Tuesday, December 25, 2012

12 Pearls of Christmas | Day 12 - Does it Even Matter? by Tracey Eyster


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items (books, a gift pack, music CDs) from the contributors! Enter now on Facebook or at the Pearl Girls blog. The winner will announced on January 2, 2013 at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.


***
Does It Even Matter?
By Tracey Eyster

Every day, day after day, for twenty years I have been immersed in the task of mothering. No one told me before I was handed that swaddled bundle how all-consuming the role of motherhood was going to be, or how my heart would be forever altered.

My heart is swollen from the love that has grown there. A deep love that’s swelling has come at a cost.

The cost of daily dying to self as I choose to serve the needs of my children and my husband—to grow a family with the end in mind.

Thankfully I was taught by those older and wiser than me that the building of image bearing children requires intentionality and purpose by two loving, connected parents who are willing to work together for God’s purposes.

Even when we don’t know the outcome or exact purpose God has in mind for our children—our willingness to put in the hours and to be yielded to His direction is our gift to the Father.

This Christmas I have had a new and odd wondering that I have been contemplating, a question that has never before occurred to me.

Who built the manger?

Did he think the task was too menial?

Was he weary and tired from the task?

Did he want to build something more grand?

Did he dream of working in a way that would bring him glory and attention?

Did he wrestle with the assumption that what he was putting his time and effort into was not for a grand purpose?

How could he know the plans God had for that little manger?

The Savior of the world was going to rest there and do great things.

Psst . . . Mom, do you see it?

The Savior of the world has the potential to rest within that which you are building . . . to do great things.

Take care to put your time, talents, and energy into building well.

***
Tracey Eyster is the happily-in-love wife of Bill and the fun-filled mom of two teens, and she is devoted to her family and is happiest when making memories with them. In 2008 she took her passion for speaking into the lives of moms and created the ministry of MomLife Today. She is passionate about momlife and is amazed at God’s blessing of allowing her first book Be The Mom to come to fruition. She enjoys connecting with moms through her personal blog at www.bethemom.com, and on Facebook or Twitter @MomBlog

 

Monday, December 24, 2012

12 Pearls of Christmas | Day 11 - Just Like Mary by Carla Anne Coroy


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items (books, a gift pack, music CDs) from the contributors! Enter now on Facebook or at the Pearl Girls blog. The winner will announced on January 2, 2013 at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***
Just Like Mary
By Carla Anne Coroy

Mary. Amazing Mary. Mother of Jesus. We marvel at her simple, faith-filled acceptance of God’s will for her life. There’s so little written about Mary in the Bible. We know almost nothing, really, about this woman that God chose to parent His Son.

Many have speculated about the exact age of Jesus’ mother. How old was she, really? What would it have been like to be greeted by an angel—and told you would become pregnant by the Spirit of God?

I wonder about other things sometimes, though. Like if she had morning sickness, or gained a lot of weight during her pregnancy. Was she overdue, or was baby Jesus born right on time? Did she mistake Braxton Hicks contractions for the real thing before labor really started? Was it a fast labor or did Joseph have eighteen hours to get that place into birthing readiness?

Most women who have ever given birth to a child have shared pregnancy stories. Everyone’s story is unique and interesting. Surely Mary’s was, too!

Then there are the stories of potty-training and conversations on how to get the baby to sleep through the night. Did Mary bounce Jesus on her knee while sharing recipes with other young moms?

We cannot find answers for these questions in Scripture. And as interesting as it might be to share pregnancy stories with Mary over a cup of coffee (maybe in heaven?) and get her tips on potty-training, we really don’t need to know any of that to love the Son she bore.

But Mary’s example raises questions about me and my own life that get under my skin.

Am I the kind of woman God will choose to be part of His plan? Do I trust and love my God enough to give faith-filled answers like she did? If there were just a few paragraphs written of my life for future generations to read, would those words reveal a heart of willing submission to God?

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38, NIV)

God has not asked me to carry the burden of His Son in my womb. There are other burdens He is asking me, and you, to carry instead. Are we being the women He needs for the part of the plan we’re living in now? Am I saying to Jesus today, “May it be to me as you have said”?

