December 30, 2022

The Gifts of Bogotá by Sandi Somers

Christmas–that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia… but always it will be a day of remembrance–a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.
~ Augusta E. Rundell ~

Christmas has come and gone with many memories of how God was with us. I related especially to LorrieOrr’s post of her Christmases in Ecuador living away from her family. I too, was away from family in nearby Colombia, and one year I had a special memory mixed with missing family. 

My visit to Bogotá coincided with the Christmas season. I was teaching missionary children in a coffee growing area in northern Colombia, and this was my first visit into the interior. I was eager to meet new friends and explore the large city of two million at that time. Travelling with me was Bessie, who in her sixties had spent years in the country as a missionary teacher.

As our jet neared the El Dorado airport that night, banking and circling Bogotá, lights up and down the mountain nearby appeared like so much gold dust spilling from a bucket. As Bessie and I stepped into the night, the cool air at 8,000 feet altitude (2,500 metres) and fresh odour of recent rains enveloped us, a contrast to the tropical Caribbean coast where our flight had originated.

The next afternoon, Christmas and Latino music blasted from stores and kiosks as Bessie and I, along with friends, wove our way around shoppers bustling in and out of stores. In the growing dusk, we stopped to linger at a gigantic outdoor tree draped in garlands, with lights twinkling from behind its leaves. I was surprised that no one had stolen the decorations, as Bogotá was known for its petty thievery.

That evening we attended a classical Christmas Cantata. As I soaked in the music as a thirsty plant soaks up rain, I couldn’t help contrasting the banks of white lilies decorating the church to the poinsettias so common in Canada at Christmas. But then poinsettia bushes grew everywhere, including the pathway on our mission station.

The next days were exciting days visiting with Bessie’s friends and acquaintances, touring sights around Bogotá and browsing through its modern, well-stocked shops. The atmosphere grew frantic as we neared Christmas, with people rushing to buy last-minute purchases. Bessie and I, too, were caught up in the activity, purchasing gifts for family back home.

We would spend Christmas Eve and Day visit with Bessie’s friends and their two children. It would be different for me; I had grown up with an extended family Christmas of over twenty people—aunts and uncles and cousins, all excited to be together, with Grandma hurrying around in her kitchen to finish dinner preparations. Now, being one of only six people with no one my age was strangely quiet. Suddenly I was lonely for a houseful of people.

But it was a restful evening, and as we prepared for bed, Bessie was given the guest bedroom, and I slept on the couch. In the glow of the Christmas tree lights, the wood softly crackling in the fireplace, I crawled under the warmth of an electric blanket—so welcomed because of Bogotá’s cold nights—and read the story of the first Christmas.

As I closed my Bible and meditated for a few minutes, the embers in the fireplace still crackled orange, and warmth beyond the fireplace and electric blanket enfolded me. That Christmas Eve became a night of music in my heart as I thanked God for bringing me to Colombia and to Bogotá, and I echoed the angels’ words: “Peace on earth, goodwill to men.” Although I missed my family, I knew that “Emmanuel” was with me.

Since that time, I have often thought fondly of that Christmas. It brought its own treasured memories that carried me into the next years and into the rest of my life. 

December 23, 2022

The Last Christmas ~ Valerie Ronald


My mother never told me how much she would miss me when I remarried and moved to Manitoba. Some years before, she came to live near me and my family after my father died, where our relationship grew closer. She stood by me as I struggled through a divorce and serious health issues, and I gave her companionship and help as she aged.

She was happy for me when I met my “Manitoba man”. Having witnessed my years of painful struggle in my first marriage, she wanted God’s best for me, even if it meant I would be leaving. She bravely expressed only joy and encouragement as we planned a wedding in the middle of my chemotherapy treatments. Later I learned how her heart was breaking at the thought of me going.

Before our first wedding anniversary, my mother was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. She chose not to have treatments as they would only prolong the inevitable. She maintained her independence as long as possible, with help from my older brother and her church family and friends. That winter my husband and I prayed, receiving God’s peace in our decision that I would fly west for what would most likely be her last Christmas.

