Friday, November 27, 2009

Sunny's Perfect Roast from "A Ruined Christmas Eve"*

Here is the recipe that is mentioned in my story, "A Ruined Christmas Eve" in the Christmas Miracles.

Roast Beef Perfection

1 standing rib roast, any size

Start at 3:00 p.m. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place roast in oven and cook 1 hour.

Turn oven off.

Keep the oven door closed!

45 minutes before serving, turn the oven to 300 degrees.

The temperatures given are for sea level cooking. For high altitude cooking, add 25 degrees to each temperature.

Note: Cooked this way, the roast beef will be a juicy medium-rare and perfect every time.

Sunny Marie Hackman Contributor to Christmas Miracles

*Recipe from the Colorado Cache Cookbook, the Junior League of Denver

Monday, November 23, 2009

Miracle of the Nativity by Tracy Ruckman

December that year appeared bleak. As a newly single parent of two small boys, I worked two jobs to pay our bills. At times, it seemed I earned just enough salary to pay the babysitter, with nothing left over for the basics.

Then it got worse.

In the first week of December, the owners of the store where I worked fulltime decided to focus their energies on their parent store in another town, and planned to close ours within a few days. The same week I received my notice, I had a disagreement with the editor of the paper where I worked my second job. He wanted me to report a false story. When I refused, he forced me to resign.

In one week's time, I lost two jobs—both just before Christmas.

I spent most of my time seeking other jobs, and tried to keep life as normal as possible for the children. The dreary weather matched my mood, and I struggled to stay upbeat for my kids. Their world—my world—depended on me, and I seemed to be failing miserably.

On December 12, I came home from one of my final days at work to find a black trash bag hanging on my front door. I shifted the baby to one arm, and with the other, cautiously lifted the bag from the handle. "Stay back," I yelled at my older son. I had no idea what was inside.

I put the baby down and carefully peeked inside. I laughed at my silliness. Inside was a tiny, gaily wrapped package. We pushed through the door, and I settled the boys on the sofa. "Okay, just sit there and we'll see what this is." I pulled out a package about the size of my hand. A note taped to the box read: OPEN NOW.
I tore off the ribbon and paper and opened the box.

When I revealed the gift hidden in layers of tissue paper, Zach laughed, Jonathan said, "Mooooo," and I stared.

A cow? A ceramic cow? What did that mean?

There was no note explaining the ceramic cow.

Later that evening, I called some of my friends and asked if they had given us the cow. No one confessed, but they thought the whole story was rather amusing.
We put the cow on the table and went to bed.

The next morning, there was another trash bag hanging on our door. This time, the note said DAY 2–OPEN NOW. It was a donkey.

An excited Zach rushed to the door the third morning, ready to add to the barnyard collection. Nothing was there, but later that evening his monitoring of the door paid off because we unwrapped a sheep.

The next morning, a shepherd boy arrived and that's when I figured out what was going on. "Twelve days of Christmas," I said aloud.

That was exactly right. Each day, for the twelve days before Christmas, we received one piece of a beautiful nativity set and it included a stable. The anticipation of each day's arrival seemed to perk us up a bit, and it caused my own focus on the season, and on our lives, to change.

On Christmas Eve, baby Jesus arrived, and our crèche was complete.

Our special gift that year was a turning point for all of us, and we knew God was with us. We enjoyed that nativity for many years.

I found work—one job that paid better than the two previous positions.
But that's not the end of the story.

Seven years later, the boys and I moved to another state to get a fresh start. We faced other trials, too. My father and my grandmother had both been diagnosed with cancer, and their deaths were imminent.

"Only months, possibly weeks away," the doctors told us. We moved into my grandmother's house. She gave us her house and moved into my father's house where my sister, who lived next door, could care for them both. Once again, we began to rebuild our lives.

