Friday, December 31, 2010

Blog Mooch: (In)Courage

Oh, what a wonderful, thought-provoking post. I don't read Gitzen Girl's blog all the time, but I'm totally challenged when I do! What will YOU do to be more like Mary and Joseph this year? How will YOU do everything you can when it's your time to do it?

Don't worry. I'm asking myself the same questions. And praying for God to provide answers ... now and as I'm supposed to do it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reading in the Car

I realized the other day that I've fallen WAY behind on my reviews. Hopefully, you've enjoyed the other things that have been posted this month. My goal over the past week of Christmas traveling was to get caught up on some of my reading, but, alas, that did not happen. I did however, read my first library book on my Nook. Yay! And we listened to a book on tape ... the only way my sweet husband managed all the driving over the past few days. And now, I'm working on another book for pure pleasure. Merry Christmas to me!

I LOVE mysteries/suspense/crime drama/etc. and these authors know how to pull it off! If you're looking for a good book in the genres listed above, check out Catherine Coulter (FBI series), Iris Johansen, and Linda Fairstein. James Patterson is another favorite, but some of his books scare the mess out of me. (The Women's Murder Club series is a little less graphic.) None of these are Christian books, so there is usually a little bit of "offensive" content in each of these. Just wanted to give you fair warning. :)

I'll be back to posting reviews soon. I just needed this little break!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Siesta Scripture Memory Team


Not sure how many of you are familiar with Beth Moore (hopefully, many of you are!) ...

She has a wonderful blog that I follow regularly and in 2011 she is hosting the Siesta Scripture Memory Team (SSMT) on her blog again. (All of the sisters in Christ that have community via her blog are affectionately called "siestas.")

I have felt for a while now that I need to work more on my Scripture memory and this came at the perfect time to really have encouragement, consistency, and accountability in this area of my life. Basically, you will choose a verse on the 1st and 15th of each month that you commit to memorize. You can choose any verse that is particulary meaningful to you and your current life situation - maybe something the Lord showed you in your devotional time or during a church service. By the end of the year, you will have memorized 24 verses! Easy enough, right?

Well, that's the hard part. Sticking with it. So ... I'm going to do it. I'm going to primarily parcipate through Beth's blog. BUT since I would like the added accountability of anyone who reads my blog, I'm also going to post my Scriptures here.

Check out Beth's blog for all the details. I'd love for you to participate with me! (Let me know if you're participating too. It will encourage me along the way!)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas: Love

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.

~~~

Love
by Lauraine Snelling


When asked to write a Christmas message, one of my first thoughts was Do I climb up on my soapbox regarding changing the words in Christmas songs, using only holiday, etc. I thought about it and decided no. After all, they’re only words and what difference does a word make---really make after all?

Then I kept on thinking. If they’re only words… But we as writers know the power of words, as do readers. When the wrong word is used, it jars, while the right word can be most powerful. Take one highly overused and under practiced word---Love. Four letters is all. We toss it around so glibly, saying love ya and luv and love. But think about the power in I love you. Three of the most precious words in our language when put together. Those of us who write romances or books with romance in them, understand the power when one of our characters tells another, I love you. As humans we can never hear that enough or too much.

Christmas is about love. The greatest love story ever told, that of God for us humans, and it never changes. Customs change, politics change, the years change but God’s love never, ever does. At Christmas we are invited to share that love, to give it away, to pass it around. To find wonder again and joy in simple acts of love. We make contact with people we might never see or talk with through the year. That says I love you. We buy and make gifts to give, we reach out to strangers in need, we try to make sure everyone has a special dinner and every child a present. By giving, we receive.

So, let’s use the power words, but more so, put feet on those words and pass the love around. Let’s look for and find the wonder, the joy and the peace, maybe in small bits and pieces and perhaps in an avalanche of blessings. Make your days brighter with the simple gift of a smile, a kind word, a touch, for every single one that you give away, will come back to you multiplied. As you give, so shall you receive. Merry Christmas my friends. May we all recognize our blessings----and let an attitude of gratitude permeate this holiday and every day. With love and joy on this day, Lauraine!

~~~

About Lauraine: Lauraine Snelling is the award-winning author of more than sixty books, with sales of over 2 million copies. She also writes for a wide range of magazines, and helps others reach their writing dreams by teaching at writer’s conferences across the country. Lauraine and her husband, Wayne, have two grown sons, and live in the Tehachapi Mountains with a cockatiel named Bidley, and a watchdog Basset named Chewy.

For more information please visit Lauraine's website: www.laurainesnelling.com.

~~~

A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com) on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Friday, December 24, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas: An Unforgettable Gift

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.

~~~

An Unforgettable Gift
by Karen O'Connor


On Christmas morning, 1912, in Paducah, Kentucky, fourteen-year-old Charlie Flowers and his three brothers and two sisters huddled in their beds, fully dressed, trying to keep warm as the wind howled outside their small frame house.

It was a desperate time for the family. Earlier that year the children's father had died. And their mother had not found work. The coal had run out and there was little money––none for gifts. Their scrawny tree with decorations made from scraps of colored paper had been given to them the night before by a local merchant.

"Can't sell this one," the man said with a nod of his head before handing it over to the eager children.

To pass the time, the siblings joked and shouted stories from their bedrooms across the hallway from one another. Then suddenly a racket from the alley at the rear of the house broke into their games.

"Charlie," his mother called, "would you see what's going on out there?"

Charlie pulled on his shoes, grabbed a thick overcoat from the hook by the door, and ran out back.

There stood a man in a wagon bent over a load of coal, shoveling it into the shed as fast as he could.

"Hey Mister, we didn't order any coal," Charlie shouted. "You're delivering it to the wrong house."

"Your name's Flowers, isn't it?" the man asked, still shoveling.

Charlie nodded yes.

"Well then, there's no mistake. I've been asked to deliver this to your family on Christmas morning." He looked the awe-struck boy square in the eye. "And I'm under strict orders not to tell who sent it," he teased.

