Tag Archives: gifts

Another Christmas Gift (And no, it’s not writing opps!)

From the Manger to the CrossMerry Christmas, writing friends! What a joy to hear Christmas music during this special season, reminding me that yes, an innocent, helpless Baby came, but He grew to be our Sacrifice, and was raised from the dead to be our Savior! Oh, what a Savior!

And since I know everyone’s running around trying to get everything done (and NOBODY is interested in studying writing opps!), I thought I’d share another of my Christmas favorites with you today. Here’s another video I’ve shared the past several years, and I never grow tired of it!

This video was shot several years ago at my daughter’s church, North Point Community Church, as their praise band used iPads and iPhones to deliver a special gift of music to their church family.

It’s my gift to you, and isn’t it a fun, creative way to celebrate this season of joy? But in all the fun and excitement, let’s be sure to remember the greatest Gift of all…the Gift who was also the Giver…the One we celebrate all year long.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 6:9

I pray God’s blessing as we celebrate the Gift and the Giver,

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Angie Martin & Operation Birthday Celebration

Angie Martin headshotIt’s the 4th Tuesday, and that means it’s book-give-away day! But today is especially special since we’re also looking ahead to Christmas for the kids!

Friends, what an honor it is to introduce Angie Martin to you today. Angie and I met at a writer’s conference and I was immediately impressed with her work. My goodness, just wait until you see what she has available for you and the children in your family!

Are you like me and hesitant to add another secular focus to the Christmas season? Then you’re exactly the kind of person who needs to meet Angie Martin and get to know her materials! Be sure to read her bio below, but for now, just trust me that this is something you want for kids in your realm of influence.

Be sure to leave a comment for Angie and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book! Don’t forget to check back next week to see if you’re the winner.

Okay, let’s get started. Angie, I’m going to state the obvious. It’s September, not December. Why are we talking about a children’s Christmas storybook now?

Operation Birthday Celebration—A Journey to the Manger is a storybook with interactive features. Jesse, a shepherd-drummer boy, and his feisty lamb, Bongo, are part of a drummer squad whisked away by the desert wind from Bethlehem on a special Christmas adventure—leading families to the manger andAngie Martin book photo the true meaning of the season. These adorable characters must be hand-crafted to “come to life” in time for their visit in December. Now is the perfect time to order! The storybook comes with instructions for crafting the character dolls (which could be as easy as repurposing dolls already available). An “Assignment Manual” suggests activities and teaching moments for twenty-five days, ending with a birthday celebration for baby Jesus. Because each book is personalized with the child’s (or children’s) name, city and state, deadline for ordering books is November 16 to ensure delivery by December 1.

This is such a great idea! What inspired you to write such a book?

The idea for Operation Birthday Celebration came during a conversation with my daughter. She and her husband had decided not to facilitate the Santa fantasy in their home, rather focusing on the birth of Jesus. Many of her mommy-friends posted on social media about family fun involving a popular secular children’s book and activities featuring a magical elf. Feeling sad that her two young sons were missing out, she said, “Mom, it’s just not fair!” She vented a frustration of many Christians living in a media-saturated world with strong secular influences. They’ve bought into the misconception that the “world” has captured the corner market on entertainment and believers are missing out. I wanted my grandsons to enjoy the holiday fun, but my main motivation for the book was to affirm our identity as children of God. He’s the Master Creator and since we’re created in His image, He endows us with the gift of creativity. We should be setting the standard for entertainment! I felt commissioned to create a faith-based alternative to that popular elf. What a surprise that God allowed me not only to write the story but also to illustrate the book!

Angie Martin book pageWhy do you think Operation Birthday Celebration is a better choice for Christian families?

Christian parents want creative resources that capture a child’s imagination and fuel curiosity while staying true to biblical teaching. Operation Birthday Celebration is entertaining while supporting Christian values and doctrine. Children enjoy the characters Jesse and Bongo as they learn about the birth of Jesus. Crafts and service projects help grow their faith and love for God’s Word. Although the book is designed for ages three to nine, older siblings can join the fun by crafting the Jesse and Bongo dolls and leading the daily adventures for the younger ones. Grandparents also love participating.

What’s in store for Jesse and Bongo in the future?