During this Advent season, let’s prepare ourselves to be used by God, filled with faith and anticipating His grace—just like Mary.

***
Carla Anne Coroy is a Christian speaker and blogger, and the award-winning author of Married Mom, Solo Parent. She ministers to a wide audience through her website and blog at www.carlaanne.com. Carla Anne has served full-time with organizations such as Youth for Christ and Crown Financial Ministries, and is currently developing mentoring resources for women and an international mentoring organization for youth. She also serves as a staff writer for the online magazine Mentoring Moments for Christian Women and is a spokesperson for Faithbuddy.com. Carla Anne lives in Canada with her husband and four homeschooled children.

 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

12 Pearls of Christmas | Day 10 - Christmas Mourning by Tricia Goyer


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items (books, a gift pack, music CDs) from the contributors! Enter now on Facebook or at the Pearl Girls blog. The winner will announced on January 2, 2013 at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***
Christmas Mourning
By Tricia Goyer

As I sat in our living room last Christmas morning, there was a pile of presents under the tree. A smile filled my face, just thinking about the joy and laughter that would fill the house in a few hours when we gathered around to hear the Christmas story, worship Jesus, and open presents.

That morning as I thought about the celebration of our Lord's birth, my mind was already busy unwrapping. No, I wasn't thinking ahead to presents. Instead, I was unwrapping the many memories of Christmas that I carry on my heart.

I remember sitting at the kids' table in Grandma's mobile home, laughing and goofing around with my brother and cousins. I remember the doll house my Grandpa made when I was seven and the loving care my grandma took to decorate it.

I remember the boom box and banana clips from high school and my first Christmas with my son Cory not long after I turned eighteen. Cory was only six months old, but the greatest gift God gave to both of us that year was John—my soon-to-be husband and Cory's soon-to-be daddy.

There are memories of the kids acting out the Christmas story and Goyer family gatherings in which forty of us would eat in our cleaned-out and heated garage because it was the only place big enough to set up tables and chairs for everyone.

I also will never forget the first time I celebrated Christmas in California with my biological dad and the four sisters I didn't know growing up. I had a happy heart that day, being with people I didn't know well but who amazingly looked and acted just like me. How cool is that?!

As I write this, there are faces going to be missing around the tree, to be sure. There's always a sense of missing when the people you love are far away. And that's when Christmas Morning becomes Christmas Mourning. I'm thinking of my mom, dad, siblings, in-laws, and friends, wishing I could fill me house with their faces, their smiles, their laughter. I'm sure you understand.

It's so easy to center Christmas around the baby who God sent, but we cannot forget the purpose for His coming. Jesus' mission wasn't just about the manager, the angels, and the swaddling clothes. His purpose was to offer himself so that we can spend eternity with Him and those we love.

The greatest gift is one we've yet to open. Salvation comes to our hearts when we whisper a prayer of faith and relinquishment—when we give up the right to ourselves.

Like a beautifully wrapped presents under the tree, the best part of the gift is still to come. My mind is anticipating the unwrapping. I can only guess of the joy and laughter to come!


***
Tricia Goyer is a busy mom of four, grandmother of one, and wife to John. Somewhere around the hustle and bustle of family life, she manages to find the time to write fictional tales delighting and entertaining readers and non-fiction titles offering encouragement and hope. Tricia is also on the blogging team at MomLifeToday.com, TheBetterMom.com and other homeschooling and Christian sites. In addition to her roles as mom, wife and author, Tricia volunteers around her community and mentors teen moms. She is the founder of Hope Pregnancy Ministries in Northwestern Montana, and she currently leads a Teen MOPS Group in Little Rock, AR. Tricia, along with a group of friends, recently launched www.NotQuiteAmishLiving.com, sharing ideas about simplifying life. She also hosts the weekly radio podcast, Living Inspired. Learn more about Tricia at www.triciagoyer.com.

 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

12 Pearls of Christmas | Day 9 - The ADVENTure Awaits You! by Charissa Steyn


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items (books, a gift pack, music CDs) from the contributors! Enter now on Facebook or at the Pearl Girls blog. The winner will announced on January 2, 2013 at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***
The ADVENTure Awaits You!
By Charissa Steyn

God loves keeping us in a place of joyful expectation for what is next. He has mastered the art of surprise. Much to my dismay, God rarely ever lays out steps 1-2-3 for me to see. Maybe you’re like me and you’re a planner. You need time to prepare yourself for what is coming, the unknown grips you with fear, and it’s hard for you to simply enjoy a surprise.