When Thanksgiving arrived that year, I thought of the hardships we had gone through. If we hadn't had my grandmother's house to move into, we would have become homeless. I seemed to creep through the activities of each day. Our circumstances brought to mind that other Christmas years before. We no longer had our nativity set. We couldn't afford to hire a trailer to move everything, so that was one of the items we left. At Christmas I realized how deeply I missed it.

My godly grandmother died on December 2. I felt her loss to the depth of my being. But I knew she was in heaven, and God carried us through the pain and the tears, and comforted our hearts.

A week after her funeral, I climbed into the attic, looking for possible Christmas decorations. I didn't really feel like putting out anything, but the boys were still young, and it was important for us to honor Jesus' birthday, regardless of our circumstances.

The attic was small, hardly big enough to stand in. It looked as if no one had been up there for years. But there were several boxes, so I explored each one.

When I opened the last dusty one, tucked in a far corner, and saw what appeared to be Christmas things, I closed it and hauled it back down the steps. I set the box on the sofa in front of me and reopened it.

As I unpacked the first piece, tears filled my eyes. I pulled out the objects one by one. By the time the box was empty, I sobbed uncontrollably.

In my hands were all the pieces of a nativity set—identical to the one I'd left behind. I pulled out the familiar cow, the donkey, the sheep and shepherd boy, and the precious baby Jesus. Even the stable was the same.

God was with us. That may sound strange, but the comfort of that crèche made me aware of the love of God for my family and me.

Two days after Christmas, my dad died. That was even harder than the death of my grandmother. Friends and family have asked us how we got through that difficult time. I have only one answer: God was with us.

Now, twelve years since that Christmas, and nineteen since we first received the nativity, I still don't know the identity of the giver. But God used that gift to give us something more—he made his presence known to us, both with the first nativity set and then again with my grandmother's.

That simple crèche made Christmas a reality—twice. Both times I was able to turn my focus away from my life and remember the message of Christmas. Jesus had come into the world and had nothing, not even a bed on which to sleep. By comparison, I had so much.

My treasured nativity scene is an annual Christmas reminder of the meaning of the season. God is with us.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Miracle in the Storm from the book "Christmas Miracles"

By Elizabeth M. Harbuck with Marley Gibson

Christmas 1967 might have been a delightful but ordinary time except for one thing. Mother and Daddy drove from Alabama to Massachusetts to spend the Christmas holiday with us. They traveled in their new four-door Thunderbird, which was the prettiest car they had ever owned. Before they made the long trip north, Daddy had it serviced at the local garage.

We had a wonderful time together and did all the seasonal things. We attended Christmas Eve service at church, wrapped and later unwrapped presents, talked, joked, baked, and argued about whether this year's dressing in the turkey was as good as last year's.
The beautiful white Christmas was perfect for New England. Then the day came for my parents to leave. The snow had piled high on the ground and the weather reports predicted more. I was a little worried and asked them to stay.

Daddy wasn't concerned. "I've driven in heavy snow many times," he reminded us. He also pointed out that they would drive on the then-new interstate highways. "Besides, I have a new car and it's in top condition. I don't expect any problems getting home."
They considered stopping at a motel until the storm blew over, but decided to drive through to Alabama. Somewhere in Connecticut, a blinding snowstorm caught them. Daddy had about a five-foot visibility. He slowed the car to a crawl. They hadn't seen any other vehicles for a long time and no snowplows had come through.
Just then, his right-rear tire blew. The car jolted and thudded as the rim of the wheel took the weight. He pulled the car to the side of the road. The visibility hadn't improved and snow pelted the car. He was weak and feverish. Neither he nor Mother had any idea where they were except somewhere in Connecticut. That happened long before the day of cell phones.

Daddy had a choice: He could wait until someone came along to help—and neither of them had any idea when that would happen—or he could get out in the blizzard and change it himself.
"Sit tight," he told Mother. "I'll change it as quickly as I can."

