A Reading for Children of Heartland Community Church

I’ve done several readings this year!  Today I read for the children of Heartland Community Church of Normal.

Children in beanbag chairs listening to a reading of "The Star Who Almost Wasn't There"Before the reading, I attended the 9:30 service at HCC.  It was lovely.  The music was inspiring. . .and they used a dramatization that included a ‘never seen’ director casting the roles of Joseph and Mary for the live nativity for the church.

The players who tried out for those parts did so . . .hmmmm, let’s say less than enthusiastically.  Each felt they were not really quite worthy of the honor.  The would-be Joseph. . .thought he would be better cast as shepherd.  The would-be Mary wanted to hold the baby Jesus and look lovingly at Joseph and Jesus but felt unworthy to speak Mary’s words as recorded in the bible.

But in the interview with the ‘Director’ each learned that they had something in common with Joseph and Mary.  God chose for this great mission, people from humble circumstance, people whose resumes had little to offer in terms of what we might expect for someone to give birth to and raise the son of God.

And that then was the theme of the sermon.  So why did God choose Mary and Joseph for this great mission?  Because each had a ‘heart for God.’  They were obedient servants.

It is not your resume that brings God’s favor, but rather whether you put God first in your life.

Of course I could not help but think of the little star who could not glow. . .a star who was of lowly circumstances. . .but who also had a heart for God. . .a faith that he would find a child to love him. . .and how he was chosen to become the Star of Bethlehem.

Following the service, I went to the Kids Company room to read.  The children were ‘nestled’ in bean bag chairs and many of their parents joined us.  The group was pretty big, so I had some help showing the pictures in the book.

Little ones in their parents laps





It was a wonderful opportunity to share the StarGift Project and the Village Project, and many books were purchased for children, and to support the missions of the church and the Village Project!

Parents and children engaged in listening to the storyOne of the Father’s in the group was enlisted to take pictures.  He did a wonderful job.  I can’t show them all here. . .but looking at this sample of pics, don’t you agree?

Adorable little girl  More of parents and children

One young man was quite observant and noticed that my StarGift t-shirt had the star from the book on the logo. . .although he could not yet read the legend “I shine my gifts for God” that surrounds the little star!

The children were delightful.  I enjoyed myself!


And I think the children and their parents enjoyed hearing the story as well!

A shot of many of the group


There are many churches throughout central Illinois.  I know this because I have reached out to 377 churches in and around Bloomington-Normal and Champaign-Urbana.  And I know there are more in these communities. . .and then there is Peoria, Springfield. . .well, we’ve just started.  2014 will be an exciting year as we try to spread out further.

If you are looking for church home, or thinking about investigating churches, consider paying a visit to Heartland Community Church of Normal.  Maybe it is the church community for your family.

If you like the challenge and excitement of helping to start a new church. . .consider visiting Innovate Church of Bloomington with which my grandson and his wife are involved.

Or join me at Second Presbyterian in downtown Bloomington or if you are from the C-U area, First Baptist of Savoy.

Of course, you are welcome in any of God’s houses.  It is a matter of finding the place where you feel most comfortable in your worship.  Maybe it’s in your own home. . .in the great outdoors. . .in moments of quiet anytime, anywhere.  But if you’d like to find a community of fellowship as well. . .the choices in central Il. are many.

Christmas is very near. . .Have a wonderful Christmas!


“The Star. . .” Newsletter #9 – Dec. 2013

Hi friends!

In my last “The Star. . .” newsletter, I shared my experience creating a tree for the Festival of Trees to help promote the book “The Star Who Almost Wasn’t There.”  We are hopeful that sales of this book will help to fund the startup of two non-profit organizations, The StarGift Project and the Village Project. And of course we were happy to help raise some money for the Baby Fold.

The Festival of Trees Experience

Decorating Trees at the Festival of Trees
Part of my designer team setting up the ‘Star’ tree at the Festival of Trees.

What a delight when The Star tree, which some of the Festival folks call “The Milky Way” tree, won one of 2 blue ribbons.  The theme of the Festival this year was “My Christmas Story” and my team won the ribbon for BEST STORY.  The story of the little star who could not glow but who is transformed into the Star of Bethlehem was told through ornaments on the tree.  Each ornament contained an image from the book, was illuminated, and was associated to a star ornament with the verse that goes with the image.

