I’ve been celebrating Christmas without my mom since 2011.

I wish I could say it gets easier.

This year I’m tempted to go back to Mom’s church for the Christmas Eve service we attended every single year without fail. But I know I’ll never make it through without gobs of snotty tissues and red, swollen eyes, so why bother?

Let me start by saying that if there’s one thing I’ve learned about grief, it’s that it’s different for everyone. Shucks, it’s not only different from person to person, but it can be different for the same person from day to day or even hour to hour! It’s completely unpredictable.



So maybe you can relate to my experience, or maybe you’ve responded completely differently – and that’s totally fine. My reaction has bent and morphed from year to year.

But that first year, I surprised myself. After 30 years doing the same thing to celebrate the holidays, after my mom died, I didn’t want any of it. Not the music, not the lights, not the cookies. Nothing.

I completely recoiled at the thought of “celebrating” these traditions without my mom. I couldn’t bear it. It hurt too much.

My kids complained. They wanted to decorate a tree. They wanted to bake cookies. They wanted to sing Silent Night. Of course they missed their Grandma, but they didn’t realize the strong emotional tie that she had to each of those activities for me. They couldn’t understand why something like my grief would or could or should “ruin” their Christmas.

So we compromised. With some traditions that year, I simply said, “I can’t.” With others, I agreed to go through the motions, but they didn’t transpire without silent sobs and gobs of snotty, tear-stained tissues.

If you’re facing the holiday season after experiencing a loss, head over to iBelieve.com to read the rest of this article, including my six tips for facing the holidays after a loss.


Purchase the e-book, Letters to Grief:

Letters to Grief


Related post:

An Open Letter to Grief



It can happen to all of us.

Despite our best intentions, we can get sucked into the commercial rush of the holiday season, and before we know it, December’s gone. We blink, and we miss it.

This year, let’s determine a different way.

Let’s pause before the month even begins, and take intentional steps to slow down.

Let’s get ourselves ready to notice and enjoy the true reason for the season.

As I compiled this post, I realized there are so many amazing Advent devotional books available!

In this post, I’ll share about the following:


Advent Devotional



Firstly, my dear friend, Asheritah Ciuciu has a beautiful, helpful Advent devotional called Unwrapping the Names of Jesus


This book promises to help you “rediscover the beauty of the greatest gift of all by unwrapping His Names one at a time.”




And look! These ornaments from DaySpring correspond beautifully to the themes in the book:


advent devotional



And then there’s Ann Voskamp’s gorgeous family Advent devotional, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.


Unwrapping Greatest Gift cover

Read my review here, then order a copy for your own family by clicking here. You won’t regret it!


These gorgeous ceramic ornaments complement Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. Each ornament corresponds to a daily reading.


I was blessed to receive a set of these sculpted ceramic ornaments last year, and they are stunning.







I also love Ann’s book, The Greatest Gift. It follows a very similar format to the family version shown above, but is geared more toward an adult audience.




The dear Kris Camealy wrote a fabulous Advent devotional called Come, Lord Jesus:




My family and I read this aloud together last year, and it really is fantastic. I can highly recommend it.


Finally, the delightful Anna Rendell is offering 25 devotions for time-strapped Moms in her book, A Moment of Christmas.




The description on Amazon says, “This book is for the woman who craves a less crazed-feeling Christmas, who longs for a season that is intentional and full of joy. Including 25 devotions, each of them guilt-free, inspiring, and able to be read in 10 minutes or less! As you prepare your heart for Christmas by reading through these pages, you’ll be inspired to drop the pursuit of perfection and chase holy.” Sounds amazing, hey?


Don’t let this December pass you by.

Get your hands on some of these resources, then schedule a bit of time each day to dwell in God’s presence.


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting this site!

The holiday season is upon us, and so is the temptation to rush, rush, and be rushed.

Here are some suggestions for how you can practice dwelling in Christ and in His goodness during this busy time of the year. Click here for some beautiful, helpful resources.



Unwrapping the Names of Jesus, an Advent devotional by our very own Asheritah Ciuciu is now available! Get your copy here.


Looking to dwell under a warm blanket with a good book?

Here’s my list of all-time favorite fiction reads, just for you!


Fiction Favorites

Registration for the mini Christmas round of #fmfpartysnailmail is open until 11/21!

Click here to sign up! 


Photo Credit: Kaitlyn Bouchillon
Photo Credit: Kaitlyn Bouchillon


In case you haven’t guessed already, this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt is: 




New to Five Minute Friday? Find out more here. We’d love to have you join us!


Set a timer for five minutes, and get your fingers ready to tap furiously across your keyboard!

Here we go …


My heart is on all the turmoil and tragedy happening in the world these days, and if I’m not careful, it’s easy to let my thoughts veer toward fear. I imagine what it must be like to live in Paris right now, or Syria, or anywhere, really — when the threat of terrorism looms large and real.

Then I remember: that’s exactly what it is — a threat. I can live cowering in fear of a threat, or I can cling to a promise.

I think of friends living in Europe, and I wonder if they consider leaving. Where would they go? I think about friends and family in South Africa, with all of her uncertainties and instabilities.

