Jewels in the Ashes: Blog Tour for Kathi Macias’ 12 Days of Christmas



Why I Told a Story About July in Christmas

Last year my sister in Christ/mentor/friend Kathi invited me to write a Christmas story.  The plot, she said, could be anything I chose, so long as all the action took place on a single day–my contribution would take place five days before Christmas. Kathi wrote the first story, and ten talented writers wrote the other selections in the collection. Each of our stories was released as an individual ebook, and now they have been gathered into a paperback, 12 Days of Christmas. The official release is May 29, but the book is available now. Just sayin’.

The stories are set all over the world and in different time periods, too–from Africa’s Kalahari Desert to California, from the nineteenth century to our era. The unifying theme is that each story takes place on one of the twelve days leading up to Christmas. My contribution, Yankee Doodle Christmas, is set in a farming community in California’s central valley.  The plot:

Art Historian and Los Angeles native Margot, her pastor husband Paul, and his mother, Ruth, are spending their first Christmas in Mitchell, the small town in California’s central valley they’ve been called to serve. Ruth suffers from Alzheimer’s and Margot cares for her. Eager to be accepted in the rural community, “city girl” Margot happily agreed to decorate their historic parsonage in a Nativity theme as part of the women’s club’s annual Christmas Home Tour. After all, Estelle Delsey, the stodgy old widow who has installed herself as Mitchell’s ultimate arbiter of taste and standing in the community, made it clear that the parlor display of the large pieces, hand-carved by the town’s very first pastor, was required. In her efforts to fit in, Margot even agrees to bake Mrs. Delsey’s famous butter cookies to serve during the tour. 

But when Ruth confuses Christmas with the Fourth of July, Margot must choose: Does she fulfill her promise to Mrs. Delsey or humor her mother-in-law’s confusion? With some help from Paul and from her next-door-neighbor and best friend Sue, Margot is determined to honor Mitchell’s Christmas tradition and her mother-in-law. A series of surprises punctuate the day, leading to some soul-searching and a rare rebuke from her adoring husband. By the time a surprising twist ends the remarkable day, she is reminded that when she honors God, the other details seem to work themselves out. 

If you asked me how I came up with this tale, I would tell you I don’t know. So please don’t ask me that. But if you asked me who I wrote this story for, I could give you an answer, and it would go like this:

I wrote this story for all of us who have ever worried that some unexpected wrench in the plans could ruin Christmas. It is so easy, too easy, to become caught up in pursuing the most elegantly-trimmed tree, the perfect arrangement of poinsettias on the hearth, a Christmas roast that looks like it was lifted from the pages of Bon Appetit, and the just-right gift for everyone, right down to the janitor at the kids’ school.  This story is your invitation to remember that nothing we do, or don’t do, can make Jesus be unborn unto us. 

I wrote this story for all of us who are living the heartache of dementia in our families. When illness strikes, the rest of the world doesn’t put itself on hold. No, we still celebrate Christmas and birthdays and our dogs need their vaccinations and the electric bill must be paid. Everyday life marches along even when we’re treading water in a deep, deep pool of grief.

And here’s the secret I want to share: amid the horrors and devastation of dementia, each day brings gifts and blessings. They may not be the same gifts and blessings we enjoyed before disease invaded our lives, but they are gifts and blessings nonetheless. There’s a second secret, too: We honor our loved ones when we accept the gifts and acknowledge the blessings in the midst of the hurting. 

The other eleven authors are each blogging about our collection of stories. I hope you’ll visit their blogs:

May 19 – Ruth L. Snyder

May 20 – Anne Baxter Campbell

May 21 – Marcia Lee Laycock

May 22 – Mishael Witty 

May 23 – Christine Lindsay

May 24 – Sheila Seiler Lagrand  (You’re already here!)

May 26 – Jessica Ferguson

May 27 – Kathy Bruins

May 28 – Peg Phifer

May 29 – Jeanette Hanscome

rabbit conga

21 This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.

22 It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:21-23 (KJV)


  1. Lovely to get the back story, Sheila. And curiously, I’ve never heard of any of these other bloggers – and I read a LOT of blogs. Interesting collection – such a wide world out here!

  2. I’ve gotten way too far behind on keeping up with good friends Sheila. I don’t quite know how to balance all the things required when one is trying to get a book into shape and find it a home, but I’m sad to lose touch this way. I plan to read all of your wonderful stories. Soon! I’m delighted to see you’ve written so many lovely things.

    • Linda, I’m honored to be numbered among your good friends. And that balance? It eludes all of us, I think. I know I don’t have it down pat, not by a long shot.

  3. How nice to visit here today. My church is near a VA hospital and we have a good mumber of World War II vets, but 8 passed away during the last 12 months. Many in the church service were dressed in red, white, and blue so it looked like the 4th of July. I look forward to hearing how you and God wove your story together!

    Blessings, Janice jsmithg(at)hotmail(dot)com

  4. Love this post, Sheila. I always enjoy knowing how and why someone writes a particular story. My mother has dementia. Her entire personality has changed. Sad, but in a way, lovely. You’d have to know her to understand.

    • I’m sorry, Jess. It is such a thief. I’m glad you are finding the lovely sprinkled through the sad. You have my prayers, friend.

  5. No words right now. xoxoxoxo

  6. Jackie Tessnair

    Dementia is so sad.It robs people of so much.I will keep you in my prayers.

  7. Maxie Anderson

    Hello Sheila. This was a real interesting post. Thanks. My first contact with this was with my mother’s aunt. She lived many, many years after she had it. Didn’t seem like she knew anyone. When I saw her(I had moved away) she was just a little slumped over woman sitting in her rocker. She didn’t even know we were there. Was so sad. I had spent lots of time visiting her as a teenager. She had raised my mother for about five years starting at five years old, when my grandmother died. It broke her heart to see her like this. Later my husbands grandmother got it. Once his mother went to stay a month to help her sister have some free time. The whole time she was there her mother never knew her. How heart breaking. But, she told us of many funny moments. Later in life she also had it. I visited an Uncle with it in a home. He just wanted to curl up under his covers. When my aunt got him to sit up she ask him if he remembered Maxie He said you mean Maxie Maud? So, he remembered for a moment but then wanted to lay down again. My poor mother was so afraid of getting it that she told us more than once. But GOD took her home before it ever happened. GOD bless you. Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

    • Maxie,
      Thank you for stopping by and for your comment. That’s quite a history you’ve shared. I’m honored.

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