Charlie ran into the house, his coattail flapping in the cold morning wind. He could hardly wait to tell his mother and brothers and sisters. God had provided––just as he had on that first Christmas morning so long ago when He sent his only son to a needy world.

Charlie Flowers died in 1994 at age 96. And right up to the last year of his life, not a Christmas went by that he didn't tell the story of that sub-zero Christmas morning of his boyhood when two men gave his family an unforgettable gift.

It wasn't the coal that was remembered or cherished, Charlie often said––welcome as it was––but rather what two men brought to his desperate family. One, for his gift of recognizing their great need and taking the time to do something about it. And the other, for being willing to give up part of his own Christmas morning to deliver it.

That gift of so long ago has continued to warm the Flowers family from one generation to another, as Charlie's son––my husband, Charles––calls to mind these two unknown men each Christmas morning and whispers a prayer of thanks.

~~~

About Karen: Karen O'Connor is an award-winning author and writing mentor living in Watsonville, California with her husband, Charles Flowers. Karen’s latest book is 365 Reasons Why Gettin’ Old Ain’t So Bad (Harvest House 2010).

For more information, please visit Karen on the web at www.karenoconnor.com.

~~~

A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com) on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Traditions

We are quickly approaching Christmas. (It's only two days away now!!!) I'm curious ... what is your favorite Christmas memory or tradition?

I'll share one of mine ...

Growing up we always spent Christmas Eve night together as a family. The days before and after were spent with family, but for that evening it was just us. We went to church for our Christmas Eve service, drove around looking at Christmas lights, and went out to dinner or had family/friends over for dinner. Then we put on our pajamas, opened a few gifts, and often watched Christmas Vacation (if not that night then some other night during the holidays)!

Enjoy your traditions this year or make some new ones! Merry Christmas!!!

12 Pearls of Christmas: Just Give Me Christmas This Year!

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.

~~~

All I Want for Christmas…
Is to be able to have Christmas this Year
by
Melissa Mashburn

This is a simple request, isn’t it? In the previous years, we had great big bountiful Christmases with our family. Gifts, goodies and general Christmas cheer but this year it was different. The year before has been chock full of disappointments, failing businesses and severe cutbacks for our family.

Sitting with my husband one night we hammered out the bare minimum that we could spend that year for Christmas and even still the total was four hundred dollars. It does not sound like a whole lot compared to what we’ve spent on Christmas before, but this year it could have been four thousand dollars because we just did not have it.

We prayed, I cried, we prayed some more and decided that we would cut back anything else that we could that year so we could have Christmas for our kids. We did not know how we would make this happen, but we knew that we needed to step forward in faith that it would happen.

Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? Don't these things happen among you just as they happened with Abraham? He believed God, and that act of belief was turned into a life that was right with God. Galatians 3:5 the Message

Not even two days later, we hear a knock on our front door. We open the door to see some friends of ours from church. With tears in their eyes, they handed us an envelope and said that the felt they needed to give us this. We opened the envelope and inside there was four hundred dollars cash.

Shocked, stunned and with tears flowing down our face we just sat there in a state of crying and laughing at what God had done. We never shared with anyone that year what we needed, how bad it was, what was going on or what that number was for us to have Christmas for the kids, but God knew.

“And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 NLT

He took a willing servant, led them to our front door and changed Christmas for us that year. After many years of being in full time ministry we knew that God would provide, but when He shows up just at the right moment, you know that it was all a part of His plan to show how much He loves, provides and cares for His people.

Father God, thank you that after all the years of serving and loving you in ministry that you continue to teach, guide, love, shepherd and care for us. You, Father, are abundantly gracious and kind, thank you for showing up for us at just the right moment every time, forgive us when we forget that. In Jesus name, Amen.

~~~

About Melissa: Melissa is the founder of the blog Mel’s World Ministry, co-founder of the Praise and Coffee Nights Ministry with Sue Cramer, Kids Ministry Director at her church. Just last year she launched a new weekly series called Godly Gals ~ Real Women, Real Life, Real Faith where we meet new women each week who are “Taking their everyday, ordinary lives and placing it as their offering to God.” Romans 12:1 the Message. You can find her on twitter and at her blog. She loves encouraging women to live with an authentic faith by being transparent, renewed and transformed. ~ Romans 12:2.

~~~

A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com) on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Our Christmas Card


Not too long ago I shared an opportunity to get FREE Christmas cards from Shutterfly. Here's the card that we chose.

I'm so pleased with it ... and best of all, we saved a ton of money! (I would not have spent this much on cards if I had to pay for them ... promise!!!)

12 Pearls of Christmas: What's the best thing about Christmas?

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.

~~~

What’s the best thing about Christmas?
by Maureen Lang


The answer to that question will undoubtedly be different depending on the age and the faith of the person being asked. Most children will say it’s all about the gifts. Adults, even if they secretly still enjoy the gifts, will probably strive to sound more mature and say the holiday is all about friends and family. Still others might say it’s about tradition, or memories or the music or even the special food we connect to this time of year. The scrooges among us might say this season is just another marketing gimmick, or materialism gone awry. The faithful will say it’s all about Jesus, a reminder of why He shed the glory of Heaven to step into human skin and frailty.

I’m not here to defend or attack any answer to this question, but rather to ponder those possible answers.

Gifts: They touch us in personal ways, as tangible evidence of someone else’s thought and affection. Even if we don’t get exactly what we hoped, there’s something to be said about the thought behind a gift being the important part. Why wouldn’t gifts be an important and valid part of this holiday in which we celebrate God’s gift of salvation?

Holiday Gatherings: Parties might be a lot of work, forcing some out of their comfort zone, but at the core they’re all about human connection. Isn’t that what most people want?

Traditions and memories: They remind us of the past, of who we are, with the hope that even as we look forward to an unknown future we still hold some things worthy enough to repeat every year. We might find ourselves letting go of some traditions, or we might want to start some new ones.