"Let me help—"
"One of us out in the storm is enough. No sense in your getting sick. Stay inside, pray, and keep warm."
Mother was upset over the flat tire. She also felt concerned about his safety. They had heard terrible stories of people being robbed on the highway. After Daddy got out of the car, she folded her hands together, closed her eyes, and prayed, "Dear God, please help us."

No sooner had Daddy opened the trunk to take out the jack than two young men appeared.
Surprised, Daddy looked up. He had no idea where they came from and didn't see another car. His immediate reaction was, Oh, they're going to rob us. Maybe kill us.

"Hello there!" one of them called in a cheery voice.

"Sir, we'll be glad to change the tire for you."

"Thank you, but—"

"Please, get back in the car, sir," the second man said. "It's freezing out here. We'll change the tire."

Afraid to argue with them, Daddy nodded and turned back. He got inside the car.

"You haven't changed the tire already?" Mother said.

He shook his head and took her hand. She couldn't see what was going on, so Daddy explained about the two men.

"Do you think it's safe?" she asked.

"I don't know," he said. "But they don't seem bad. Besides, we don't have a choice, do we?"

Mother continued to pray.

The two men changed the tire quickly and put the jack and the flat inside the trunk. After they finished, one of them tapped on the window. Daddy lowered the window.

"It's all done, sir." He waved and they started to walk away.

"Wait! Let me pay you something."

It took a few seconds for Daddy to roll up the window and get out of the car. He looked around and couldn't see the two men.

Puzzled, he walked to the back of the car. The new tire was on but they were gone. He looked around. He couldn't see evidence that a truck or car had stopped. He turned in the direction the two men had gone.

He saw no footprints except his own.

When he got back inside the car, he explained the strange situation to my mother.

"God answered my prayer," she said. "He sent two angels."

"Do you think they were angels? Really?"

"Christmas angels," she said. "Sent by God to help us, and they left when their job was done. In the Bible, isn't that how angels did things?"

More than forty years have passed since that Christmas and my parents have told the story many, many times. Most people believe it; a few remain skeptical.
"It doesn't matter whether you believe," my mother would answer. "We know that we had a true Christmas miracle in Connecticut when two angels watched over us by changing our flat tire in the middle of a snow storm."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Win This Lovely Christmas Miracles Gift Basket

(Atlanta, GA) Many ordinary people experience Christmas miracles—those special moments during the season of giving and receiving when Christmas becomes more than just a holiday. In Christmas Miracles (St. Martin’s Press, October 2009), Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson share the stories of those who have recognized the special moments that transcend daily experience and transform their lives.

In these stories, people overcome desperate situations through a miraculous twist of fate—all during the most wonderful time of the year. A young boy sits down to read a Christmas book and discovers that his learning disability has vanished. A woman stranded in a blizzard is rescued by a mysterious stranger who she suspects is an angel. And a woman living far from home gets an answer to her prayer in the form of an unexpected gift.

Bestselling author Cecil Murphey says, “We all face discouraging times, whether it's the lack of money, being stuck on a road in a snowstorm, feeling stress, or being hungry and homeless. But God's help is available. I want readers to see that miracles do happen—sometimes simple, unexpected blessings or those that involve the supernatural. We start by asking, and in strange and wonderful ways God tiptoes into our dark nights; we experience renewed joy in life and witness God in action through people and unexpected events.”

Leave a comment for a chance to win the Christmas Miracles gift basket.
Wouldn’t you love to take home this amazing basket filled with Christmas goodies galore? This amazing gift basket contains everything you’ll need to make your Christmas holiday a success. Inside you’ll find a stocking stuffed with hard candies, kitchen towels and oven mitts, seasonal potpourri, holiday-colored candles, stuffed animals that talk, snowman candle, nutcrackers, Christmas ornaments, gift bags, gift tags, gift bows, ornament hangers, Christmas cookie cutters, a Merry Christmas doorstopper, a picture frame, Christmas cards, Santa ear muffs, and not just one, but two copies of Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson’s Christmas Miracles – one to keep and one to give away to someone special.