I tried not to cry as I greeted her with a long hug. She was small and fragile in my arms, yet her gaunt face shone with joy at my arrival. She was still living in her beautiful seaside apartment, making do with medical home care and other helps. Though in early remission from cancer myself, I took over her care as best I could.

Words cannot describe the warm presence of God in that cozy apartment as we settled in for what seemed like one long sleep-over. We openly talked about what was coming, which intensified our pleasure in being together. We cried, we laughed, we reminisced and we talked about God. My mother became a Christian later in life, during my father’s illness. She looked to Jesus as her constant companion through many lonely days. She had a hunger to learn about Him in His Word, as if she were making up for lost time. What a difference it made for her to face death knowing she would soon be with her Savior.

 That Christmas there were a few cards on the mantelpiece but that was it for holiday decorations, so one evening I dug out Mom’s beloved nativity set. She sat in her favourite rocker wrapped in a warm pink robe with a blanket over her knees, watching me carefully unpack the porcelain figures. A friend had built her a rustic creche some years ago, which she wanted set on a table close by her chair. She asked me to hand her the figures in a certain order. Tenderly cradling each piece, she told me how every Christmas she liked to imagine what it was like for those who were there when Jesus was born.

The animals in the stable watching curiously as this small, naked creature slept in their hay. The shepherds still dazed by their angel visitation, coming to see if there really was a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger, as they had been told. And solemn Joseph, weary yet vigilant as he watched over Mary and her newborn son ˗˗ what responsibility he must have felt.

My mother held the figure of a kneeling Mary for a long time, turning it over in her trembling hands before she spoke.

“I think I know some of what Mary felt ˗˗ relief, wonder and fierce love for her baby. Maybe she checked that he had all his fingers and toes, like I did when you were born.” She held me long in her loving gaze.

“Even though Mary knew who her baby boy was meant to be, she probably loved him first as most mothers love their babies, with all her heart.”

I rested my head against her knees.

“Just like you loved me,” I whispered as I felt her hand on my head.

That Christmas was filled with bittersweet moments ˗˗ memories of my mother to treasure, whose beautiful brown eyes spoke volumes when she could not speak. A few months later the family was called to come and say our final goodbyes to her in the hospital. By then she hardly knew we were there, yet I knew I had already said my goodbyes during our precious last Christmas together. Though my heart grieved, I knew it was not really goodbye, rather it was until we meet again, when I would join her in heaven.

Her nativity set resides with me now. It is the first thing I put up each Christmas season. In keeping with tradition, I think about what the first Christmas was like for each character as I place their figure in the creche. And I remember how God gifted me with a precious last Christmas with my mother.

More of Valerie's work can be read on her blog:

December 22, 2022

Christmas Memories by Lorrie Orr


Hand carved nativity set from San Antonio de Ibarra, Ecuador

Memories surge at Christmas. Most years meld together in a hazy cloud of joyful family gatherings, delicious food, quiet moments of meditation, old songs, and traditions all pointing to the overarching story of Immanuel, God with us. It is when something exceptional happens that Christmas memories are preserved in crystal clarity.  

1981. So many changes. It was the first Christmas away from family, with only my husband and our 7-week old daughter. In place of quiet, snowy winter scenes, raw green jungle surrounded our home. Garish plastic Santas and haphazardly strung lights adorned some homes. No Christmas carols to tire of while walking in the mall - in fact, no malls or stores to shop in unless one needed eggs or tomato paste. Worst of all, no one, of the few acquaintances we'd met during our first months in Ecuador, invited us to share Christmas with them. 

On Christmas Eve, we sat together, Tim and I, with tiny Cristal between us, looking at our small and ugly artificial tree. I had brought salt dough ornaments from home and with the high jungle humidity, they sagged off from their ribbons and fell to the floor, just like my crumbled expectations. All was bleak. We both wept, missing family desperately. We wept for all that was familiar about Christmas. We wept from loneliness. We wept from missing family. Tim read the Christmas story aloud, and we went to bed, still sad and lonely. 