The music: This is the only time of the year when even secular radio stations welcome songs about a baby born in Bethlehem. As a nation we may be getting stringent about separation of church as state, but the lines blur just a bit with old favorites that reflect this season.

Scrooges: The holiday season is probably a time to endure rather than enjoy, but even the scroogiest-scrooge might admit the lights of the season are pretty to behold. They’re free to look at, after all.

As for the food, the busyness, the expense and all the other things that make up this season: keep in mind that it’s all temporary. This, too, shall pass. Until next year, of course.

I’ll leave you with this thought: we are all made in God’s image, whether we believe that or not. Part of that image is the ability to give—and to receive. So here’s my thought for the day: stop a moment and dwell on all the gifts of the season. From the little mementos that say we haven’t forgotten someone or been forgotten by others, to the costliest gift of all: what God did for us in the form of Christ. As you enjoy the sounds, the sights, the scents and the tastes of this season, may your only trouble be in choosing just one thing among so many best things about Christmas.

~~~

About Maureen: Maureen Lang is the author of ten books, her most recent from Tyndale House is The Great War Series which are full of romance, adventure and spiritual journeys. She lives in the Midwest with her husband, two sons and their lovable Labrador Retriever.

For more information please visit Maureen at her website, www.maureenlang.com.

~~~

A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com) on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas: Good News

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.

~~~

Good News!
by Deb Kalmbach


The first Christmas card of the season arrived in my mailbox way back in August. How could anyone be that organized? Then I noticed my friend, Nita, had sent me a card I had written to her more than 20 years ago!

Memories rushed back as I read the words penned in my familiar handwriting. It was Christmas, 1991, and my world had unraveled. I could almost pretend everything was all right at this most wonderful time of the year—but not that year.

My husband Randy’s drinking problem had escalated to the point where his job and career were on the line. He had already been through two alcohol treatment programs and managed to stay sober for short periods of time. Then he slipped back into old, familiar patterns. His ongoing relapses were a crushing disappointment for our family.

I had looked forward to Christmas Eve and our family traditions; making homemade lasagna, singing carols around the piano, attending the candlelight service at church, and then coming home to open one token Christmas Eve present.

“Randy, are you ready to crank out the pasta?” I called to him over the Christmas music I was playing to lift my spirits.

I peered into the living room to see what was keeping him. My heart froze. Randy sat on the couch, trance-like, watching a basketball game while sipping a drink.

No, not on Christmas Eve, I screamed inwardly. I felt like I was suffocating. Usually Randy pulled himself together but it didn’t happen that night. He drank vodka all evening while I finished holiday preparations on autopilot. None of us felt like eating lasagna or celebrating.

Only a few days earlier, I had written these words on the Christmas card to my friend, Nita. I don’t know God’s plans, his timing or his ways in accomplishing his purposes, but I am learning to trust him. He is faithful!

I suspect Nita kept my card all those years because she saw a small seed of faith and it encouraged her heart. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be eight more Christmas seasons before Randy experienced the miraculous breakthrough of finding freedom from alcoholism.

As I read the card I had written so long ago, I felt awed by God’s faithfulness to us—even when our situation looked completely hopeless.

You may be facing great difficulty as the holidays approach. The last thing you feel like is celebrating. And that’s O.K. The Good News of Christmas isn’t about picture perfect holidays where our homes are decorated a la Martha Stewart and tables are laden with holiday delicacies. Your days may not be merry and bright. You may be grieving the loss of a loved one or the loss of a relationship through divorce or estrangement. Your world has unraveled.

That’s exactly why the message of Christmas is Good News. The Savior is born! The One who came to set you free, to give you peace and hope and help beyond anything you could ever imagine is as near as your next breath. Today you might not be able to see how God’s purposes are unfolding for your future, but you can be assured that He is working all things for good in your life. A twenty year-old Christmas card came on a summer day as an unexpected gift and gentle reminder of God’s presence—especially in the worst of times.

~~~


About Deb: Deb Kalmbach is the coauthor of Because I Said Forever: Embracing Hope in a Not-So- Perfect Marriage and the author of a book for children, Corey’s Dad Drinks Too Much. She has contributed to The New Women’s Devotional Bible, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, and other anthologies. She is a vibrant and engaging speaker who gives hope and practical solutions to those who struggle with difficult relationships. Deb and her husband, Randy, live in a tiny town in Eastern Washington. Visit Deb at: www.debkalmbach.com, or on Facebook and Twitter.

~~~

A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com) on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Monday, December 20, 2010

I'm an E-Reader!!!

I consider myself to be somewhat of a throwback to a time with less technology. Don't get me wrong, I love Facebook, email, and blogs. I enjoy watching TV, DVDs, Netflix. We play Wii games at our house. So, I'm not a total throwback. But I don't think that usually I give my whole life over to technology. For instance, I tolerate cell phones. They sure are nice when we need them, but I don't really like people tracking me down at all hours of the day and night. I still write checks to pay my bills. We don't have credit cards. There are probably other things that would make you say, "Huh ..." but we'll stop there for now.

I love books. (As you are fully aware by reading this blog.) I love how the feel in my hands, how the pages smell (even the library books that have been touched by millions of people!), what it sounds like when the pages turn, the paper they're printed on. Everything. About. Books. So, I've been pretty much anti-e-readers of all kinds. I mean, can you really have the same experience from reading a book on a screen as you do by holding it in your hand and flipping the pages? Well, as I was still trying to decide my latest thoughts on them, my very sweet and generous husband went out and bought me one. As a just-because-gift. Which makes it even better! I wasn't 100% sure I wanted one (still, right?!) but after playing with it for a while, I think I'm going to love it!

In case you're wondering, I chose a Nook. It reads epub files, which are industry standard. Therefore, you can check out books from the library on it. You can also trade books back and forth with other Nook users. Another extra bonus? Anything published prior to 1923 is public domain and therefore is free! Yes, free. I wasn't too impressed until I discovered that some of my favorite childhood books are public domain (Anne of Green Gables and Little Women, anyone?!). And I discovered that ChristianBook.com just started distributing ebooks and have several freebies right now. Not sure if this is all the time or just since it's new, but I had to share. These ebooks can be read on any device except the Kindle (but most of them are free on Amazon as Kindle books, too).

Since the Nook is charging, I'm heading to bed. But be sure to check out the free stuff online! Happy reading!

12 Pearls of Christmas: Gift List

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.