It’s difficult to understand why God doesn’t like to reveal more of His mysterious ways, but I have a feeling it has something to do with faith. I am quite sure that if I knew everything that God had planned ahead of time my response would be, “No way God!”

But maybe we need to be a little more like Mary when it comes to faith. The angel reassured her, "Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you…” (Luke 1:30)

Did you get that? You have nothing to fear _________ (fill in the blank with your name) God has a surprise for you!

God invited Mary into the ultimate season of joyful expectation. He took her on the most miraculous adventure of birthing His son!

Instead of hesitation, Mary stepped forward, “Yes . . . let it be with me just as you say.” (Luke 1:38)

Instead of cowering in fear, Mary celebrated in faith, “I'm bursting with God-news; I'm dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened—I'm the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten. . . .” {Luke 1:46-48)

As the Christmas season is upon us, I can’t help but wonder what surprises God has wrapped up for us under His tree of life? What gifts does He want to reveal to us this year?

Like Mary, let’s face the unknown, the mystery, the surprises of God with a quiet, yet confident YES!

God wants to show you the impossible can become possible, the supernatural can become natural. We don’t need special qualifications, just joyful expectation.

May you accept the invitation of Jesus in this truly ADVENTurous season and embrace all the marvelous, mysterious surprises He has for you along the way!


***
Charissa Steyn is a God-adventurer. She believes everyday holds exciting undertakings that usually involve risk, but always draw us closer to the Father’s heart. Originally from Seattle, she now lives in Cape Town with her South African hubby, Michal and their son David. Together they are doing their best to lead a simple, yet dangerous life of love. Learn more about Charissa at her blog.

 

Friday, December 21, 2012

12 Pearls of Christmas | Day 8 - Quieted in His Presence by Cara Putman


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items (books, a gift pack, music CDs) from the contributors! Enter now on Facebook or at the Pearl Girls blog. The winner will announced on January 2, 2013 at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***
Quieted in His Presence
By Cara Putman

It's the week after Thanksgiving. We're racing toward Christmas. Even with Thanksgiving occurring a week early, it feels like a race. When did we decide this organized (or not so organized) chaos was restful, relaxing, conducive to a joyful season?

When did the joy of gifting something to one we love become replaced by the pressure to find the perfect gift? When did the amount of the gift matter more than spirit it is gifted in? At times like these I need a reason to remember that God can calm my heart when I feel like I'm spilling in a bazillion different directions.

Grab a mug of tea or cup of coffee. I'll share my peppermint mocha creamer. It's low-sugar. And let's sit together and soak in this truth.

The Lord is with us. With us. Emmanual. The God with us. Savor that. He's with us. Not watching us. With us.

He is mighty to save. He doesn't barely save. He is mightily prepared to save.

He will take great delight in you. Think about a child. Yours or someone else's. Think about the joy that child brings to his parents. That is a pale shadow of the depth of delight God takes in you. Humbled? Thrilled? I am!

He quiets us with His love. He will, if we'll let Him. It is His will to quiet us with love. Like a child who is content and secure in the knowledge of her parents' love. That's how He wants us to rest. To be quiet. In His presence. At His feet.

He will rejoice over us with singing. Think of your favorite artist, group, chorus. Think of how their voices resonate and harmonize. Remember how you are swept away by the beauty of a voice raised in song. Then imagine God singing a special song over you. Then consider that it's a song of rejoicing. Just because you are. A song to you.

Now that you've quieted in His presence, are you ready to go back to preparations. Ready to focus on Him? To find Him in the midst of the Christmas chaos? Because He is the baby in the manager. He is the reason we celebrate. And He's celebrating you!


***
Cara Putman is an author of fourteen novels and one nonfiction work—plus all the characters and stories still begging to be told. Look for more in the future. She is also a licensed attorney, contract lecturer at a Big Ten University, adjunct faculty at a community college, and active in her church and community. She lives with her family in Indiana.