We had invited a family (co-workers) to share dinner with us the next day. They came, and to my utter shock, left soon after eating. Our family traditions were a long dinner that stretched into the afternoon and evening, playing games, nibbling on goodies, doing puzzles, and finally, finishing up with leftovers before packing up tired children and heading home. Another nail hammered hard into the coffin of unmet expectations. 

Later that week I vowed that I would never experience such a Christmas again. I could, and would do something about it. One of the first things was my realization that I had relied on others to prepare Christmas and evoke the sentiments of the season. The music, the beautiful church services, the lights. Instead, I must prepare my heart before I prepared my home. I did not grow up with Advent traditions, and the next year began practicing the quiet preparations of waiting to celebrate Christ's birth.

Then I began examining my expectations. Family - impossible. Friends - definitely. Each year we invited others to share Christmas with us - and were blessed by the numerous people who sat around our table - Canadians, Americans, Germans, British, Swedish, Australians, Ecuadorians, and New Zealanders. We developed our own family traditions as our family grew to three, and some of those are carried on now into our grandchildren's lives. 

For all of our years in Ecuador Christmas was hard. In the mornings, as I dressed for the day, my mind flew to Canada and to beloved family gathered together. There were always a few tears, but then I would walk out to prepare breakfast for my family, knowing that the truth of Immanuel - God with us, God with me - would not only sustain me, but give me great joy in the celebration of his birth. 

December 21, 2022

Home For the Holidays - Tracy Krauss

I've always loved Christmas and everything the season brings. Once I became a Christian, the holiday became even better as I focused more on the miracle of Jesus' birth. However, Christmas was also a very busy time. My husband and I are both the babies of large families, so for many years we never spent Christmas at home, even once we were married and had children. We always stayed at my husband's sister's house from Christmas Eve through Boxing day and went to one of my siblings for New Year. We were the ones who had "moved away", so it was always up to us to travel to be with family. It was usually a two-week extravaganza of living out of suitcases and carting gifts from place to place. Fun but exhausting.

That changed in 1995 when we moved to B.C. from Saskatchewan. We had lived far away before and had made the trip, but this time it was different. A two-day journey in the dead of winter with four children just didn't seem feasible, especially when my husband didn't get that many days off and we couldn't afford to fly.

As it turns out, that first Christmas "alone" became a pivotal point in our lives. Even though we loved and missed our extended family, it was so wonderful to wake up on Christmas morning and be able to revel in our children's delight without all the rest of the frenzy that normally went with it. 
It was cozy and intimate. Reverent, almost. We could focus on the faith aspect of the season and start our own traditions. It was also the year my husband bought a puppy for Christmas - a beautiful malamute/wolf cross that grew to be a beloved member of the family. (And grew and GREW!)

That was more than twenty-seven years ago. In that time I only traveled back to Saskatchewan once for Christmas when my husband was working away and all my children but one were elsewhere. (That's what happens when they grow up and get married.) That year, in 2008, we had just moved to Tumbler Ridge, so my son and I flew to Regina. For several years after that, various children came to our house in TR for the holidays, bringing their little ones.

And then... the cycle continued. 

My daughters expressed how they wanted to start their own family traditions in their own homes, especially on Christmas morning. So, after twenty-odd years of hosting my immediate family for Christmas, I relinquished the reins, (graciously, I hope!) and now get invited to one of their homes for the holidays. We had come full circle. 

I remembered how my own mom had done this same thing way back when I was still a teen. My older siblings had started their own families by then and so we usually went to one of their homes for Christmas. My mom was very gracious like that. She didn't fuss or expect people should come to her. She realized, for a variety of reasons, it was easier and better if we went to them. 

And so it goes. I am grateful to live fairly close to all my children. (Within a two-hour radius.) Depending on the year, we've driven somewhere either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but mostly I enjoy staying close to home and visiting after the frenzy has taken place. 