~~~

Gift List
by Tricia Goyer


I've been thinking lately how hard it must be for Oprah to Christmas shop. I mean if you were on her "gift list" wouldn't you expect something really, really good? The woman gives away cars and trips to Australia on her television show for goodness sake! It seems by the end of Christmas Day her friends and family would look at the pile of presents and think, "Is that it?" I mean if you knew there was billions of dollars she could spend on you, would you ever feel satisfied?

Sometimes I think we approach God the same way. We look around at our home, our family, our job, our free time and we still aren't satisfied. We wish our body looked better, our clothes were more in style, our husband was more considerate and our kids were more ... well, like the perfect little people we picture in our mind. Our careers don't excel as quickly as we think they should and people don't give us the attention we feel we deserve. We're tired and anxious and the to-do list seems to be tacked to our hearts for all the pain it causes.

Often, we look around and don't speak the words out loud, but think them just the same. "Is that it?" I mean, You're the God of the universe and You have all things in Your hands and under Your control. Couldn't you provide a little more money to help those bills disappear or make me a bit more content with the man I've chosen to spend my life with? And I thought Oprah had it tough.

Is there ever a time when God doesn't hear the murmurs? Again, not with our mouths but in our heart.

I've been guilty of this--of not being satisfied with the gifts I've been given. Yes, there will always be more to want, but today--at this moment--I'm satisfied. And I look to Him with a grateful heart and whisper, "Thank you, it is enough. More than enough."

~~~

About Tricia: Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-six books including Songbird Under a German Moon, The Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife. For more information, please visit www.triciagoyer.com

~~~

A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com) on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Love me some Christmas movies!

I don't know about you, but I LOVE Christmas movies! If people wouldn't think it was weird, I would watch them year-round. But alas, I must save them for the month of December. Here are a few of my favorites (in no particular order).

1. The Holiday
2. Christmas Vacation (This is one of our family traditions!)
3. Miracle on 34th Street (the old one or the new one)
4. Home Alone
5. Mickey Mouse's A Christmas Carol
6. Christmas with the Kranks
7. The Santa Clause
8. A Charlie Brown Christmas
9. Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer
10. Elf

And the movie I most want to see that I've never seen ... White Christmas. (Yes, it's a tragedy. I know.)

What are some of your favorites?

12 Pearls of Christmas: Hurting Near Christmas? 10 Tips to Hope Again

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.

~~~

Hurting Near Christmas? 10 Tips to Hope Again
by Stacie Ruth Stoelting


Feel sad this Christmas? Hey, I know the feeling. In fact, many programs have interviewed me to share about it! Last year, I tried particularly hard to share stories and tips on how to cope with grief during the holidays: I wrote a feature for CBN.com, Coping with Grief at Christmas, visited and counseled grieving people, etc.

Then irony hit: Near Christmas, two people I loved died within two days (December 15-16, 2009).

Are you or a loved one hurting during the holidays? I relate. But let me encourage you: Jesus remains faithful! As real as my pain, He met my needs and comforted me with peace unexplainable. I’m serious. He’s real.

Before I continue with tips, let me share this: If you feel suicidal, contact an emergency counseling service like the New Life Call Center at 1-800-NEW-LIFE(639-5433).

10 Tips for Hurting Hearts to Hope and Cope at Christmastime

1. Realize and internalize it: God still loves you and wants to hear from you. He wants you to know that there is a Way out of your pit of despair. The Way is Jesus.

2. Sometimes, our suffering causes us to forget His. Understand He understands you. He suffered more than any of us when we bore the weight of every sin and pain on the cross! In fact, Is. 53:3 describes Jesus: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” Think of it: He took your punishment and pain on the cross. He was your capital punishment Substitute! And your Deliverer -your Rescuer- wants to hear from you. His heart hurts with yours. Will you pour your heart out to Him now? He’ll pour His love in where the fear previously resided. Let Jesus inside. Do you know Jesus on a personal, one-to-One basis? Visit here to learn why Jesus was born to die and how to be born again. (Hey, Jesus said it: "You must be born again.")

3. Rather than mere gifts, make a Christmas prayer list of other hurting people. Then pray for them and request prayer for yourself, too. Contact your church. Tap into ministries (including CBN.com) that offer extra prayer support. And feel free to join my prayer e-group at www.PrayingPals.org or on Facebook by clicking here.

4. End the Christmas comparison game. Don't compare your Christmas to your neighbor's. Don't compare your Christmas to past celebrations.

5. Center on the Savior! This year, trade a superficial Christmas for a real one. Deepen your appreciation for the true Christmas: the arrival of Jesus Christ to banish the effects of sin and death!

6. Whatever your loss or pain, open up and let God be your Gain. Maybe your pain comes from another cause: a divorce, a devastating diagnosis, a job loss...the list extends. God offers to be your Counselor, your Father, your Healer, your Provider. Let Him answer your heart’s cry.

7. Love on people. Even if you don’t “feel” like it, prayerfully do something for someone else who is hurting.

8. Remember: Feelings change. God doesn't. Loved ones' deaths never kill His love for you. God's immeasurable, unconditional love still flows to you! When you know Jesus, you know eternal love and security. Nothing separates you from His love! “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, ESV).

9. Realize the reality of the sudden reunion. Holidays exacerbate the feeling of long separation from our loved ones in Heaven. Does it feel like it will take forever for you to see your loved one in Heaven? Be encouraged: Jesus IS coming again and it will be a time you don't expect! So the fact that you feel like it won't happen soon is a good thing! Once reunited, it will feel like no time transpired. All sadness will be entirely removed!

10. When Jesus comes back to earth, it will be a celebration greater than any previous Christmas you've ever experienced!

For believers, losses hurt but never win. We will celebrate Jesus together -and it will be glorious "for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith" (I John 5:4, NIV). In that Day, all believers will be able to jubilantly say, “Merry Christmas to all and to all the true Light!”

Additional Help: Ready for some practical tips for coping with grief at Christmastime? Here’s one: Rearrange furniture to reduce absence reminders. To read this tip and others found in another of my CBN.com’s articles: “Coping with Grief at Christmas", visit www.CBN.com.

Going thru a rough time? Join Stacie Ruth’s prayer group at www.PrayingPals.org.

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About Stacie: Stacie Ruth knows pain, but she also knows Jesus! After Stacie Ruth met Jesus, her life blossomed with true joy and purpose. Life’s blows hurt her, but Jesus heals and strengthens her. Now an author, actress, and recording artist, she laughs at the irony and praises God, who uses unlikely people...like herself. Discover why she's written a book at age 15, sung/spoken for the 43rd President, been pictured in major media (i.e. The New York Times, USA Today), and keynoted conferences since she was a teenager. To watch video clips, worship Jesus with music from her album, or get in touch with her ministry for women, visit www.brightlightministries.com.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com) on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Saturday, December 18, 2010

City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell


Bo Caldwell's City of Tranquil Light is a riveting story of Will and Katherine, missionaries to China. Will and Katherine cross the ocean in their early 20s to take the Gospel to the people of China. The novel describes their life in China, their ministry to their Chinese neighbors, the birth and growth of their church, and their faith in God that kept them steadfast through heartache, trials, famine, bandits, death, and war. Through everything, they come to love China as "home." Inspired by her maternal grandparents' missionary service in China, Will and Katherine's story is ultimately about the power and sovereignty of God.

The writing style is unique in that the author successfully tells the story from both Will's and Katherine's point of view. The bulk of the story is told as a "memoir" of sorts by an elderly Will reflecting back over the course of his life. Caldwell weaves in Katherine's journal entries to fill out the rest of the picture. It reads like an excellently written biography. I caught myself several times thinking of the characters as real people. Additionally, Caldwell's vivid description made me feel as though I had actually been to China simply by reading the book.

I highly recommend this wonderful story. Bo Caldwell has made it to my must-read list!

5 stars (out of 5)

I received a free copy of this book from The B&B Media Group in exchange for my fair and honest review.

12 Pearls of Christmas: Wrapped in His Love

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.