 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

12 Pearls of Christmas | Day 7 - When God Wraps a Present . . . by Julie Lessman


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items (books, a gift pack, music CDs) from the contributors! Enter now on Facebook or at the Pearl Girls blog. The winner will announced on January 2, 2013 at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.



***
When God Wraps a Present . . .
By Julie Lessman

We’ve all heard the adage “it’s better to give than receive,” but never have I agreed more than the year I was engaged to the love of my life.

It was truly a Christmas to remember—spiced egg nog and snickerdoodles and shimmering presents unwrapped in a circle of love. Of course, we all ooohed and ahhhed over each gift opened, one at a time, reveling in the glow of excitement for giver and recipient alike.

And then it was my turn. Everyone waited while I tore into a small box, anticipation fairly shimmering in my fiancé's eyes.

“Do you like it?” he asked, grinning like a little boy when I unearthed a very pretty silver watch.

No. “It’s beautiful,” I said with a shaky giggle, slipping it on and holding it up for everyone to admire. I quickly gave him a sweet kiss on the lips. “Thank you so much, babe—what a perfect gift!”

Perfectly awful, that is. You see, when you are a twenty-eight-year-old Type A career woman who is very set in her ways, there are just some things you have to buy for herself—books, costume jewelry, purses … a watch.

All right, yes, I’ll admit it—“high maintenance” is my middle name because heaven knows I’m one of the most particular people on the planet, especially when it comes to watches. They have to be digital, waterproof, have a day and date window, an alarm, chronograph, second hand, both silver and gold metal to wear with either silver or gold jewelry, stretch band skinny enough to fit my wrist . . . and a GPS. Okay, I’m pulling your watch chain on the last one, but you get the picture—NOT easy to find, especially with numbers big enough for someone blind as a bat.

So, yes, I faked it, of course, thanking my soon-to-be husband for the “prettiest watch I had ever owned,” because it was—I just didn’t like it. But did I “fake it” with God? Uh, no. I went straight to His throne in prayer and begged Him to help me love this watch because the man I loved gave it to me and I just flat-out didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I even went so far as to write the prayer request on a piece of paper and put it in my Bible so I could “wrap” it in prayer every single day, which I did.

Until the fateful moment years later when my husband used my Bible one day and found the note.

“You don’t like your watch??” he says, confronting me with hurt in his tone while his eyes flicked to the pretty watch on my wrist.

“What are you talking about?” I asked, somewhat confused.

He held up the note. “You told God you hated it in this note I found in your Bible.”

Uh-oh . . . BUSTED!

“Oh, babe,” I said with my brightest smile and a quick kiss on the lips. “That was then and this is now. It’s perfect for me, just like you, and I absolutely love it.

And you know what? I did!!

***
Award-winning author of “The Daughters of Boston” and “Winds of Change” series, Julie Lessman was ACFW’s 2009 Debut Author of the Year and voted #1 Romance Author of the year in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards. Winner of 14 RWA awards, she also appeared on Booklist’s 2010 list for Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and has just released her 7th novel, A Light in the Window: An Irish Christmas Love Story. You can contact Julie at her website, on Facebook, on Twitter at @julielessman, or read excerpts of her favorite romantic and spiritual scenes from each of her books at http://www.julielessman.com/excerpts/.

 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

12 Pearls of Christmas | Day 6 - Year of Adversity Brings Joy by Leslie Gould


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items (books, a gift pack, music CDs) from the contributors! Enter now on Facebook or at the Pearl Girls blog. The winner will announced on January 2, 2013 at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.


***
Year of Adversity Brings Joy
By Leslie Gould

I’ve been writing Amish fiction for nearly three years now—telling stories about non-resistant people who live a simple life. It’s a nice reprieve from my own life.

When my husband, Peter, joined the Army Reserve back in the mid 1980s, I wasn’t thrilled about it. Nor did I believe him when he said he’d probably never see action. Sure, the Cold War was ending and—for a short time—all seemed well in the world, but I had a degree in history. I knew better. I didn’t want to be a controlling wife (as new to the job as I was!) and come out and say he absolutely couldn’t do it. And it did help that he was joining a medical unit. Still I had my reservations.

