15 Fabulous CHRISTmas Story Books!

There’s something amazingly wonderful about the Advent season. The anticipation leading up to Christmas is so exciting and I love how my daughter is old enough to start getting into the “Christmas spirit!”

To help her realize what this season is all about, we don’t do Elf on the Shelf or visits to Santa. We talk about Jesus—his birth, the angels visiting the shepherds, the journey to Bethlehem, the promise of God fulfilled on that peaceful night in the town of David.


I’ve shared before about our Advent calendar with its passages and ornaments for her little Christmas tree. This time I’ve compiled a list of our favorite CHRISTmas picture books—ones that keep the focus on Jesus, the true reason for the season. Reading to your child every day is so important for their development and incorporating CHRISTmas themed picture and board books into the mix is so much fun. We’ve even wrapped a few new ones up for Laura to open on the Wednesdays leading up to Christmas!

So take a peek. Add some to your Christmas list. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

20131202_131230 The Story of Christmas by Patricia A. Pingry, illustrated by Rebecca Thornburgh

This board book is so simple that it’s perfect for introducing Advent and Jesus’ birth to toddlers and infants. The pictures keep the littles’ attention and it’s just a short 22 pages so it’s just long enough to tell the story—short and sweet.

20131202_131317 Bright Star, Bright Star by Cassandre Maxwell

This picture book is wonderfully repetitive which is awesome for literacy development in young children. I especially like how this story begins with the Wise Men being far away and stays more true to the belief that they arrived much later than the actual day of Jesus’ birth. It’s easy for littles to follow along and be able to eventually say it with you. This is by far one of the most adaptable for a little children’s Christmas program at your church or school, too!

20131202_131303  This is the Stable by Cynthia Cotton, illustrated by Delana Bettoli

Of all of the Christmas picture books we have, this is by far my favorite. The pictures are stunning, filling the pages with beautiful colors and details. The mesmerizing display of the angels singing to the shepherds in the fields is one that sticks with me each year. It really takes you away to that stable, far, far away.

20131202_131134  The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Jago

This children’s bible is truly like no other that I’ve read. It seamlessly weaves the story of God’s plan of salvation in Jesus throughout each and every story. I’ve never recommended a book as often and with such great reactions upon purchasing as this book. If you buy the deluxe edition it comes with the entire book on cd read in such a captivating way. It’s truly one of a kind. I cannot adequately describe how much I LOVE this children’s bible!

Below I’ve posted titles and amazon links for as many of our CHRIStmas themed children’s books as I could find. I hope you’ll add some to your collection this Advent season as we all get ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior!

Christ the Savior is Born by Tim Wesemann 

What Star is This? by Joseph Slate

An Angel Came to Nazareth by Anthony Knott

No Room at the Inn: The Nativity Story by Jean M. Malone

The First Night by B.G.Hennessy

On This Special Night by Claire Freedman and Simon Mendez

Who Is Coming to Our House? by Joseph Slate & Ashley Wolfe

Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown

Away in a Manger-Thomas Kinkade Studios

A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schulz

The Very First Christmas by Paul L. Maier

***If you have a favorite CHRISTmas children’s book, please let me know! I’d love to check out more books! Post it in the comments below!***


What Makes My Day

It’s one of those days. You know the kind…long, tiring, dragging. I’ve got just a head cold & am just wiped out.

Today is one of those days that Satan gets the better of me far too much. I snap. I’m quick to anger. I’m disappointing.

But God in his goodness gives me little gifts even on days like today. Reminders of his grace and love.

I just got one of those beautiful little moments.

My daughter heard the beep of a loud car horn and shouts, “They’re going to school! Learn about Jesus! He died on the cross! Is alive again!!”

Yes. There it is. Out of the mouth of babes. Even with her broken little two year old words, she speaks the truth.

My toddler reminded me of Jesus.

Made. My. Day.

What made your day today?

New Name, New Purpose

It’s been a while, friends, but I’m back…and with some changes!

Take a peak. Notice anything new?

Yup, new name…not that the Giggles from Giggles & Goodness are no longer but this blog and my writing is starting to find a purpose.  The move into mommyhood was not the most, ahem, natural change for me. I lost my way, lost my mind a little, and found myself floundering.