~~~

Wrapped in His Love
by Rebecca Ondov

The temperature is below zero and dropping quickly—probably to -15 or lower. Old Man Winter gusted in a couple days ago, leaving cold temperatures and a foot of snow behind. Moments ago I bundled up in my long johns and Carhartts to go out and feed. Of course I had a warm horse blanket draped over my arm. When it’s below zero I wrap Czar in two horse blankets.

Czar nickered as soon as he saw me coming. When I buckled up the blankets, it was as if I was wrapping him in my love. He buried his head in my chest. I snuggled him and stroked his long red winter hair. I pulled a couple icicles out of his black mane as my mind drifted through memories. I’d bought Czar when he was a month old; it was love at first sight. After he was weaned from his mother, I brought him home.

Czar leaned into me, almost as if he was hugging me. I patted his neck, “That was thirty years ago, Czar. Can you believe it?” Czar had been my main saddle horse when I worked in the Bob Marshall Wilderness of Montana. I’d ridden him over 20,000 miles. Together we’d faced grizzly bears, mudslides, forest fires, and even fallen off a cliff. He’d saved my life more than once. With my finger, I traced a couple gray hairs that dotted his forehead. “You’ve earned your blankets, buddy.”

The icy breeze nipped at my cheeks and I thought how much his blankets resemble God’s love for us. God was there when we were born—and He loved us at first sight. He’s faithfully been with us through every step of our lives—through every joy and sorrow. He’s cried with us and laughed with us. He cheered when we’ve overcome. Most of all, when I’ve gone through tough times, it’s been God’s love which wrapped itself around me like a shield and pulled me through.

I glanced around me. The snowflakes glistened in the sun. His love surrounded me: the wind whispering in the pines, the chickadee that serenaded me this morning, the gurgling creek that flowed through the pasture. And His greatest love is manifested in the prize of His creation –you and me, the ones created in His image.