We’ve been far more fortunate than many military families, but still it’s been quite a ride. The first exciting episode began in 1990 when Peter flew to Germany on Christmas Eve to work in an Army hospital during Desert Storm, leaving me behind with our two young sons. During the next twenty years, Peter went from being a Lt. to being a Col. and commanding a unit. Countless maneuvers and a mobilization occurred during that time, but his Army Reserve career culminated in his deployment to Afghanistan in 2011.

My days throughout last year were an odd combination of hearing the daily news from a war zone via Skype and then writing about the plain life of the Amish. By last December I was working on my third Amish novel of the year while, in contrast, Peter and his field hospital staff had cared for hundreds of NATO soldiers and Afghan nationals, endured ten months of rocket fire, and continued to grieve the killing of one of their own.

Surprisingly, what seemed like it might be our worst Christmas ever, even harder than in 1990, wasn’t. Our four children (one teen and three young adults now) rallied to help make it a memorable day. We counted our blessings—Peter was well, we had all we needed, and God was at work in the life of our family. The result was an underlying joy, deeper than what we’d felt during past Christmases.

In reflection, I wrote: When it started, I thought 2011 might be one of our worst years. But it hasn’t been. Sure, it’s been one of our hardest, but a lot of good has come from it.

That was evident on Christmas morning as we Skyped with Peter. We were so thankful for the good connection and for all of us to be “together” that we hardly noticed we really weren’t.

This December, Peter is back at his civilian job (as a manager for a hospital corporation) and also commanding a nearby Army Reserve unit, which means one weekend a month and plenty of evenings—but no rockets or causalities.

I’m working on a new Amish novel and still enjoying my “time” with those who practice non-resistance, which doesn’t discount the appreciation I have for my husband’s service. I’ve even grown to the place where I’m thankful he joined the military. They’ve served each other well.

Our year of adversity resulted in a deep joy. I’m pretty sure it will carry over to this Christmas as well.


***
Leslie Gould is the award-winning author of fifteen novels, including the #1 bestseller and Christy Award winner The Amish Midwife, co-written with Mindy Starns Clark. Her latest release is Courting Cate, a retelling of the “Taming of the Shrew.” Leslie lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Peter, and their four children. www.lesliegould.com

 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

12 Pearls of Christmas | Day 5 - Will They Know What It Cost? by Glynnis Whitwer


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items (books, a gift pack, music CDs) from the contributors! Enter now on Facebook or at the Pearl Girls blog. The winner will announced on January 2, 2013 at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***
Will They Know What it Cost?
By Glynnis Whitwer

My daughter Cathrine went on a field trip to the Grand Canyon when she was in fourth grade. As I picked her up upon her return, she couldn’t wait to show me an adorable little stuffed brown bear she’d bought as a gift. She started to say that it was for everyone—meaning her three brothers and sister—but then her words got jumbled. Tears welled in her eyes as she tried to explain how she ran out of money when trying to buy gifts. Her distress was obvious.

To understand fully, it might help to know that Cathrine was born in Africa and experienced deprivation of every sort for the first eleven years of her life. At thirteen years old, she was only in fourth grade. And although she has made remarkable gains, even now she struggles with communication and math—especially money.

Later that night I finally understood what Cathrine was trying to tell me about the bear. She had taken twenty dollars of her own money to buy herself a souvenir. But before buying herself something, she wanted to buy some small gifts. So she started with two of her teachers and bought them each a small ring with the first initial of their last names. I looked at the price on the rings and realized each was $3.99. Times that by two, add tax, and Cathrine would have been left with eleven dollars for other gifts and herself.

I imagine she stood at the gift store counter bewildered by what she had just done. She was probably embarrassed to ask any of her classmates for help. And maybe the teacher wasn't around. There she stood with just over half of her money, and three brothers and a sister left to buy for. She decided to get a group gift, and that’s where the bear came in.

Standing in our kitchen, looking at the three items she purchased, I smiled brightly and told her everyone was going to love their gifts and that she’d made wonderful purchases. She smiled back, and the night ended well.