Initially, I conceived the story and characters as a gift to my grandsons. But writing colleagues believed Jesse and Bongo would be welcome in many more homes and encouraged me to consider a wider Angie Martin photo OBCaudience. I introduced the book and characters to a dozen test families, whose enthusiasm confirmed the book’s appeal and purpose. Through social media they connected and shared holiday excitement and fun. God is able to do more than we can ask or imagine—and Operation Birthday Celebration is making its public debut! Besides enriching family life during the Christmas season, this innovative educational tool is useful for children’s ministry leaders, Sunday School teachers, Christian pre-school and elementary school teachers, childcare providers, and the Christian home-school community. Anyone involved with the developmental growth of young children will appreciate this creative approach that brings Scripture to life and presents on a child’s level such concepts as sin, a need for a Savior, God’s grace, and the perfect gift of His Son Jesus. Wondering what’s next for Jesse and Bongo? New adventures are on the drawing board!

Angie Martin Jesse&BongoThis is exciting, Angie! Where can we get Operation Birthday Celebration?

Please visit www.JesseAndBongo.com. A little drummer boy and his spirited lamb are eager to make friends with you!

Oh, Angie, what a joy to hear more about your interactive book and products. And although my grandkids are teenagers and have outgrown such a gift, I know of other little ones who would love to have their own adventures with Jesse and Bongo! Thank you for working so hard to help parents teach their little ones the true meaning of Christmas!

And friends, remember to leave a comment and then come back next week to see if you’re the winner. What an awesome gift for the kids on your Christmas list this year!

Grace and peace,


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Writer’s Headlines: Writing Opps, Conferences and Contests


(Vonda here: I’m sorry for the delay in today’s post. My internet has been down since yesterday and I’m just now up and running again. Hope like all the opportunities I found for you!)

Hello, Christian Writer’s Den friends! This is our big opportunities issue, so let’s see if we can help you get published! Let’s start with writing opportunities compiled just for you!

1.  Miraculous Answers to Prayer anthology
This new anthology by James Stuart Bell is looking for your stories. Here are the Miraculous Answers to Prayer Guidelines. But you must hurry–Deadline is now December 1, 2015.

2.  Adoptive Families Magazine
Adoptive Families is the leading information resource for families before, during, and after adoption.

3.  Blue Mountain Arts Greeting Cards
Seeks contemporary prose or poetry written from personal experience that reflects the thoughts and feelings people today want to communicate to one another, but don’t always know how to put into words. Does not need rhymed poetry, religious verse, one-liners or humor. Pays $300 for all rights and $50 for one-time rights for a book use.

4.  Colorado Central Magazine
To put our guidelines in a nutshell: We publish material we like to read about the area we live in. We’re not interested in it if it’s routine and boring, or if it’s not about this area. We serve Central Colorado and the San Luis Valley. On a map, that’s a swath from Leadville and Fairplay south to the New Mexico line. It’s the counties of Alamosa, Chaffee, Conejos, Costilla, Custer, Lake, Mineral, Rio Grande, and Saguache, along with the adjacent parts of Fremont, Gunnison, Huerfano and Park counties.

5.  Eating Well Magazine
EatingWell is the only national food magazine that focuses exclusively on eating healthfully (our motto: “Where Good Taste Meets Good Health”). We are the preeminent magazine resource for people who want to enjoy food that is delicious and good for them.

6.  Alaska Magazine Submission Guidelines for Freelance Writers

7.  The Cattleman Magazine – Guidelines for Writing for The Cattleman

8.  Better Homes and Gardens writers guidelines

9.  Backpacker Magazine guidelines

10. Southern Writers Magazine guidelines

Remember to follow the guidelines carefully and then let us celebrate with you when you have a publication!


If you’re serious about writing and/or speaking, you’ll be serious about attending conferences. Here are some awesome conferences you don’t want to miss!WritersBootcamp2016 logo

1. Weekend with the Writers: January 29-30, 2016, Greenville, SC

2. Writers Advance Boot Camp: February 19-21, 2016, Asheville, NC Scholarship deadline October 31, 2015 (I’ll see you there!)

3. Florida Christian Writers Conference: February 24-28, 2016, Leesburg, FL

4. Carolina Christian Writers Conference: March 11-12, 2016, Spartanburg, SC

5. Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference: March 18-22, 2016, Mount Hermon, CA

6. Mid-South Christian Writers Conference: March 19, 2016, Colliersville, TN

7. American Christian Writers Mentoring Retreats begin in April: Various locations and dates

brmcwc 20168. Write2Ignite for Writers of Children’s Literature: April 1-2, 2016, Tigerville, SC

9. Colorado Christian Writers Conference: May 11-14, 2016, Estes Park, CO

10. Northwest Christian Writers Renewal: May 13-14, 2016, Redmond, WA

11. Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference: May 22-26, 2016, Ridgecrest, NC (I’ll see you there! Watch for details coming soon!)