This Christmas season, I’m praying that you feel the God of the universe—the one who hung the stars in place—wrapping His loving arms around you and holding you tight (two horse blankets worth). And I pray that all of us experience the love He’s given us in Jesus.

~~~

About Rebecca: Rebecca Ondov is the author of Horse Tales from Heaven: Reflections along the Trail with God and Horse Tales from Heaven: Gift Edition. She was a contributing author in several books including Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace. She lives in Western Montana with her family, horses, mules, barn cat, and golden retriever. By day she works for Fox Lumber, brokering lumber throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. By night she forges ahead with her mission, writing stories which equip Christians to lead extraordinary lives. Join her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn by going to her Website: www.RebeccaOndov.com

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com) on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Friday, December 17, 2010

City of Tranquil Light

I'm not quite finished with this book yet, but it is excellent so far! My deadline to post was today, so I wanted to make sure I posted something (the press release) to pique your interest. Review to come shortly ...

City of Tranquil Light

Author Bo Caldwell shares an inspired story of a young couple

whose marriage and faith are put to the test in Revolutionary China

Bo Caldwell’s 2001 debut novel, The Distant Land of My Father, set in historic China and based on the story of her uncle, was a critical and commercial success—a national bestseller that was loved by critics, booksellers, and readers in equal measure. In 2002 Caldwell turned to the story of her maternal grandparents who were missionaries in China in the early 1900s. For years her mother had urged her to write about them and when she dove into the research she found their lives full of conflict, danger, and heartbreak, as well as joy and fulfillment. But life, in the form of a cancer diagnosis, kept her from her writing desk until 2006. When she returned, she completed City of Tranquil Light (Henry Holt and Company), a searing love story of a man and a woman, their God, and the country they jointly loved and a deeply researched and page-turning portrait of a country in utter turmoil.

At the center of the novel are Will and Katherine, two Mennonite missionaries from the heartland who have come to China because they feel called by God to serve the poor and spread the Good News. But this is more than a missionary story; it is really the portrait of a marriage set against the backdrop of a radically shifting nation that is plunging into revolution.

A novel based on her grandparents wasn’t Caldwell’s idea. “I’m embarrassed to say that before I had dismissed my grandparents’ lives as too dull and simplistic. But as I reread my grandfather’s memoir and began to ask my mom about my grandparents, I learned how wrong I’d been.” As she began to see her grandparents as her mother had seen them, and to read the biographies and autobiographies of other American missionaries in China, Caldwell found similar stories. “I saw a pattern emerge in the later lives of many of these men and women. Most eventually returned to the United States, usually to be near their children (now grown) and grandchildren, but also because of illness or frailty. I was moved by the contrast between their lives in China and their later lives in the U.S. After enduring decades of war, famine, illness, personal danger, and great hostility toward their work, these people settled safely in the suburbs where they walked in rose gardens and played with their grandchildren and lived out their days. I was struck by the sacrifice that must have been involved in leaving the people and work that had been at the center of their lives, even with the reward of the comforts of modern life. I also began to feel that missionaries often get a bad rap in fiction. While there were certainly those who exploited the people they had come to serve, there were also many who poured out their lives for strangers and for their faith. And I wanted to tell their story.”

That story is one of marriage, of leaving one home and finding another, and of faith. “When I began the novel, I tried to understand my grandfather’s faith and to present it accurately,” says Caldwell. “I tried to see the world through his eyes.” Then life intervened, including a battle to quit drinking followed shortly after with a diagnosis of breast cancer. Once Caldwell returned to writing two years later, she returned as a different person. The combination of sobriety and a serious illness had affected her faith deeply, and she was no longer writing about her grandparents’ faith. She was writing about her own.

12 Pearls of Christmas: Home

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.

~~~

There’s No Place Like….
by Melody Carlson


I grew up spending Christmases at my grandparents’ quaint Victorian home, surrounded by lots of relatives, laughter and love and really good food. For a little girl growing up in a single parent home, harried working mother, no church family, and TV dinners, these extended family holidays spent at my grandparents were like a real gift from God. But as a young adult, my grandfather passed on, the old house was sold, I grew up and eventually had a small family of my own.

Still I longed for those familiar kinds of “big” Christmases—I wanted that house full of relatives and fun times to go home to—I think the “child” in me thought I deserved it somehow. But my grandmother had gotten older and lived in a tiny apartment, and my mother and my husband’s parents were not comfortable hosting Christmas in their homes. For a while we went to my cousin’s, but I soon had to come to grips with reality. The days of going to Grandma’s for the perfect Christmas were a thing of the past.

In other words, it was time for me to grow up—time for me to start hosting our own Christmas celebrations. So biting the holiday bullet, I decided to just do it. With two very small children underfoot, I cooked my first turkey, made my first stuffing, invited some family, neighbors, and friends over, and we all crammed ourselves into our little house, balanced our plates on our knees, and had a very good time. Oh, I’m sure the turkey was dry and the gravy lumpy, but what I remember most is that everyone seemed truly happy to be there. And I realized that I wasn’t the only one longing for that sense of warmth and community—that longing to “go home again”—and I finally grasped that I could (with God’s grace) help to provide that for my family and others.

So for the next three decades we continued to host Christmas in our home. I got better at decorating, cooking, gifting…the works. Some years the place would be packed and crazy. A few years were thinner and quieter. But family, friends and neighbors could always count on the fact that the Carlson’s would be “doing something for Christmas.” It was a no-brainer.

Until this year. This year, for the first time in more than thirty years, my husband and I decided we’re going to take a pass on hosting Christmas—we are going to the beach. At first I felt terribly guilty, and even right now I’m a bit unsure—and wonder if I’ll end up changing my mind at the last minute. And yet, I believe it’s the right thing for us to do—for a lot of reasons. One being that my husband’s birthday is Christmas and he never gets to do what he wants on his birthday—this year will be different. But more than that, I hope that our stepping aside will encourage the younger members of our family to find and embrace some of their own traditions—to grow up and look for opportunities to stretch themselves a bit. Because, similar to how and oyster creates a pearl—or how a young mom learns to be a hostess—with some discomfort and distress a burnt turkeys, the end results are truly valuable.

~~~

About Melody: Melody Carlson lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Labrador Retriever. She’s the author of around 200 books including this year’s Christmas novella, Christmas at Harrington’s.Visit her website for more information, www.melodycarlson.com.

~~~

A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com) on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Thursday, December 16, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas: The Joy of Unexpected Circumstances