Since that pivotal Christmas in 1995, Jesus has been and remains the centerpiece of our holiday, not just an add-on. I look back at the days of "hoopla" with fond memories, but wouldn't change our stay-at-home Christmases for anything. 

Tracy Krauss enjoys Christmas and writing in beautiful Tumbler Ridge, BC, where she lives with her sweetheart of forty years. 

December 20, 2022

Cancer at Christmas by Alan Anderson


Cancer News


“You have cancer.” These three words were directed at my wife five years ago, in October 2017. I remember my first thought after this message penetrated my brain. “No, not again!”



Christmas 2017 soon settled in on us. We experienced a sense of peace stronger than our upset. Here is a response to how we processed our cancer reality in the 2017 Christmas season.


“By faith, I recognize trials give evidence that even in this experience my wife is going through, we can rejoice together. This is not saying that we think cancer is good or that I am happy my wife has cancer. I can say we can be joyful, for God knows all about it. This trial has not taken God by surprise. He has given us assurance of his love and comfort in a very real way.”



Thank God for Healing


In mid-November 2017, a friend at church gave us some healing oil he had brought from the Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco. Terry’s cancer experience included a bleeding issue we were concerned about. We used the oil as a step of faith and prayed God would heal her. The next morning, the bleeding stopped, never to return. We didn’t try to explain it but accepted it as from God. His love, mercy, and will are stronger than our skepticism.



On January 8, 2018, Terry had surgery to arrest her uterine cancer. Her surgeon presented himself as a compassionate healer. Thanks be to God, Terry’s surgery lasted only thirty-five minutes. Prior to the operation, the surgeon informed me it would take anywhere from forty-five to ninety minutes. Even the surgeon was surprised at the surgery’s duration.


To date, Terry has been cancer free for almost five years. We do not take this measure of healing for granted. Instead, we thank God for His love and mercy on us.


A Reflection


In times of personal struggle, I retreat to the ever-ready embrace of poetry. Here is a poem I wrote as my reflection of Terry’s cancer experience.



Cancer At Christmas: a husband’s poem for his wife


The news is more than sad, but this year

we celebrate Christmas,

not cancer.


I will be honest in my heart,

share cries and whimpers,

feel numb,

shake a fist at heaven.


My head held up only by my hands,

offers you, my love, who brings me this news,

a face wet with tears,

frozen fear.


Why God, I ask, would there be cancer

at Christmas? Help me, I pray, help

my darling.


My love—you amaze me.

Yes, you live.

Yes, we live.


We hang decorations, drink eggnog,

romance each other, your words slipping

out like healing hands, touching me,

but it’s me who wants to support you.


We celebrate Christmas,

not cancer. In this together,

we hold on.


Never let go of the moment,

any moment.


This illness will not be forever.

We have peace, stillness.


So, my love, sleep like a baby

in the arms of He who loves us.

God is not dumbfounded,

by this fiend,… cancer.


Joy is our companion.

We weep, yes,

Yet we rejoice. We are not alone.


Immanuel, God with us,

Is unseen yet present.


Let Him love us.

Let me hold you, my love, you, not cancer.

This year,

 We celebrate Christmas.



Dear Reader Friends

If you or a loved one are living with an illness, please know you are not alone. Your illness, your tears, do not take God by surprise. Dear ones, not even cancer can separate us from the love of God.


Alan lives in Deroche, B.C. with his wife, Terry, and their poodle, Charlie. He contributed stories to Good Grief People by Angel Hope Publishing, 2017; Story by Story: The Power of a Writer, Unstoppable Writers Publishing, 2018; Easter Stories & More by InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship, 2021. He is currently working on a book expressing the grief of grieving grandparents entitled Hidden Poetic Voices: A Reflective Work of Grief, Faith, and Poetry. Alan periodically writes articles for FellowScript Magazine. He has written posts for our InScribe blog since 2015. Blog:

December 19, 2022

A Memorable Christmas - Guest Post by Ruth Keighley

Christmas memories are common to everyone. Some may not be good memories but most of them are worth remembering. I grew up in a family of seven where Christmas was one of the most important days of the year. The birth of Christ was the centre of the holiday season and extended family came to celebrate together. 