But…there was one calm in the storm. A refuge. A strength. A Savior.

Jesus never left me. Even when I turned everywhere, searching for the way to be a mother, He stayed. And by His GRACE brought me back, and does day after day,

So this blog has a purpose now. To share my stories through the eyes of faith. To share my days as a Christian mommy in an unChristian world.

To grow in His grace.

I hope you join me…

For some insight into where I’ve been and what’s kept me from writing for so long, check out Building on the Rock on Bread for Beggars. 

Getting to the Root of My Funk

Ever feel like you just can’t win? That people are out to burst every bubble you’ve got? I definitely got that going on lately. The beginning of May is always hard for me and this year is no different. I take things personally that I normally wouldn’t. I am doubly sensitive and can’t take a joke. I sinfully tend to assume the worst of people’s intentions. I am hoping that by letting it out, the funk will dissipate. 

I hate, and I mean to use the strong word “hate”, feeling like this. I know that I’m overly sensitive. I don’t blame myself for that…I sadly blame my dad. He’s not here so he’s the safest one to blame 😉 He kind of ruined the end of April/beginning of May for me. Sadness and feeling just “blah” rule my May days until something gives. I about bit the head off of two friends today for the smallest of things. Sigh…I don’t like this at all.

This year I’m pretty sure there’s something more in the mix. In just two weeks I will be done teaching for an unknown amount of time. I’m going to stay at home (gulp!) with LL full time. I know in my heart I want nothing more than to be here with her. I fully believe at this point that home is where God is leading me. But here’s the sad part…the secret I’ve been harboring—I don’t really like teaching anymore. Honestly I never thought it would be like that. I LOVED teaching for 8 years. I loved the challenges & the triumphs, the students, and even their parents! But…somehow I’ve lost that. I almost feel like I am grieving the loss of my love of teaching. Ok, when I actually read that I realize how truly melodramatic it may seem but it’s true. I am sad that I don’t love teaching anymore. I’m going to miss my ECC staff more than words can express. I have the world’s most amazing boss and coworkers who are good friends. Some of them have seen the good, bad, and ugly over the last 3 May’s and have stuck by my side no matter what. I will miss seeing them so much. But what I miss the most already is the drive and inspiring love of teaching that I used to have. I really hope I get it back some day.

So I’m going to make a list. Yup, hubs, another list. 🙂 It’s a list of what I loved about teaching. Focus on the good times and what I will cherish from my first round of teaching in my life.

Treasures from Teaching
  • Easily and hands down most important to me: I was blessed to share the love of Jesus openly with my students for 8 straight years.
  • Seeing the “aha” moments so many times. That split second moment when something new clicks for a student.
  • Getting to know my students deep down. They let me in on their sacred secrets and trusted me wholeheartedly. That one I’ll miss for sure.
  • Hugs…lots and lots of hugs. Somehow as much as I knew when my little ones needed hugs, they knew even more when I needed them.
  • Assessments…you don’t believe me, do you? But yup, I love ’em. I loved seeing where a student started and how far I was able to help them go. Yes, assessments made me see the challenges, sometimes HUGE challenges that were ahead of us, but then the reward was so much sweeter when they met their goals.
  • Support and love from the BEST of coworkers and colleagues in both schools where I taught. I wouldn’t have survived without them.
  • Routine and structure…yes, I’m anal retentive and will probably create a weekly schedule for LL and me. School gave me a way to hold myself accountable. I have this much work to accomplish in X amount of hours and days…LOVED that.
  • God was able to knock me down and build me right back up through these 8 years. With every difficult student situation and every time I couldn’t do more…He made me realize it wasn’t ever about me. He provided the grace to cover my mistakes…the times I couldn’t get through to that certain student, the times I couldn’t take them out of the horrible home lives, the times I simply wasn’t what they needed. God’s grace is all sufficient.

This list helped me realize something: I do love teaching. I will miss teaching. And that’s okay. God has blessed me beyond measure through these 8 years as a teacher. He’s taught me far more than I could ever teach a child. I am going to miss it. And oddly, that’s really good to know.