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.

~~~

The Joy of Unexpected Circumstances
by Lori Kasbeer


The Christmas season is upon us again. Starbucks is selling their Christmas blend; stores are posting their holiday hours; and moms everywhere are making a list and checking it twice, planning for a special Christmas day. It has been our family’s tradition to spend Christmas with relatives. Last year money was tight and we were unable to travel, this is not how we had planned to spend Christmas day but circumstances were beyond our control. Realizing my three boys--who are now teenagers--will not be under our roof for much longer, I wanted to have a special Christmas with just the five of us.

Leading up to Christmas morning we all made mouth-watering, cinnamon cut-out cookies, spent time together sticking tape everywhere while trying to wrap presents, and enjoyed spending time together. We did not have much money, but were having fun making memories. When Christmas morning arrived and we sat around to open gifts my eyes welled up with overwhelming joy. This mother was trying to absorb all the activity that was going on all around her: the smiles from each of my teenage boys, the sounds of laughter, and the smell of cinnamon rolls cooking in the oven. If I could freeze a moment in time, this would be it. I don’t know what the future holds for each of my boys, but that Christmas morning I wanted to soak it all in so I could recall this special day for years to come. Despite struggling financially, unexpected circumstances turned into immense joy and a lifetime of memories.

Mothers treasuring special moments is not something new. Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, was one who tried to soak in everything that first Christmas morning. Even after Christ’s birth she was still trying to absorb what the angel had said to her when he delivered the news that she was going to be the mother of the coming Savior. She reflected on the time she had with her cousin Elizabeth while they were both pregnant. Along with comprehending the unusual way her son came into this world.

While very pregnant with child, Mary and Joseph traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register Mary for the census. Never did she image she would deliver her baby in a barn with a manger being the only thing to lay him down in. These were not the circumstances she had envisioned. Before she had time to catch her breath, suddenly all around her there was excitement when shepherds showed up reporting what they had seen and heard. There were angels—a multitude of angels—who were singing and declaring the Savior was born and a bright star led them to her and Joseph. So much has happened in a short amount of time and Mary did not want to forget any of it. Instead she stepped back and “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

Mary did not exactly know what the plans were for her son, but she knew it was going to change the lives of everyone on earth. She was preparing her heart to obey God concerning her son Jesus, without the full knowledge of what was going to come while at the same time quietly reflecting and capturing this one special moment in time.

May this Christmas be filled with joy and a lifetime of memories, even if you find yourself in unexpected circumstances. Merry Christmas!

~~~

About Lori: Lori Kasbeer lives with her husband Tadd and three teenage sons in Florida. She's a contributor for Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace and a Christian book reviewer. Please visit Lori’s Book Reviews for more info. You can also find Lori on Facebook and Twitter.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com) on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Remember Why You Play by David Thomas


Based on the back of the book (which had me tearing up within minutes of getting the book out of the mailbox!), I expected this book to be about an amazing high school football team with an amazing coach who was ultimately trying to teach kids life lessons and biblical truths that were more important than just playing sports. The back of the book describes an incredible game against a team of boys from a youth detention center. With no one to cheer them on, the coach asked parents of his players to "switch sides" for the night and cheer by name for the other team's players. The author, however, spends the majority of the book talking about the games leading up to a much-deserved championship game. It's obvious that the coach understands that there are greater things in life than football and uses his opportunity to influence his players to develop godly character. While I enjoy watching sports, the writing is a bit technical for my taste - talking about all the ins and outs of different plays and practice techniques. As much as I wanted to like this book, it fell a little flat for me. It was just different than I expected and only gave one chapter at the end to the story described on the book jacket.

2 stars (out of 5)

I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my fair and honest review.

12 Pearls of Christmas: The First Christmas

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as Melody Carlson, Lauraine Snelling, Rachel Hauck, Tricia Goyer, Maureen Lang, and more share their heartfelt stories of how God has touched their life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! You may enter once a day. The winner will be announced on New Year's Day at the Pearl Girls Blog! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.

~~~

The First Christmas
by Pat Ennis


It was October of my eighteenth year of life when my Dad stepped into eternity. As a college freshman I not only had to deal with my own grief, I also was faced with the responsibility of helping my mother adjust to a new lifestyle. You see, when Dad died, she not only lost her husband of thirty years, she also lost her circle of friends. Suddenly the married couples (my Dad was the first of their group to die) didn’t know what to do about Mother—so they did nothing. Her grieving process was actually extended because of the withdrawal of her friends, many with whom she and Dad had enjoyed fellowship for years.

Our plight was magnified by the reality that we did not have extended family and I was an only child. Quite frankly, the outlook for the holiday season appeared pretty dismal!

As the holidays approached our neighbors, who embraced a different faith than we, graciously invited us to share their Christmas celebration with them. The sincere invitation, their effort to fold us into their family, inclusion in the gift exchange, and intentional conversation that focused on recounting the blessings of the year as well as looking forward to the next turned what could have been a miserable day into one of joy. Of course we missed our husband and Dad but the focus on the Lord’s provision for us through the hospitality of our neighbors (Philippians 4:8-9, 19) soothed our grieving spirits.

I have a happy ending to my Mother’s loss of her circle of friends that I described at the beginning of this story! Ever the gracious southern hostess, she did not cease to extend hospitality because of the change in her marital status—in the five years that she lived beyond Dad’s death, we entertained frequently, and eventually our guest list included widows from the group that had earlier excluded my Mother. Though her arthritic condition precluded her engaging in as much of the food preparation as she was accustomed to doing, she continued to help me hone the skills that were second nature to her.

The loving hospitality extended to us on that first lonely Christmas served as a catalyst for Mom and me to open our home throughout the year—especially during the holiday season! Will you consider displaying biblical compassion by including some of the “others”—singles, widows, and the grieving in your holiday celebrations? Who, knows, you might be entertaining an angel incognito (Hebrews 13:2)!

~~~

About Pat: Dr. Patricia Ennis, author of Precious in His Sight, the Fine Art of Becoming a Godly Woman, co-author of Practicing Hospitality, the Joy of Serving Others, and contributor to Pearl Girls, Experiencing Grit, Experiencing Grace as well as professor and establishing chairperson of the Department of Home Economics at The Master’s College. Visit Pat's blog, Unfading Beauty for more information.

~~~

A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com) on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul


Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul is a sweet Christmas story. Cora is struggling to get into the Christmas spirit when she becomes friends with Simon and his family. They both end up with tickets to the Wizards' Ball, a mysterious ball that no one else really knows about. The challenge for Cora will be forgiving her family and understanding what Christmas is really all about.

This novella was a quick read. The author delivers a sweet story and an easy-to-read writing style. I've not read much in the fantasy genre, but this was just enough of the fantastic without making me uncomfortable. I also liked how the writer really used the story to teach biblical principles, particularly through Simon's sister. The book is a novella, so don't expect a super-developed story, but I thought it was enough to keep my interest.

3.5 stars (out of 5)

I received a free copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Please take a minute and rank my review.

12 Pearls of Christmas: Wear Joy

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as Melody Carlson, Lauraine Snelling, Rachel Hauck, Tricia Goyer, Maureen Lang, and more share their heartfelt stories of how God has touched their life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! You may enter once a day. The winner will be announced on New Year's Day at the Pearl Girls Blog! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.