Excitement and anticipation were high as we prepared for that special day. Mom and Dad gave each of us kids a little money so we could buy some presents for our parents and siblings and it was fun to wrap the gifts in my parents’ bedroom feeling just a little trepidation that someone uninvited would open the door to peek in. 

It was tradition in our home to open most of the presents on the evening of Christmas Eve after everyone had their baths and were dressed in their pjs and sipping hot chocolate. Dad would always read the Christmas story and pray but we were impatient to get to the gift opening. There were a lot of exclamations of joy as we opened our gifts to each other and watched as Mom opened the big parcel sent from our grandparents in another province. 

One Christmas I had ordered a special gift for my mom from the Eaton’s catalogue. It was a pair of white fancy gloves that reached to the elbow. My mom never dressed in fancy clothes that would suit those gloves but I thought they would look beautiful on her. She graciously wore them to church a couple times and showed them off to her friends. I wasn’t aware until much later how funny she would have looked in those gloves. I just knew that Mom had truly appreciated my gift of love and wasn’t embarrassed to display what I had done for her. 

 We kids got up that Christmas morning and quietly went into the living room to see what we had under the tree. Those were our gifts from Mom and Dad and they were unwrapped, with a piece of paper with our names on top of each display. Mom and Dad stayed in their bed across the hall and listened to us and waited for us to come and thank them.

One Christmas morning I knelt in front of the tree and found my name on my gift. There it was, a pair of beautiful hand-knitted mittens that Mom had made, lying on top of some wrinkled cellophane paper. I picked up those mittens and my first thought was, “Is that all I got?” I felt guilty that I was so disappointed and I struggled to feel truly thankful before going into my parents’ bedroom. I thanked them for the mitts and Mom asked me, “Is that all you found? Go back and look again.” I lifted the cellophane and there underneath was a lovely wristwatch, something I had desired for a long time. My thankfulness turned to real joy as I ran into my parents’ bedroom and thanked them for my Christmas gift. 

I learned something important that Christmas. I must be thankful for the little things. Life is made up of a lot of little things that we may not recognize as true gifts but I Thessalonians 6:18 tells us, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I learned that I could be truly thankful despite disappointment. It was a lesson I was to learn over again many times throughout my life. 

Thank you, Lord, for the little things.

Ruth Keighley is a wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother living in Warman, SK. She loves writing, reading, jigsaw puzzles, and hand embroidery. She has authored one book, Healing for an Unquiet Mind, and co-authored one book, Making the Crooked Places Straight.

December 15, 2022

Hope: The Message of Christmas by Carol Harrison

I have always loved the Christmas season. As a child, this time of year had a simplicity I never realized. Our family didn’t have much money and there were few presents under the tree and no lavish, over-the-top decorations. Yet I loved it – the time spent with family and extended family, the church services and Christmas carols, the concerts, and the Bible story from the gospel of Luke.

When I take time to reflect, I realize I grew up rich in relationships with a legacy of being shown the love of God in tangible ways by my family. My parents and grandparents lived out their faith and shared this with me.

But, this time of year can be stressful when the tough things of life happen. The messages bombarding us about the latest and greatest gift, the best way to entertain, or even the right décor can fill us with a feeling of not having enough or not being good enough. How do view this time of year, no matter what the circumstances we find ourselves in? Where is our hope? Why do we celebrate?

As I write this blog post late the night before it is time to post it, I think about these questions. I ponder Immanuel – God with us and what that means and has meant to me. Is there a significant time at Christmas where this came alive to me? Maybe I put off writing this post because I couldn’t think of the scenario to describe. Part of the procrastination happened due to the invasion of bronchitis and asthma for a few weeks. These unwanted guests didn’t want to leave and made life difficult. Maybe it is only because I never paused long enough to really think about how God is with me and all of us who follow Him at any time of year.

