and all.
Without pets, we’ve had no such problem in my present household. But with multiple small children, illness is not a stranger.
I spent one Christmas Eve about seven years ago, pregnant and coughing so hard my already over-taxed bladder had quite a time of it. My sick toddler sat beside me on the bed napping. I can’t remember where the older sick child was. She’s still with us, so apparently I tended to her as well. My feverish husband took our oldest child, who remained healthy until several days after Christmas, through the snow to church where he was to sing carols with the children’s choir.
The merry-making was minimal that year. But Christmas came anyway. And it was good.
One of my fellow Gifts: Visible & Invisible authors, Katy Huth Jones (“In the Steps of a Saint”), shared a story of a gift that fell flat, to put it mildly.
“When I was eight, I lived in Arlington, Virginia, close to my maternal grandparents, so they saw firsthand my great interest in science. In third grade, I alternated between wanting to be an archeologist and an astronaut, and being good grandparents, they wanted to encourage those interests. I still have the microscope Grandpa gave me that year for Christmas.
“But I’ll never forget the great horror I felt when I opened Grandma’s gift. It was a replica SHRUNKEN HEAD, complete with stitches holding the lips together! I already had problems with bad dreams after a strange reaction to aspirin that gave me a 12-hour LSD-type nightmare. Now I had a waking one as my younger sister (four years old and absolutely fearless) had no problems PICKING UP that horrible head and chasing me around the house with it, she laughing and me screaming.
“My grandmother was horrified I was so freaked out. I can still hear her telling my mother, ‘I’m so sorry; I thought she would like it.’ I can’t even imagine where she found such a thing. Maybe the Smithsonian gift shop?”
Have you had any Christmases in which your carefully-laid plans (or gifts) went horribly awry?
Carolyn Astfalk is a wife, mother, and author of contemporary Catholic romances Stay With Me, Ornamental Graces, Rightfully Ours, and All in Good Time. She formerly worked as a communications director and now works just to keep her head above water. Find her books on Amazon and her other words scattered around the blogosphere and social media.
Carolyn Astfalk is offering one of my readers a print copy of Gifts: Visible & Invisible (US only) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What interests you most about Gifts: Visible & Invisible? Have you had any Christmases in which your carefully-laid plans (or gifts) went horribly awry?