12. Write to Publish: June 8-11, 2016, Chicago area

13. West Virginia Writers Conference: June 10-12, 2016, Ripley, WV

14. New England Christian Writers Retreat: June 17-19, 2016, Hamilton, MA

15. Christian Communicators Conference: Hold the date! August 24-28, 2016, The Billy Graham Trainingccclogosmall Center at The Cove, Asheville, NC. Registration will open in early spring. (I’ll see you there!)

16. St. David’s Christian Writers Conference: June 22-26, 2016, Grove City, PA


And here are some writing contests you’ll want to look into…

1.  The Amy Awards for Christian-related pieces published in secular publications. Deadline January 15, 2016

2.  Fresh Voices Writing Contest is now open for submissions – Deadline December 31, 2015

3.  Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Contest – Deadline December 14, 2015

4.  The Anagram Holiday Short Fiction ContestDeadline December 19, 2015

5.  NeoVerse Short Story Writing CompetitionDeadline December 20, 2015

Red Sale Bag pixabay~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Need some help with your Christmas list? I can help!

Yep, it’s time for my buy-one-get-one-half-price Christmas sale! That’s right, buy any product in my store and you’ll get the second item for half-price!

But here’s the catch: You’ll need to order it directly from me by email, or PayPal will charge you the full price! So, head on over to my store and decide what you’d like and who you’d like to have it personalize it to, and then contact me with your order. I’ll get in touch and you can either pay by check or by credit card. DO NOT ORDER THROUGH REGULAR PAYPAL or you won’t get the discount!

Whether you need downloadable writing workshops or books for kids or women, this sale is for you!


So that should keep you busy for a while. Don’t forget to let us know when you get that publication. We’ll want to celebrate with you.

Happy writing!


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Parting Words From The WORD: At Least I’m Better Than Her

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Happy Friday, my friends! As you can see, I’m starting a new title for our Friday gathering around God’s Word. It dawned on me that perhaps I should at least give you a glimpse into what I’m thinking and the direction I’m going with the day’s Word.

Today, I’m so excited to share what God showed me one morning this week during my Bible study time. You know those moments when you’ve read a verse a hundred times during your life, and yet God suddenly shows you something new? Well, I had one of those moments this week.

I had started Judy Huitt’s Bible study Our Beloved, Our Friend a couple of months ago, but had to put it aside while we did a church-wide Bible study by Rick Warren, 40 Days in the Word. We finished a few weeks ago and I was thrilled to back to Judy’s study for the last few days of Our Beloved, Our Friend. On Tuesday this week, I turned to her last lesson, “Do You Love Me?”

Before I even looked at the references, I knew immediately at least one passage would most likely include the John 21 story of Jesus’ conversation with Peter after His resurrection, where He talked about feeding His sheep.

If you recall, three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him and three times Peter said “Lord, you know that I love you.”

Each time after Peter said he did love Him, Jesus responded with a command.”…Feed my lambs…” “…Take care of my sheep…” “…Feed my sheep…” And He ended it by saying, “Follow me!”

To me, it was a familiar, comforting story of Jesus’ desire for and command to each of us as Christ followers to live and love as He did.

But what caught my eye–and challenged my heart–was the rest of the story:

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?“ Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” John 21:20-22 (NIV)

“What is that to you? You must follow me.”

Jesus was saying, “What business is that of yours, Peter? You concentrate on what I’ve called you to do and I’ll deal with what I’ve called John to do.”

When we compare our successes and our failures with others…when we watch as spiritual leaders fall, and thank Him that we’re not like them…when we ourselves fall, and ask Him to make us like the stars of Christiandom…He asks, “What does her life have to do with yours?”

Jesus is simply telling me to follow Him and His example…and He’ll deal with my brothers and sisters, whether they rise or fall, whether they obey or not. My responsibility is to focus on my own heart and my own relationship with Him.