The next morning as she wrapped up the little rings, I kept thinking about those two teachers who were going to receive a gift that day. All they would see is a little silver ring. I knew they would be very loving and appreciative. But would they truly understand the sacrifice Cathrine made?

Would they understand their gifts cost Cathrine half of what she had? Would they ever know the frustration and worry Cathrine felt as she realized she didn't have enough to buy her family any gifts? Would they treasure those little rings, or would they put them in a drawer with gifts from other students throughout the year?

As I pondered these thoughts, I considered a gift I was given two thousand years ago: Jesus. God sent His Son into the world as a baby, knowing He would die on a cross for me. The cost of this gift staggers me.

As I decorate my tree and shop for my family, I’m reminded of what my freedom cost my Heavenly Father. Do I truly understand the sacrifice of that gift? Do I understand the anguish God the Father must have felt sending His Son? Do I treasure this gift, or do I take it for granted?

Christmas is a time for celebration. But it’s also a time to remember God’s sacrifice. For it is in understanding the cost, that we fully appreciate the gift.


***
Glynnis Whitwer is an executive director with Proverbs 31 Ministries. She is one of the writers of Encouragement for Today, the Proverbs 31 e-mail devotions, with over 500,000 daily readers. Her newest book, I Used to be So Organized, was released last fall. Glynnis, her husband Tod, and their five children live in Glendale, Arizona. Visit www.GlynnisWhitwer.com for more information.

 

Monday, December 17, 2012

12 Pearls of Christmas | Day 4 - A Mistletoe Medley by Margaret McSweeney


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items (books, a gift pack, music CDs) from the contributors! Enter now on Facebook or at the Pearl Girls blog. The winner will announced on January 2, 2013 at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.



***
A Mistletoe Medley
By Margaret McSweeney

“You have breast cancer.” Those four words my doctor said the week of Mother’s Day 2012 have forever changed my life. Mere months after my fiftieth birthday, I encountered this unexpected “lump in the road” and ventured through a major detour after reaching my half-century mark.

Through this “grit,” God has covered me with His amazing grace! At the same time of my diagnosis, two books released: Mother of Pearl: Luminous Lessons and Iridescent Faith along with Aftermath: Growing in Grace Through Grief. During this Christmas season, I rejoice that my cancer was caught and treated at an early stage. After six weeks of “daily radiance” (AKA radiation therapy), I started my daily dose of Tamoxifen to help battle any potential cells that might cause a recurrence. Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.

While writing Aftermath and sharing my journey of grief as an adult orphan, I experienced several “hugs from heaven” as I discovered family letters, journals, and even a video in which my mother shares her faith. This is a mistletoe medley from my mother’s heart:

Each Christmas season my father used to go down into the woods behind our home and bring us back some mistletoe. It was a present that my sister and I loved. We’d tie it with bright ribbons and would hang it over several doorways in the house.

It was always fun of course for a Christmas party, but it came to mean more than that to us. It seemed to become a symbol of the meaning of Christmas: Love, God’s love for the world that prompted Him to send Christ to become our Savior. Somehow it seemed to enhance our love for each other as a family. And we found ourselves stepping under the mistletoe to give someone a hug or to plant a kiss on someone’s cheek and say, “I love you.”

I thought of these mistletoe Christmases during my mother’s losing battle with cancer. I penned my thoughts like this:

Illness, you ugly parasite!

Like mistletoe, you’ve entrenched yourself upon my body!

As you bloom and grow, you feed upon my strength.

I shall fight!

Battalions stand by to help!

My doctor’s scalpel will sever you.

Modern medicine will shrivel you.

You shall fall to the ground,

And I shall stand again strong and well.

But what if I cannot conquer you?

If you are with me still

As my constant, inevitable companion,

I pray that God will help me

Learn to live with you in peace

And somehow discover how you, my enemy—

Like mistletoe at Christmas—

Can serve some useful purpose.

There are times when we cannot rid our lives of things that hurt such as pain or grief, loss, illness, sorrow. Sometimes they’re with us as our inevitable companions and we must learn to make peace with them.

Those are the times when we can ask God through Christ to help us transform the loneliness, the pain, the grief, the loss-symbolically into something that can serve a useful purpose in our lives.