3 Years and Counting…

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes on not on what is seen but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

May 3rd. Here we go again. 3 years on the 3rd. The first anniversary of my dad’s entering heaven was almost a breath of fresh air, like I could finally start moving forward after a year of hellish sadness. The second anniversary was bearable, sad but far better than anything in year one. Now, the third anniversary is here and I’m just plain sad. 

This year is the first with my daughter-and he’s not here. I know with unwavering faith that my dad is walking with our Savior Jesus in heaven. There is not a shred of doubt in my mind that he is not suffering anymore. I am still amazed at God’s mercy and goodness is taking my father home to heaven when He did. Because of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection I can confidently say that my dad is rejoicing at his Savior’s side. 

Yet I am still sad. I’m sad that Laura will never know her Papi. He’s not here to hold her hands. He’s not here to laugh with her. He’s not here to adore her. He’s not here to love her. He’s not here to watch her grow in God’s grace & goodness. He’s not here to see me be a mommy.

Deep breath, Katie. He’s not here. Sometimes it is still so hard incredibly hard to believe. He was always there for me. Gosh, I miss him.

Now more than ever I need to refocus. I have to turn to the cross otherwise sadness wins in the next few days especially. Here is my new mantra:

So we fix our eyes on not on what is see but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

What is eternal is that Jesus lives. What is eternal is that He has washed away our sins. What is eternal is that my dad is no longer suffering. What is eternal is that Laura will know Jesus & her Papi in heaven someday. What is eternal is that Jesus never leaves nor forsakes us. What is eternal is that no matter how sad I rightfully feel, my joy will be infinitely greater when I meet Jesus. What is eternal is God’s grace & goodness. 

Ugh Days

It’s been one of those days. I’m sure you know the type. A blah day. An ugh day. A day for which you wish you could call “do over.” Well, that is if you’re at all like me. I am a die hard “I can do it myself” person. My attitude gets so skewed that I even kind of resent people who offer help as if they’re saying I can’t do something on my own. Well today was one of those days. Trying to control everything around me…all day long. And what do I have to show for it? Nothing but disappointment & exhaustion. 

I try telling myself that if I didn’t care so much or love so much, I wouldn’t try to make everything right and good. But sometimes, when it boils down to it, there’s no reason other than a loss of focus. Satan’s pretty sneaky & quick to find the diversion away from Christ that I fall for every time. You’d think by now I’d be on guard enough to see it coming…maybe not stop it but at least see that wicked train coming. Nope. Fail. Every. Time.

Well at least there is a big fat goodness moment waiting for me. My crap day that I’ve created for myself can be turned around and only by the grace of God. His Son, Jesus, took my self-centered, know-it-all attitude and nailed it to the cross so I wouldn’t need to be in control. Jesus gives me the gift of being able to say that I can stop, breathe, relax, and give it up to Him. What better place to lay all my worries, disappointments, & frustrations? Not one that I can think of. 

So since I took a big dump on my day, I am going to smack my forehead and have a duh moment. I am going to stop & realize that today is done & be thankful for that. I am going to praise God that He knows what’s best and I don’t have to have all the answers. I’m going to trust fully in the promise that He gives us in Jeremiah 29:

11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Grief then Happiness and Eventually Clarity

“Grief. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.”–C.S. Lewis

I know a bit about grief. I know a lot about happiness. In my mere 30 years I’ve experienced quite a bit…much more than most people will ever know. I’ve been so sad that I literally couldn’t pick myself up off of the floor. I’ve been immobilized with fear. I’ve been in the depths. I’m an emotional person. I always have been just didn’t always think it was okay to show it. I’ve watched as my dad’s heart monitor count down from 22 to 8 to 0. I’ve shook and been unable to speak when postpartum depression grasped so tightly on my mind and heart that my ever so strong husband was afraid to leave me alone. I’ve been through some things…some big things…some major grief causing things. 

There were so many times when my sinful mind would doubt that God knew what I was going through. When I would ask how He could let these things happen. I have actually cried aloud much as I picture King David did when writing some of the Psalms. I’ve been there. In total agony and unsure that God cared enough about me to bring me out of the depths.

But just as surely as I was in the depths, He lifted me up. He renewed me. He took me from being unable to see & think clearly and gave me clarity & strength. He healed my heart and mind. I still can’t describe how He did it. I am amazed every day that I can actually be wholeheartedly happy. I am sure He used certain people in my life, certain medical interventions, certain therapists, and especially certain family members. But there is still that part of me that knows there was more on my side than I will ever be able to comprehend. I kind of love that. I love that He is so much greater and in so much more control than I can imagine.