Then the Lord blew me away with another application of this passage. Some of you know that I have a lost brother who is not only lost, but fully antagonist to the Gospel of Christ. I’ve struggled for years as I’ve talked with him about the Lord. No matter how clearly I try to explain it, he can’t see beyond me and my past sin. Regardless of how passionately I deliver the gift of grace, he continues to point to my failures as blatant hypocrisy that he wants no part of.

The truth is, he can’t get to Jesus because he can’t get past me.

Now I know that the next time I have a chance to point to Christ as the only way to salvation and he points to my sin instead, I can take him to the words of Jesus: “What is that to you? Your relationship with Me has nothing to do with Vonda. You get yourself right with Me…and let Me deal with her.”

And praise God, He deals with me with a scarred hand of grace…instead of what I deserve.

That’s what I want for my brother.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,


(Laughing Jesus image art courtesy of RobertWilsonFineArt.com)

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Parting Words From The WORD…

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

I love how God shows us stuff from His word and then allows us to encourage others with the very thing He’s just shown to us!

Our church is currently doing Rick Warren’s 40 Days in the Word: Love the Word. Learn the Word. Live the Word. In my quiet time this week, I was reading the miracle of the loaves and fishes again. Each week’s lesson uses a different technique for memorization, understanding, and application of the Word. This week’s technique instructs us to read a specific passage of scripture, insert ourselves in the story as various characters, and then envision the story as a movie we’re in. (I love that part since that’s one of the ways I teach writing!)

Then it asks how the passage applies to our lives, and what are we–what am I–going to do about it.

I envisioned myself as the little boy with the lunch. I had the lunch that day only because my mom had made it for me. Nothing I did created the miracle.

At that point, I realized that even though the little boy was a huge part of the story, he was only a conduit for the delivery of the miracle. He wasn’t responsible for feeding all those people. He was only responsible for giving to Jesus what had been given to him.

The truth is, Jesus could have done that miracle with the lunch or without it. But He chose to use that little boy to make it happen.

Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. Mark 6:41 (NIV)

What a great reminder to all of us as speakers and writers! We all have gifts and talents. Not because of anything we did, but because they were given to us, just as the lunch was given to the little boy.

It’s our responsibility to turn around and give them back to Him to use as He sees fit. And, like with the loaves and fishes, Jesus can use us as conduits for the delivery of miracles.

What miracle might He do with our paltry gift offerings? Those things that were given to us?

We don’t know. All we know is that we’re to be prepared, go, and give…and He’ll take care of the rest!

Now what are we going to do about it?

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,


(Image art courtesy of Robert Wilson Fine Art)

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Parting Words From The WORD…

Photo courtesy of ChristianPhotos.net

What’s your gift?

Can you sing? Write? Act?

Are you an organizer? Decorator? Cook?

Good at teaching, evangelizing, or prophesying?

I don’t know what each one here is good at, but I do know this: Each of us has been given at least one gift. Now the question is, what are we going to do with it?

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others,
faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10 NIV

During this next week, let’s look for opportunities to serve others through our gifts, whatever they may be. By doing so, others will see God’s grace through us. And lives can be changed forever.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,


(Photo courtesy of ChristianPhotos.net)


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Parting Words From The WORD…

Photo courtesy of ChristianPhotos.net

I might not be able to decorate a house, but I make a pretty good pot of homemade vegetable beef soup.

My skill at organization? Not so hot. But my ability to make people laugh? Yea, I can do that.

I can’t create a musical masterpiece…but I can write a story that could change a life.

What about you? Are you good at building dog houses? Organizing birthday parties? Teaching God’s Word?

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others,
faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.
If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides,
so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.
To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.  I Peter 4:10-11

How are you using your gifts to help others today?

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,


(Photo courtesy of ChristianPhotos.net)

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Parting Words From The WORD…

Photo courtesy of ChristianPhotos.net

In this achievement-oriented world, it’s easy to get caught up in the accomplishment, in the doing of the good thing. I have to admit, I sometimes come to the end of the day and recount all the good things I did for Him. I sometimes equate the sacrifice of time and money and giftings as evidence of my stand with Christ. It’s a fragile stand.

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Christmas Chaos? Check Out Mary’s First Christmas

Courtesy of Evan Courtney

Let’s face it, we usually have an expectation of how Christmas must look, sound, feel, smell, and taste. The trees…the decorations…the gifts…the baking…the parties…the cards…the wardrobe…the lights. ARRGGGGHHHHHHH! Who can find time for it all?

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