May you feel an extra “hug from heaven” this Christmas season from the loving arms of our Heavenly Father. God is present, and He knows your name!
*Text quoted from Aftermath (New Hope, 2012) by Margaret McSweeney, pp 114-115 

***
Margaret McSweeny is a well-published author and freelance writer for the 411 Voices and the Daily Herald, the largest suburban Chicago newspaper. She is the author of Aftermath, A Mother's Heart Knows and Go Back and Be Happy. She is also the founder of Pearl Girls™ and the general editor of the Pearl Girls™ books; Mother of Pearl and Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace. All proceeds from the sales of the Pearl Girls™ books go to charity. For the past five years, she has served on the board of directors for WINGS, an organization that helps abused women and their children get a new start in life. Margaret would love to meet you too. Follow her on twitter or friend her on facebook. You can also keep up with Margaret at Kitchen Chat or the Pearl Girls blog. Margaret lives with her husband and two daughters in the Chicago suburbs.

 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

12 Pearls of Christmas | Day 3 - Who is Mr. Carbunkle? by Debora M. Coty


Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items (books, a gift pack, music CDs) from the contributors! Enter now on Facebook or at the Pearl Girls blog. The winner will announced on January 2, 2013 at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.


***
Who is Mr. Carbunkle?
By: Debora M. Coty

In a dream this November, I was playing Clue (remember that board game from your childhood?) with three friendly strangers. We were each moving our pieces from room to room in the mysterious mansion trying to figure out who-done-it.

So far we knew it wasn’t Miss Scarlet in the parlor with a candlestick . . . or Colonel Mustard in the drawing room with a wrench.

With a voice bursting with sudden enlightenment, the player to my right announced, “Why, it’s Mr. Carbunkle!*”

My other two opponents and I looked at one another in bewilderment. Everyone knew there was no such character in this game.

It seemed my lot to state the obvious. “Who is Mr. Carbunkle?”

The words continued to ring in my head as I sat straight up in bed. I must have spoken the question aloud to jerk me awake so.

Who is Mr. Carbunkle?

And then I knew. I knew just as surely as if the Almighty had sent me an e-mail titled, “Hey, Deb, here’s your answer.”

I had been praying for several weeks about how Papa God would like me to use my writing tithe this year. It’s been my custom, for the nine years I’ve written professionally, to give away each December (anonymously, if possible) ten percent of that year’s income from my writing ministry to someone the Lord designates.

The sum isn’t really all that much in the grand scheme of things (contrary to popular belief, Christian writers don’t get rich), but it’s enough to bless somebody in their celebration of Christ’s birth with the knowledge that their Heavenly Father knows about their needs . . . and cares.

I thought about the only Mr. Carbunkle I knew—the one who attends our church, a quiet, unassuming man who’d been out of work for more than a year. I confess that I knew about his plight but hadn’t really given it much thought—or prayer—lately. Although he never complained, I knew his family must be struggling.

So Mr. Carbunkle it is.

You know, there are lots of Mr. Carbunkles out there who would be blessed mightily by a love-gift from you this Christmas. It doesn’t have to be money; it could be help with yard work, or home repairs, or a loaf of banana bread, or best of all, a gift of your time. Thirty minutes of your undivided attention for a lonely soul who needs to know Papa God knows his or her needs … and cares.

Who is your Mr. Carbunkle?

Don’t have a Clue? I know someone who does. Just ask Him.

*Name changed for privacy 

***
Debora Coty is an occupational therapist, a piano teacher, and a freelance writer. She's also involved in the children's ministry at her church and is an avid tennis player. Debora began writing to fill the void when her last child left for college, and it has since become a passion. Debora has a real knack for getting across sound biblical concepts with a refreshing lightheartedness as attested in her monthly newspaper column entitled "Grace Notes: God's Grace for Everyday Living." Look for Fear, Faith and a Fist Full of Chocolate in February of 2013. 

 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

12 Pearls of Christmas | Day 2 - An Inexpensive New Christmas Tradition by Christy Fitzwater

Welcome to the12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items (books, a gift pack, music CDs) from the contributors! Enter now on Facebook or at the Pearl Girls blog. The winner will announced on January 2, 2013 at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***
An Inexpensive New Christmas Tradition
By: Christy Fitzwater

I was invited to play some Christmas carols on the piano for a senior-adult luncheon, but before I got up to play they had a time for the seniors to share what they remembered as their favorite Christmas gifts. 

