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Review: Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me: I love Christmas. As soon as the Thanksgiving dinner is cleared away, our house undergoes a tinsel-and-tree transformation as we prepare for the Christmas season. We make large pans of fudge and (with a nod to my Ohio roots) hundreds of peanut-butter-chocolate Buckeyes. We bake dozens of cookies. We even wrap all the paintings on our walls in Christmas paper—an inexpensive holiday tip borrowed from a physician’s office years ago. So it’s no surprise that I also love Christmas books. This year, I’m excited to share the latest release from my friend and fellow Florida author Dan Walsh. Keeping Christmas: A Novel is a story to which I can relate. Not only does it take place in my beautiful hometown of Mount Dora, Florida, but the central characters are empty-nesters—just like my husband and me. Christmas looks different to us in this stage of life than it did when our five children were small, and it does to Stan and Judith, too. Their three children are grown and gone, with families of their own—and none of them can make it home for the holidays. All the couple has left are their memories and a box of what they call “The Ugly Ornaments,” lovingly crafted by their children through the years. Stan, an avid fisherman, seems eager to embrace their new lifestyle. After all, this is the Christmas when he and his best friend plan to buy their dream rig, the fishing boat of their dreams. But Judith has more than a bit of trouble moving beyond her loneliness and into the wonder and beauty of Christmas.    Walsh, as always, does a masterful job of creating characters about whom we care. This time, he weaves the threads of their lives into a beautiful tapestry with more than a hint of compassion, love, and Christmas magic. Include this book on your list of books to read—and give—this Christmas, and watch for my coming interview with Dan about Keeping Christmas along with news of a Christmas contest. If you live in the Central Florida area, be sure to visit charming Mount Dora on December 6, 6-8 p.m. and enjoy an in-person visit with Dan at the 2015 Christmas Book-tacular. Maybe I’ll see you there!   (FTC Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel free from the author. I was not required to post a review or a positive response.) Find a local Christian bookstore where you can purchase Keeping Christmas. Find this book on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, or at Christian Book Distributors. Read Marti’s article about Christmas in Mount Dora in More to Life Magazine (page 60).    ...

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The Perfect Christmas

“Mom, I’m thinking about going to ______________ [a closed country where missionaries go in under other platforms such as business or teaching] over Christmas break.” “What?” “How?!” “With whom?” This text exchange between our youngest daughter and me happened last night. But what Melanie (daughter #4) didn’t know was that this was supposed to be the perfect Christmas. The Christmas I’d waited for. The Christmas where all six kids (including one by marriage) would be home. The one where daughter and son-in-love #1 could join us from South Carolina. The one where daughter #2 would return from her mission in Brazil, where one-and-only son would return from his new job in California. The one where daughters #3 and #4 would have almost a month’s break from college. The one where my mom might join us all the way from Ohio. The perfect Christmas.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               The perfect Christmas. A fully-decorated house. At least two trees. Cookies filling the pantry, tables groaning with other food. The traditional fast-food Christmas Eve supper followed by the candlelight Christmas Eve service. The perfect Christmas. No, we wouldn’t act out the Nativity story as we’d done when the kids were small, but we’d read it from Luke 2 before we opened the presents. We’d eat our traditional Christmas kringler (a Danish coffee cake) and sing “Happy Birthday to Jesus” just as we’ve done every year in, well, forever. “Mom, I was encouraging another girl to go. I said, ‘What’s stopping you from going?’ And then she turned around and asked me, ‘What’s stopping you from going?’ “Mom, I really think God is calling me to go.” My kids have come to expect my answer to almost any big question to run along the lines of “We’ll pray about it,” and “Do whatever God wants you to do.” But the deadline for this decision? Midnight, the same night she called me. So yes, I said the words—but did I mean them? As I...

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