I believe that God brought me through those things so strongly so that I can give Him glory and help others struggling with what I have been through. I’ve talked with many friends who have had parents die young. I’ve been able to cry with them & comfort them because I’ve been there and now I’m past there

I have somewhat taken up “a cause” though I despise that cliche. When I was struggling to breastfeed my sweet LL, I felt alone and like a failure. Everything you hear from pediatricians & read online about infant feeding alludes to formula feeding as second rate. I won’t waste time rehashing the truly mortifying & horrendous things people said and shared while I was struggling. There’s no use here….I’m healed. I’m out of the depths. But my cause is this: I believe that by sharing stories and information about the benefits & amazing blessing that formula can be, I am helping others who are secretly tormented & suffering because of the often self-imposed guilt that can come from the need or choice to formula feed. I know firsthand what the “breast is best” mantra can do to a wavering faith and struggling soul. I’ve made it my self-appointed mission to try to reach & comfort any woman who might be in the same place I was 8 months ago. I can do this confidently because I’ve been brought out of the depths. I’ve been made whole again by God’s sheer grace & mercy. I can’t imagine a more UNChristian thing to do than sit idly by while someone I know is struggling with these same feelings. 

Some may say that I need to get over it…I am–others are not. Some may say I am still hurting…I am not–others still are. Some may be annoyed… eh, I’m sure there are many things I do on a daily basis that are annoying. Some may say I need to get my priorities straight & leave this behind me (yup, I’ve heard that one straight away). I can’t. Not in good conscience. Not while others are still grieving. Yes, grieving. Brings it back to the beginning. For me, not being able to breastfeed my daughter turned in PPD which caused grief. I grieved the loss of being able to do something that is supposed to be natural & biological. I grieved the loss of a supposed unspeakably close relationship with my child (yeah, that one’s a myth, too.). I grieved the loss of control over the most basic of mothering skills…feeding a child.

Grief gives way to happiness. I can say that for certain because I have lived it. In my life I have seen how the greater the grief, the greater the happiness when the grief is lifted. So after a long & hard half of a year, I can say I’ve had my vision. I know what I can do to help. I see a purpose for what I’ve been through…to praise God for His strength & mercy, forgiveness & grace…and to help others. I get the amazing privilege of being an advocate, a shoulder to cry on, and a source of strength for the struggling. My hope & prayer is that people close to me can understand why I’m doing what I’m doing. My hope & prayer is that they see past me and see how God has rejuvenated and restored me. My hope & prayer is that I can always see the goodness & blessings that come from struggles & trials.

“‘Yes,’ she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, ‘I have had my vision.'”–Virginia Woolf–To the Lighthouse

“Stay the course, daughter. And show yourself some kindness along the way.”–Loving Frank

Things change…a lot!

If you would have asked me two years ago what my life would look like as a mommy, I’d tell you that I would be a working mom and completely confident in that fact. I’d tell you that I’d be a breastfeeding mom. I’d tell you that I would be managing all of it beautifully. 

Well, things change.

After Laura was born I couldn’t breastfeed. I tried…to the point of losing my mind, literally. A month after Laura was born I was diagnosed with severe Postpartum Depression. We even had to fly my mom, Grandma Debbers, back down because I could not get out of bed, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t stop the irrational anxiety-ridden thoughts. Never in my life had I felt so helpless and crazy. I’ve had issues I’ve dealt with in counseling but never to the point where I needed medication. This was an entirely different ballgame…things change. Going back to work was a necessity for me, not for financial reasons, but for my mental health. Some may never understand that but I firmly believe it had to happen. I needed to have something familiar and tangible that engaged the part of my brain that was solid, my academic side. I’m so eternally grateful for my part time job as a preschool teacher. It was one of the things that brought me out of the depths and I believe God put that job there for that reason.

