Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: Christmas book review

What I’m Reading Christmas: Once Upon a Silent Night

What I’m Reading:
Once Upon a Silent Night

Dreams are funny things. Not the asleep in your bed kind of dreams. The what do I want to be when I grow up sort of dreams.

Dreams are goals on steroids. They’re the major goal that you meet all the minor goals to reach. And dreams have the ability to motivate you to do all sorts of things you wouldn’t otherwise consider. It’s all in hopes of finally achieving that one thing you’ve been straining to reach for who knows how long.

Dreams can also frustrate, confuse, and discourage you. “Only when you don’t reach them,” you might think. You’d be wrong.

Of course, working hard and planning every step to bring you closer to your dream only to find yourself further away than when you started is definitely a discouragement. I’m not arguing that point. But sometimes, the reality of achieving your dream isn’t what you thought it would be back when it was only an idea shining brightly in your mind.

Then, all you saw was the payoff, the prestige, or the fulfillment it would bring. When you finally succeed, the work to maintain the dream or to move to a new stage of the dream hits you squarely in the face. The dream is still sweet, but the maintenance of it can be draining. Still, you wouldn’t trade anything for chance to achieve the dream.

At least, that’s the thought that keeps Alessia Talbot warm at night in Kimberly Rae Jordan’s book Once Upon a Silent Night. I mean, it’s literally keeping her warm at night since she’s living in her car. Her dream got her kicked out of her home. When her dream didn’t immediately pan out, she ended up with a series of dead end jobs that eventually led to no place to call home except the SUV her parents gifted to her before her exile from the family.

With a low paying job, Alessia has a system worked out to provide her basic needs. She simply cannot afford an apartment. She knows she can always go back home, but it means giving up her dream of singing professionally for life as a lawyer in the family practice. She’d rather fight the cold than give in to their demands.

When a local church sign declares their building will be open 24 hours a day through the holiday season, Alessia takes the chance to warm up after her late night shift at the bar where she works. Gio has the overnight shift at the church, and his welcoming no pressure attitude frees her to come back night after night.

As these hours of warming up continues, Alessia soon warms up to Gio too. Though neither is completely open about their past, friendship is formed as they find they’re kindred spirits in many ways. The closeness they share is new for both of them, and they each battle with being attracted to the one they don’t believe they can ever have.

Gio introduces Alessia to the real meaning of Christmas while helping her reclaim a fondness for the holiday season. In the process, his support and encouragement opens Alessia up to possibilities she hasn’t considered for her life.

Even as they’re growing closer, Alessia knows she has to either give up her dream or walk away from Gio and the hope she’s found in the town of New Hope Falls. But she’s already given up so much to make her dream a reality. She’s not going to throw it away now, even if it breaks her slowly healing heart.

Fighting for our dreams is like that sometimes. We get stuck thinking the dream is the be all, end all. We have to achieve the dream no matter what we leave behind. We get so narrowly focused we can’t see God modifying the dream or changing it completely. We end up down a path God never intended us to travel.

Dreams are tricky. Sometimes they’re born out of our own desire. Other times they are God-given. How do we choose which ones to follow and which ones to leave behind? That’s the question Alessia faces in Once Upon a Silent Night.

Four Christmas Angel Rating

I give this book 3.5 Christmas Angels. (But since I don’t want to half an angel my picture still shows four). It was a good story, and I think it would have been even better if I’d read the earlier stories in the series.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, when I have to determine if a dream is mine or God-given, I start with giving it back to Him. I acknowledge to Him that my heart’s desire is whatever the thing is, but I desire His will above all else. I ask Him to keep me going forward if it is from Him, but to close doors if it isn’t a path I should take. It’s not always 100% clear, but He’s always given me little proofs of which direction I should go.

What about you? Do you have a dream you’ve had to give up things for? Was it worth it?

What I’m Reading Christmas: The Ornament Keeper

Every Christmas, when my children still lived at home, I bought a special ornament for each of my children. I tried to make the ornaments have meaning, whether it was a nod to something they enjoyed or a remembrance of a special time in their life from the year. When they moved out, they had a box of at least eighteen ornaments to take with them. While they are a practical way for my children to have a fully decorated tree when the money might not be there to purchase Christmas ornaments, I hope they are also a gateway to pleasant memories from their childhood.

Memories have power. They can paralyze us with fear, convince us to act differently than we otherwise might, and strengthen our grudges. But they don’t have to result in negative behaviors.

Remembering good ones can lift your spirits and bring hope for the future. An honest look at more difficult memories can help us see patterns in our lives we need to correct. Looking at them objectively can give us a new perspective on the events of the past and lead to freedom from the pains that try to bind us. God can use memories, even the hard ones, to bring us to forgiveness and healing.

Felicia Morgan, the main character in Eva Marie Everson’s The Ornament Keeper, doesn’t want to relive the past. As Christmas nears, her husband had moved out and celebrating the holidays isn’t an appealing option. Her children, however, have other ideas. Felicia finds herself decorating the tree with ornaments her husband has given her through the years.

Each ornament has a story, and the reader gets to relive those stories alongside Felicia. Switching between her past and present, we see the joys she’s forgotten. We stand beside her as she wanders through memories of the failures and trials still haunting her in the present. We begin to understand, along with her, how each vignette of her past has shaped how she sees herself, her husband, and her family.

And it’s these visions of Christmas past that lead Felicia through the lies she’s believed and to a place where healing can begin if only she will allow truth to change her heart.

The Ornament Keeper is far from a feel-good, light-hearted Christmas story. But it is a beautiful story of regret and remembrance that leads to the possibility of hope and healing. It’s a story that reminds us how powerful forgiveness can be in our lives, and that’s a truth we can all use more of at Christmas and throughout the years.

I give The Ornament Keeper four Christmas angels. Come back to see if it gets Five Angels and my choice for best Christmas story of the year. I’ll announce my top book a little closer to Christmas.

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