to be included in the drawing for the gift basket.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Photo From "A Christmas Basket" by Laurie Kolp

After exper-
iencing Christmas with one of my children in the hospital and being separated from the rest of my children as they opened their presents on Christmas morning, I have grown to appreciate the simple things during the holidays. Presents and parties are way behind God and family now. Staying focused on the true meaning of Christmas and helping others has taken precedence and because of that, I get less stressed during the Christmas season. May you all have a giving, happy, joy-of-living holiday!
~Laurie Kolp, contributing author

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Message from Cecil Murphey, Author of Christmas Miracles

"Getting excited about Christmas?" asked one of four boys who sat behind me on an Atlanta rapid-transit train.
The event took place during the second week of December and one said, "I'm going to get some cool stuff. My dad promised."
A little later, one of them said, "Christmas is the best of time of the year."

As I listened to them, I thought of that last statement that Christmas is the best time of the year. I agreed, but my reasons were different. They focused on receiving gifts. I smiled because that's a nice aspect of the special time of year.

Yet it's so much more. As a serious Christian, my thoughts focused on the origin of the holiday. In a stable two millennia earlier, a peasant woman gave birth to a baby. That infant was God's miracle gift and that child was to bless the entire world.
Look where we are now. Has it come down to nothing but giving and receiving gifts from each other? Surely there is more.

Immediately, my thoughts shifted from gifts to the significance of that special event. It was a miracle. The Bible says Mary supernaturally conceived and that made Jesus' birth a miracle. As I contemplated the word miracle, my mind flitted from one supernatural story in the Bible to another. There were so many and over thousands of years. I easily recalled healings, deliverance from certain death, victory in battle, as well as miraculous food and water supplied. In the first pages of the New Testament we read of the great miracle that God had promised for hundreds of years: the gift of the world's Savior.

The birth of Jesus is a supernatural, unexplainable event. Sometimes miracles involved the convergence of two or three separate events that cynics would call an astonishing coincidence. At other times the phenomenon happened because of the timing of two actions.

But what about today? If Christmas started with the unexplainable, did the time come when supernatural wonders ceased? Do miracles still happen? In pondering those questions, I thought about Christmas in my life and savored the memory of several Yule-season miracles in my own life. I smiled at recalling my first miracle. At a time during my childhood when we were desperately poor, I needed shoes. I asked for black. From a totally unexpected source, I received my black shoes on Christmas day. No one could have convinced me that God hadn’t provided those shoes. Yes, miracles of Christmas still occurred: I had experienced them.

As I left the rail station and walked to my car, I thought, if I've experienced wonders during this special season, surely there are others who can speak of the unexplainable at Christmas.

In that moment, the idea was born: I would invite other writers to share their miracle stories of the holy season and put them in a book. I teamed with Marley Gibson (who contributed two stories) and we edited every story to give it a unified tone. The book would be our way to proclaim divine love to a fractured, hurting world. It would also remind us that God answers prayer, even in some of the most desperate situations.

Cecil Murphey

Saturday, November 14, 2009

From contributing author Geni White

I'm doing a book signing tomorrow (Nov. 14) at a bazaar for the Camp Fire Girls. I'm really excited about this.

Every other Wed. I go to our hospital's cancer center for chemotherapy. When the beautiful postcards arrived, I gave one to every staff person there. Now they say, "We know someone famous!"

I tell them, "Not really", but now I'm always greeted by name when I arrive. SO fun.

My brother also has a story in the book, but he's shy, so he gave me half of his postcards. I've had a delightful time passing all these out.

I bought forty copies of the book and am giving one to each person who's been involved in my cancer care! What a joyful thing for me!

Thank you to Cec, to Marley and to St. Martins Press for creating such a lovely, well-written book.

Geni White, RN, MS

Contributor of 'Hunger at Christmas

Psalms 90:17 Establish the work of our hands, O Lord