Fast forward eight months. I am weaning off my meds and feel phenomenal. Back to my grounded, confident, non-anxiety-ridden self! Things change. I have told my wonderful preschool that I won’t be returning next school year. The very thought that used to make me sweat, unable to move or speak, has now become the only thing I want to do…stay at home with my sweet Laura-love. I, Katie Visaggio, will be a stay at home mom starting in June. Things change. I cannot wait for days at home playing, going on walks and to the park, battling my stubborn Mini-Me LL on the daily things I am sure we will “disagree” on, and cooking dinners, yes, even cooking dinners! THINGS CHANGE! 😉 

I have changed. I become the gentler, softer person I’ve always prayed to be. (Ok, I still have my snarky, quick-mouthed, stubborn side but at least it’s taken a back seat! Baby steps, people, baby steps!) My goals have shifted. Yes I still want to teach elementary school and finish my Masters degree but the priority is being there for my daughter, spending time with her, and watching her grow in God’s grace.

I can grow and change and shift without fear or caution as I have this year because of my never-changing, ever-constant God & Savior. He carried me. He put my amazing support system in place. He gave me the earthly tools possible to climb out of the depths and become the stronger, gentler, more confident Katie I am today. He never leaves or forsakes. He plans and directs things for my prosperity to His glory. I want to be a good stay at home mom out of thanks for the fact that He saved me eternally & blessed me with this incredible responsibility of motherhood. 

Things change. Jesus remains. Goodness…all goodness.

_________ versus _________

I’ve learned in a very short time how many decisions a parent needs to make. For the past year+, the hubs and I have been bombarded with information, opinions, books & articles from experts, nudges from well-meaning family & friends…enough to give me an ulcer, make my head spin, & literally cause me practically a nervous breakdown at the same time. Here’s the short list of the things that we as first time parents have “had” to think about:

  • obstetrician or midwife
  • hospital, birth center, or home birth
  • find out the sex or let it be a surprise
  • natural birth or epidural
  • breastfeeding, formula feeding, or combo
  • get LL vaccinated or wait and see
  • co-sleeping or bassinet & crib
  • no cry or cry it out sleep training
  • baby-wearing or allow LL independence
  • stay at home mommy or working mommy
  • in-home babysitter, small daycare, or larger center
  • disposable or cloth diapers
  • rice cereal or oatmeal
  • pureed foods or baby-led weaning
  • homemade baby food or store bought
  • conventional or natural & alternative remedies for LL’s ears

And those are only the items I can list at this moment! For the longest time I agonized over these decisions….until the other day at LL’s 9th pediatrician appointment in 6 weeks. She had just received her second of three horribly painful Rocephin injections in an attempt to beat this awful, seemingly never-ending double ear infection. I was emotionally, mentally, & physically drained and was pleading for her to be better. But, she needed yet another injection. I fought back tears as my sweet baby girl was holding her breath in pain & then let out a wail that still causes me to cringe & choke up when I think about it. I couldn’t think of anything to soothe her. No matter what I tried I felt helpless as she just screamed in agony. By God’s grace I began singing “Jesus Loves Me,” the KV version:

Jesus loves you this I know
for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
they are weak but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves you!
Yes, Jesus loves you!
Yes, Jesus loves you…the Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves you, He who died
heaven’s gates to open wide.
He has washed away your sin
letting little Laura in.
Yes, Jesus loves you!
Yes, Jesus loves you!
Yes, Jesus loves you…the Bible tells me so.

Amazingly she calmed almost instantly & began to smile. I could have cried for joy. A few days later as the hubs (& in my opinion the best daddy around!) was singing the same song to LL, he leaned over and said: “and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

In that single moment I realized that the only decision that has eternal importance for LL is that we teach her who her Savior is…that she know Jesus. We had her baptized the day after she was born. We pray with her. We sing “Jesus” songs & hymns to her. We take her to church with us to hear God’s glorious word. Of all the things that we “need” to make sure she knows, our single most important mission is that we raise this precious gift of God as a Christian doing everything we can to ensure that she will spend eternity with God. None of the rest of it is worth losing sleep over. While we will use our God-given intelligence to make the best choices for our family in our circumstances, in the long run, the only choice that I will always rest peacefully with is teaching her God’s word every day. There is an indescribable calm and strength like none other as a parent when you realize that simple truth.

That, my friends, is goodness defined.

LL’s favorite book! How I love watching her smile as she sings along in her beautiful baby babbling!