I think of news reports here in America, and I can hardly bear to read any more.

And I “groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling” (2 Corinthians 5:2).

All of the options in this life are lacking. Yet in Christ — no matter where I live, God alone is able to “make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

For this is the glorious mystery: that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).

Let’s not forget the wonder of it all. Though the world is darkened by threats and black clouds of evil, we can cling to the promise that light will always overcome darkness in the end.


By the way, we *will* have a regular FMF link-up next week, even though it’s Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Hope you are able to join us!

Also, we’ll be having a special edition link-up on Wednesday, December 2nd to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Letters to Grief. Write your own letter to grief and come link up on December 2nd!

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Here we are, in the middle of another November. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, you’re likely sipping hot cocoa and ready to curl up in front of the fireplace with a good read. Am I right? Who doesn’t love a great book on a cold, blustery day?


Fiction Favorites

Here’s a compilation of some of my favorite fiction titles and authors, new and old. Go ahead and add them to your holiday shopping list. Then come back and tell me which ones you enjoyed best! Happy reading!




My review of Susan Meissner’s book, Secrets of a Charmed Life, is the most-clicked book review I’ve ever written. People find it every day. Secrets of a Charmed Life was also nominated in GoodReads’ Top Historical Fiction books of 2015. Read my review here.

I’m so excited to be reviewing Susan’s latest novel, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, which is now available for pre-order and is set to release in early 2016.







Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay was fantastic. I’ve recommended this book so many times, and each person who read it has come back and told me they loved it. I can’t wait to read Katherine’s newest novel, The Bronte Plot, which just released this past month.

Katherine Reay titles


You can’t go wrong with Lynn Austin. I’ve enjoyed every book of hers that I’ve read, including the Chronicles of the Kings series, the Refiner’s Fire series, and several stand alone books. Get A Candle in the Darkness for FREE on Kindle by clicking here!




Randy Singer is a fantastic suspense novelist. If you’re looking for John Grisham-like books, check out titles like The Justice Game, By Reason of Insanity, and Fatal Convictions.

Emily Wierenga’s debut novel, A Promise in Pieces, will make you smile and sigh and maybe even cry. Beautifully written. AND — the paperback version is only $5.98 right now! Read my review by clicking here.



My favorite Francine Rivers book is The Last Sin Eater. I was also really moved by Redeeming Love and The Atonement Child.




I had the privilege of attending two writers’ conferences in October, and heard some fantastic talks given by the names listed below. Can’t wait to dig into their work!

Fiction authors I’m eager to read:

A Cup of Dust by Susie Finkbeiner (pst .. the Kindle version of this book is currently FREE! Click here to get your copy!

Blur, the first book in a trilogy by Stephen James

Playing Saint and The Last Con by Zachary Bartels

Maggie Bright and other titles by Tracy Groot


What are your favorite fiction reads? Share in the comments below!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

This is our third Christmas without my mom.

We’re having Christmas Eve at our house this year, and my sister is coming over. The other day she handed me my mom’s Christmas tablecloth, the white one with the embroidered trees on it. All folded up neat and compact like an American flag being passed on with great reverence to the family of a deceased soldier.

She asked me to use it on Christmas Eve.

“Of course,” I said and swallowed hard, and my kids asked, “Why?”

“Tradition,” she replied.

And with just a word she gathered a lifetime of memories and transferred them into my arms.

I ironed the tablecloth today. Steamed and pressed it right on the squeaky ironing board that used to be my mom’s. The one with the blue cover with green polka dots. And I wonder if there’s a lot of blue and green in heaven, because those were her favorite colors.

tableclothAs the hot metal slid over the white cloth, I saw the stories, forever stained right there into the fabric. The purple wax stains from the advent candles, the ones we lit every Sunday in December. And a pink candle stain, for that third week, the week of joy. I always thought it was strange that three candles were purple and only one was pink, and I find myself wondering still, even as I iron.

Normally when I see stains on clothes that have found their way to the ironing board, I avoid them at all costs, careful not to let the heat sear the stain into the fabric and deem it irremovable.

But not this time.

This time I find myself purposely pressing harder where the yellowed oil stains color the white, and I smile as I think about the sputtering oil in the fondue pots that got too hot and popped right over the edge. And year after year we lit cans of Sterno and argued over which color fondue sticks we got to have, and then forgot which sticks were ours.

I iron over the purple wax spots and wonder where that wreath is now, and think about how today we’d be so close to lighting that center white candle.

But we’re still waiting.

But my mom, she’s right there in the middle of it all, right in the center of the circle, where the pure white candle is always lit.

She doesn’t have to wait anymore.

A tear slips off my cheek and lands on the tablecloth, and I just iron over it, adding a salty stain to the story.

And I think about what it must be like to be in a place where there are no stains, no blemishes, no wrinkles to be ironed out.

This Christmas Eve, we’ll add to the stains and the story of the tablecloth, and we’ll light the candles, and we’ll wait.

We’ll wait for the newborn King to come again and carry us home, “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish.”

Come Lord Jesus, come.