The 'Star' Tree begins to take shape
The ‘Star’ Tree beings to take shape as the milky way lights are added.


The tree was purchased by Randy Anderson of Anderson Ford in Clinton.  I believe it may be on display in the showroom!

Pam with the 'blue ribbon' winning tree.
Pictures don’t do the tree justice. We had to brighten this image so you could get a sense of the purple and blue color.





The Festival of Trees brings an amazing assortment of decorated trees, wreaths, centerpieces, sprays, gingerbread houses and table settings together in one place, all designed and created by donors from throughout the community.  What a wonderful way to start the season.  If you have never attended, give it some thought for next year.

Other events and successes:

  • The Baby Fold receives donated copies of 'The Star Who Almost Wasn't There"
    Donated copies of the book were delivered to the Baby Fold on Dec. 3.

    During the Festival we had a box for people to purchase copies of the book to donate to children of the Baby Fold, or they could choose to donate books to a local church or other non-profit.  We collected 18 books for the Baby Fold, and we thank Brian and Lori Batronis for donating 10 more so that we could provide one book to each child who lives in the Baby Fold!

  • We also had 11 people provide contact information to learn more about the Village Project and/or to learn about volunteer opportunities for this work.  For those who are new to this newsletter, the Village Project is a dream that we can create an environment to enable quality of life for developmentally disabled adults in central Il. based on the model of Lambs Farm of Libertyville Il.
  • I met the owners of the Gingerbread House [Children’s educational toy store] in Bloomington at the Festival and showed them the book.  You can now purchase copies at the Gingerbread House as well as at Niepagen Flower Shop in LeRoy on Route 150.
  • I met with one of the women’s circles from Second Presbyterian Church and shared my story.  Of course many of the ladies wanted copies of the book. Earlier in the Fall I had addressed Presbyterian Woman at their Fall Dinner.  As a result of that experience 5 books are being donated by Janice Lewis to “Children of the Philippines.”  That is the second country we’ve reached. . .first Israel, now the Philippines.
  • I did book readings/signing in LeRoy . . .
Children doing a craft at the museum in LeRoy before the book reading
Children engaged in a craft activity in LeRoy.
Author reading the book to children in LeRoy
Reading the story to children in LeRoy







and Stanford.

Reading to little ones in Stanford
Reading to tiny tots in Stanford

Both towns have such lovely spaces:  The Crumbaugh Museum is under the Library in LeRoy and the Library in Stanford is so warm and welcoming for the community.  In LeRoy I found a Mom, Liz Rakers, with a lovely reading voice and she agreed to set up some readings of the book in her area of Edwardsville.


Sadly, I’ve been so busy I’ve not followed up.  This is a sign that I could use some volunteer help as we try to grow this child evangelism effort.

Picture of a christmas tree shape made of books in the library in Stanford
A booktree in Stanford. . .with an elf lost in the stack.



  • I had some help from family members in creating centerpieces for the Immanuel Bible Foundation Women’s Christmas Breakfast.
Immanuel Bible Foundation Women's Christmas Breakfast
A lovely breakfast with the Immanuel Bible Foundation


Table strewn with craft materials and centerpieces under construction
It takes a lot of tools and materials to craft 5 centerpieces.







It was a lovely event just this past Saturday, and we sold quite a few books.

My daughter and I wore our new StarGift t-shirts!  More on that later.

Author and her daughter/volunteer at the Christmas Breakfast in StarGift t-shirts
My daughter Jodi and I in our StarGift volunteer t-shirts.


  • Following the breakfast, I did a reading in Lexington and had a lovely time.  The library building is a beautiful old building with marble, tile and original wood work.  Visit it some time.

By this time, I needed a little break!

But I am looking forward to:

 The first ever production of The Star Who Almost Wasn’t There by the Puppeteers of Second Presbyterian Church!

I am so excited about this because I am encouraging churches to participate in the StarGift Project and to use creative talents to share the story with children of their community in wonderful inventive ways.  I envision some churches making this an annual event to reach out to children through their local mission networks!  I will give permission to use the story at no charge [as long as the script is consistent with the book] and ask only that I receive a video or pictures of the production to be posted on the StarGift web site.

I can’t wait to share the video/pictures from the puppet show.

Of course, everything has not gone quite as I had hoped and planned.

I made a correction to one image in the book.  In the original version, one of the angels is in the middle of a 2-page spread and his face is split across the pages.  In the new version, he has been moved to a position on one page.

