My childhood memories of Christmas are filled with such wonder and joy. My brother and I so looked forward to decorating the tree, and we even found an old book of Christmas songs and insisted a time or two that we all do that whole television family thing of sitting around singing these lovely songs while decorating and drinking hot cocoa. We didn’t have a fireplace to hang our stockings on, but my mom had these adorable little weighted puppies with hooks in their mouths that we placed on the counter edge and dangled our stockings from. Somewhere along the way, I insisted that my stocking needed a jingle bell in it and to this day that bell is in my stocking on my mantle in my own home. Well, I can’t really promise it is the exact same one, but I like to think it is. My mom wasn’t (and really still isn’t) a morning person and she always set a time for us to wake her, usually around sevenish. This was torture for us, because we couldn’t sleep. We would sneak out of our beds as soon as we were sure Santa had come and sit in the living room trembling and shivering with excitement, staring at the soft glow of Christmas lights and wondering at the empty glass of homemade eggnog and mostly gone homemade fudge. I can still close my eyes and tap into that feeling, that wonderful, innocent anticipation that I’ve never experienced in quite the same way as an adult.
As a mom now, I have a few traditions I like to continue with my children and a few new ones, like Chloe the Elf who comes every year after Thanksgiving and moves around the house in a most mysterious way. The kiddos always get Christmas Eve pajamas to put on and wake up feeling new and special in on Christmas morning, just like my brother and I did as children. This year, the kids and I are trying something new because we are still trying to find a new normal. We are camping at Grandma and Grandpa’s house Christmas Eve so we can be there to open presents and fix breakfast Christmas morning. How special this will be for all of us, in the home I grew up in with my babies and my wonderful parents. We will still open our stockings first, then our presents, and then pack up and go to my aunt’s house to celebrate with our large extended family. These days the house is overflowing with the laughter, squeals, and running feet of 15 (and one on the way, my brother and sister-in-law’s second child—yay!) children under the age of 14. It is a bit chaotic and never dull and always satisfyingly, heart-fillingly exhausting. The children open their presents and us grownups do a white elephant game, though if I was honest I don’t need any presents. The best part is seeing Christmas through my kids’ eyes and remembering that is where the magic lies.
Sara is a multi-published, award-winning author and homeschooling mother of five who writes surrounded by the beauty of East Tennessee. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from the University of Tennessee and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She is the author of the Love, Hope, and Faith Series, which includes Callum's Compass (2017), Camp Hope (2018), and Rarity Mountain (March 2019). She also has a story, “Leap of Faith,” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone. Sara finds inspiration in her faith, her family, and the beauty of nature. When she isn’t writing, you can find her reading, camping, and spending time outdoors with her family. To learn more about her and her work or to become a part of her email friend’s group, please visit www.saralfoust.com.
AMY DAWSON directs a summer camp for foster children near Briceville, Tennessee. A foster mom for the first time, her responsibilities as mother to a traumatized child bring a whole new set of challenges and joys.
But when Amy’s four-year-old foster daughter is dragged into the mountains of Royal Blue by a former employee, parenting challenges are overshadowed by a new nightmare. The Sheriff's department fails to procure viable leads, and Amy can’t sit idle. Her childhood friend and first love, JACK EVANS, returns to lend his skills as tracker. Problem is, he also stirs up romantic memories Amy would rather leave buried.
Jack struggles to let go of his past failures and prove his reliability by bringing Mattie home, but fears when he left camp nineteen years ago and failed to keep a promise to Amy he permanently lost her confidence.
As Amy plunges into the wilderness on horseback to search for Mattie, she must decide who she trusts, let go of her childhood traumas, and learn to rely on hope in God. Facing dehydration, starvation, and a convoluted kidnapper, will she succeed in recovering her precious foster daughter or get lost in the vast wilderness forever?
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