A couple of days ago I had the opportunity to travel to Prince Albert to speak at the Christian Women’s Club Christmas meetings in the morning and evening. I had promised them months ago to be their speaker. The topic was Life’s Tough but There’s Hope or as they changed it around a bit to fit the time of year it read Hope - the Message of Christmas. As the day drew near, the exhaustion from being sick for weeks made me wonder if I could keep the commitment and yet I felt a peace that God was wanting me to go.

My granddaughter offered to drive so all I had to do was the speaking and interacting with the ladies present. It gave us a special time together from early morning until late at night. I pulled out my notes. Yes, I love Christmas but sometimes it is a tough time for people. Health concerns – I have those in my own life and in my husbands too. Finances – I love giving gifts and the budget runs out long before I wish it did but I am more fortunate than many. Relationship issues – some are fragile while others can be toxic. Grief – death does not care it is close to Christmas any more than health related concerns. We all get the picture.

Life for me has been in a tough season due to many issues and yet I know God is still God. He promises new mercies every morning. He is my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer, and strength. I know this. I’ve experienced it many times. So I trusted Him for the words to say, the strength of voice to speak, and for open hearts to hear God and know He is our Hope and Joy. 

  God with us – Immanuel. Oh how I felt that a couple of days ago. Various ladies remarked about how what I shared must have been just for them and shared a bit of their stories – tough things with me. One lady said, “When I closed my eyes, your voice was beautiful and like and eighteen-year-old.”

Wow, only God could provide a voice for people to hear that had no trace of bronchitis or asthma to it. So I pause in the middle of tough circumstances and Christmas coming quickly and wonder at the goodness of God who loves me so much He sent Jesus to take my punishment. How can I not praise His name.

Merry Christmas and may Jesus, the Hope of Christmas, fill us with hope and peace as we trust in Him each day to use the gifts, He has given us. 


Carol Harrison loves to share stories and the good news of hope in Jesus with people of all ages and abilities. She enjoys speaking and writing as well as scrapbooking and making junk journals.


December 14, 2022

God With Us by Sharon Heagy


When I read, read and re-read this month’s theme my mind kept going to one place – crisis. But it’s Christmas, I reasoned. Nobody wants to hear about crisis at Christmas. But crisis is when I always sense the presence of the Lord. More than at any other time.

Like when my sons faced trouble, mostly as a result of their own choices, God was there. Tough times on the farm when funds were short and debts were high, God was there. During back-to-back surgeries for my husband and myself during a pandemic. God’s presence was tangible to the point of almost overwhelming. 

In times of death and loss. Loss of my faith filled Father-in-Law when we were young and farmed together. My big brother, followed 8 months later by my wonderful Mom. The tragic loss of a two-year-old daughter of dear friends when I needed to find words for the eulogy. My Mom in law, my own dear Dad and most recently my caring brother-in-law. God was there.

Yes, I know God is always there, but I am talking of times when there is supernatural strength and peace, like being entirely covered by a cloak of comfort. A sense of protection, well-being and calm that cannot be explained. Heavenly guidance that strengthens each step. Wisdom that provides the right words to say and the right time to say them. Such overwhelming presence, so close that you could almost swear you can feel His heartbeat. It’s amazing.

This gave me pause. Why? Why do I have such extraordinary experiences in times of trouble? I sense His presence other times, ordinary daily grind times but this is different. The answer is simple. It’s because I seek Him more earnestly, more desperately when chaos is afoot. What a revelation!

Yet, why don’t I seek out His presence like this more. Apparently, this is going to take lots of training, to find Him and to be desperate for that heartbeat all the time. 

This reminds me of some of the events of Christmas. The shepherds leaving field and flock to seek Him. The Magi, leaving home and family, following a star, seeking…Him.   They wanted to see Him. They needed to see Him. Yet, once they saw Him, once they found Him, did their passion wane like mine? Who knows? God knows, He was there.

My prayer for each of you this Christmas season is that God will ignite a fire within that becomes an all-consuming desire to seek Him, without the chaos. Without the crisis. May you come close enough to hear His heartbeat. Merry Christmas.