Well, that required the publisher to do some work.  And that work took time.  More time than I would have expected.  But, as soon as I submitted the change, they removed the option to buy a book from the web site.  So all of my links to their site were broken for months- and I didn’t realize it.

I submitted the change in May.  We had a fair amount of back and forth [I learned a lot] and the change was finally ready in July.  I also committed a portion of my retirement for 3000 books so they could be printed using offset technology.  The books were scheduled to arrive in Oct. which I thought was pretty late anyway.  But when I got a hard copy of the layout there was a huge error, apparently introduced somewhere between the publisher and the printer.  While that was being corrected, I lost my place in line for printing.  Finally I was notified that it would be printed and shipped in the middle of November.

That is pushing the envelope for the Christmas season. But worse, all of the letters I had sent out pointing people to the publishers web site. . .were essentially useless. These were letters to people I hoped might lend some publicity or companies I hoped might buy and stock the book!  Imagine that you get a letter with a link. . .and the link doesn’t work!  So, I guess I’ll have to do that again in 2014.

I received the books the Wednesday that the Festival of Trees started. . .the day I was at the I-74 center with my team decorating!  I guess all is well that ends well.  At least the books got here in time for the Festival.

I also had been sending out mailings to 377 churches in and around Bloomington-Normal and Champaign-Urbana.  Those were delayed since no books were available and the final mailing with detailed information about the StarGift Project will go out next week.  So I will have to target encouraging churches to participate in 2014.

And since books were not available to fill orders, I did not add the code to ‘buy the book’ on my own web site.  I hoped to get that done right after the Festival of Trees but. . .I’m still working on it.

Since receiving the books, I’ve learned that Amazon and Barnes and Noble have no way to access the books that were printed.  And so they cannot stock them in the store. . .and therefore, I do not qualify to do a reading [at least at BN location in Bloomington].  I have a call into the publisher to get this straightened out. . .

Lessons Learned.  Someday I will be able to help others through this process!

Ending on a high note:

I wanted to design a t-shirt that could be used for volunteers and to be sold and customized for others.  I think church groups with their own mission or even individuals might like to have a shirt based on the star.  I had a vision of the star from the cover, encircled by the words”


But I do not have the background with modern graphics tools to create the design.  I am taking classes in graphics at Heartland. . .and my instructor, Kate Stolz volunteered to help.  The logo is adorable.

Logo an image of the star from the cover in a circle of light with message around the circle
“I shine my gifts for God”. . .that is one of the things the little star teaches.








The shirts are 100% pre-shrunk cotton and made in U.S.A.  They are screened locally at DenGraphix of LeRoy.  Current colors are red, royal blue and navy.  But I am seeking other shirts made in U.S.A. that will offer more colors.

Logo of star on navy shirtLogo of the star on royal blue shirt

And for volunteers, I have printed ‘StarGift Project’ on the back.

Author and her daughter backs to camera so we can see the words "StarGift Project" on the backBut I have an idea to encourage more creativity.  I plan to encourage people to purchase a shirt for a child, and customize the back to reflect the gifts that this child expresses.  A simple approach will be to have words pressed on the back; Like “Math and Science”, “Engineering,” “Dance,” “Music” etc.  But I really envision some very creative folks painting, embroidering etc. the back of the shirts.  For example Math and Science can be expressed with angles, equations, images of petri dishes or beakers and so on.  Dance can be expressed with images of all different kinds of dance.  Perhaps you know a child and you want to acknowledge their beautiful smile and cheerful countenance.  Would you perhaps have an image of the child smiling. . .and doing something fun and innocent? What a unique gift!

Please start thinking about it.  Think about children you love and how you see their gifts.  Help me to figure out how to present this idea!  Perhaps a contest?

People who choose this challenge could send me pictures of the results which I will post on the StarGift web site. . .and probably on my authors page on Facebook.

I think that pretty well brings you all up to date with the progress made in 2013.  I will send out one more newsletter to thank everyone who contributed to growing the StarGift project this year.  That one will probably arrive after Christmas. . .perhaps after Dec. 31.

Chanukkah has passed this year. . .I hope my Jewish friends had a wonderful ‘Festival of the Lights’ this year.  And for those who celebrate Christmas, I wish you a Merry Christmas.  And to all. . .a happy and healthy 2014.