~~~

Wear Joy
by Rachel Hauck

Thanksgiving day in central Florida broke warm and sunny under a blue sky. The thin fall breeze beckoned me. Taking my bike out, I rode the neighborhood feeling so grateful for all my blessings.

Joy bubbled up in my spirit. I’d been feeling it for a day, these waves of joy, but as I rode my bike and talked to God, the waves strengthened and splashed my heart the entire ride.

I’d laugh. Then tear up. And laugh again. As one who’s battled and won the war on anxiety and fear attacks, the onslaught of joy was welcomed, and actually sparked a new prayer in my heart. I’ve endured attacks of panic, time for attacks of joy.

The journey of joy began earlier in the year while writing a book coincidentally named, “Dining with Joy.”

Sitting at my table one day, revelation hit me. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” Nehemiah 8:10. The more I meditated on it, the more I wanted His joy. I don’t want my strength. I want His.

Not long after, I went to Nashville for a girl’s weekend. One of my friends handed me a coffee cup inscribed with “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

Ever just know? God is calling.

During the holiday season, I turn 50. Yep, the big 5-0. Can’t stop it, I might as well embrace it.

Fifty is often associated with jubilee, a time of restoration, and healing, even release from debt and slavery. It’s a time of returning to property, and inheritance.

A time of rest.

A time of JOY!

This past week, a friend gifted me with a beautiful Christmas ornament. Inscribed on it? You guessed it.

JOY!

To me, the world doesn’t look very joyful. There are social and economic woas. But God is speaking and offering joy.

As you go into this holiday season, ask God for a pearl of joy. Like pearls, crafted through abrasion, God’s true joy is often formed in us during difficult seasons.

Here’s the thing, His strength isn’t doled out based on our goodness, our success or failure, or the fact the holiday season is hard or sad for you. He is ready, willing and able to overcome all your weaknesses, fears and anxiety, sadness with the power of His very own joy.

His joy. Your strength.

I’ve been walking into rooms, houses, outdoors, raising my arms and shouting, “Joy!” People look at me funny, but I want to spread the joy of the Lord. To spread the very essence of His strength.

How about you? Can you find the pearl of joy in your life, in the essence of God’s heart toward you?

Wear joy this season.

~~~

About Rachel: RITA-finalist Rachel Hauck lives in Florida with her husband, Tony. She is the author of Dining with Joy; Sweet Caroline; Love Starts with Elle; and The Sweet By and By, co-authored with Sara Evans. For more information please visit www.rachelhauck.com.

Oh, and be sure to enter Rachel's Dining With Joy NOOK eReader giveaway!
~~~

A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com) on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Monday, December 13, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas: Pearls of Patience

Hello - I'm thrilled to announce the 2nd Annual 12 Pearls of Christmas! We've lined up several authors to share their Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along beginning today (Monday the 13th) through Christmas day as Melody Carlson, Lauraine Snelling, Rachel Hauck, Tricia Goyer, Maureen Lang, and more share their heartfelt stories of how God has touched their life during this most wonderful time of the year.

We are also providing this series as free content for your own blogs (as 12 html posts) - if you'd like to share the 12 Pearls of Christmas with your blog readers email ( amy@litfusegroup.com ) and she'll send you the content.

AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post or any of the following 12 Pearls of Christmas posts (on any of the participating posts) to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! You may enter once a day. The winner will be announced on New Year's Day! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.

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Pearls of Patience

by Margaret Mcsweeney

As I write by the light of my Christmas tree on a late winter’s night, I reflect upon the poignancy and purpose of this season. The tiny white lights look like strands of pearls draped gracefully (perhaps haphazardly is a more honest description) across the evergreen boughs. Tomorrow I will hang the ornaments and at last place the angel atop the tree

Angels carry a special meaning this Christmas. My brother, Randy passed away on December 2nd from a heart attack at age 53. He was feeding a stray cat on his side porch. Randy was always like St. Francis of Asissi – animals would find him, sensing a kind soul. And my brother was a gentle and patient soul. He loved to fish. He tried to teach me, but I immediately lost interest when I realized worms were involved. And I could never sit still on the banks of a river and just wait. However, Randy could do that. He could wait, and waiting is a true gift. He put into practice the Scriptures. “Wait upon the Lord.” “Be still and know that He is God.” Patience doesn’t have to be passive. Wait is still an action verb. Part of the waiting process for fishing is seeking. Elaine (Randy’s wife of 31 years) told me that Randy said he could see the fish deep beneath the waters. He actively waited for the right time to catch them.

During Randy’s last fishing trip on earth – just a week before his death, he felt an urgency to take a picture of the clouds with his cell phone. When he returned home, he showed the picture to Elaine. They realized that a face of an angel was looking at Randy from the sky – perhaps waiting for God’s timing to bring Randy home to heaven. In my heart I like to think that this “angel in the sky” was part of the heavenly host that appeared to the shepherds over two thousand years ago. A Christmas Angel.

The Christmas Angels brought tidings of great joy that Jesus, our Lord and Savior was born. And because of that incredible gift from God that these angels announced, we all have the promise of eternity. Let us actively wait for His return by sharing our faith, offering hope and acting with love in everything we do.

May each of you be blessed this Christmas as you celebrate the purposeful promises of the Season: Faith, hope and love. And may the 12 Pearls of Christmas be a blessing to you, too.

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About Margaret: Margaret McSweeney lives with her husband, David and two teenage daughters in the Chicago suburbs. After earning a master's degree in international business from the University of South Carolina , Margaret moved to New York City to work at a large bank where she met David. Charity and community involvement are very important to Margaret. She is the founder and director of Pearl Girls. For more information please visit www.pearlgirls.info. Margaret is fast at work on several fiction manuscripts and her book Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace was written to help fund the Pearl Girl Charities. Connect with Margaret on Facebook or Twitter.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com) on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info
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