There was talk of new bicycles, a pony, and a new dress.

Then one elderly man took the microphone and said, “An orange.” When he was young, an orange was a rare treat. As he spoke, he got choked up and had to stop talking to collect himself. He explained that his Sunday School was giving an orange for anyone who memorized a Bible verse. He tearfully described earning that delicious orange and slowly savoring every bite. When he was done eating the orange, he put the peel on the furnace so it would dry, and then he chewed on the peel.

He said with conviction, “We just don’t know how rich we are in this country.”

Christmas is usually the time when I feel broke. I tuck away money for gifts all year long, but money doesn’t go very far these days. My husband and I love to spoil our kids and try to scheme how to get them a big-ticket item. We’ve enjoyed the Christmas mornings when we’ve been able to enjoy watching our kids open such gifts as an electric guitar or an iPad.

I stopped to imagine how our whole family would feel if, on Christmas morning, the only gift under the tree was a small basket cradling an orange for each of us. I think we would feel disappointment and great loss. What would we do the rest of the morning if not consumed by opening gift after gift? Where would the focus be?

Our years of wealth make thankfulness for an orange seem ludicrous.

As I processed this man’s story, I decided what we lack at Christmas isn’t money to buy nice gifts—it’s gratitude to relish the simple treasures we enjoy every day.

This Christmas I am going to begin a new tradition for my family, and I would invite your family to do the same. I am going to place a small basket with four oranges under the tree, along with a printed copy of the man’s story of the orange. We’re going to pause at some point in the morning and each hold an orange while we read the story. And then we’re going to hold those oranges up to our noses and breathe in the fragrance God built into it, peel it slowly, and enjoy each juicy bite. And while we eat it, we’ll each speak thankfulness to the Lord for the grace He has poured into our lives.

In that moment, we’ll know how rich we are. 

***
Christy Fitzwater is a writer and pastor’s wife living in Kalispell, Montana. She is the mother of a daughter in college and a high-school boy. Read her personal blog at christyfitzwater.com.

 

Friday, December 14, 2012

12 Pearls of Christmas | Day 1 - God with Us . . . And Us with Him by Susan May Warren



Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items (books, a gift pack, music CDs) from the contributors! Enter now on Facebook or at the Pearl Girls blog. The winner will announced on January 2, 2013 at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

***
God with Us . . . And Us with Him
By: Susan May Warren

Every year over labor day weekend, the Warren family has a MWE. Mandatory Warren Event. It’s a call to come home and enjoy the long weekend with our favorite people. Since my children have left for college, I relish every second of this weekend—the laughter in the kitchen, the long conversations in the family room, the frenzy of backyard football, the quietness of the morning as we drink coffee on the deck and watch the sunrise. I cherish these people, and when they are with me, I drink in their presence.

I’ve been reading the prophecies about Christ this season and came across Isaiah 7:14, Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

I am struck by the word Immanuel. God with us. The closest I get to comprehending this is reading about how Jesus’ loved his disciples. Surely they relished the time with him more profoundly after his resurrection, knowing he would soon leave.

Thankfully, he didn’t leave them for long and sent His Holy Spirit. God . . . still with them. 

As I consider the magnitude of this God who would come to earth, who would abide with the disciples, and then with me, I have to wonder not only do I relish God’s presence in my life, but does God relish time with me? Am I committed to embracing His entrance into my life? Am I even making the effort to see Him?

Imagine that during our MWE weekend, I ignored my children, and they, me? I would lose the joy of their presence.

It is not surprising to me that the Jewish people did not recognize their Savior. After all, who would guess that the Almighty might package himself as a baby and appear among them, fragile and dependent? But today, we know the story, we know the miracles, we know the truth, and God invites us into an abundant relationship, one that He wishes to relish, one that will change us. A relationship that will slake our thirsts and satisfy our hungers. One that reminds us that we are never alone.

Because every day we are a mandatory event to our Immanuel.

This season, look for the ways that God is your Immanuel, with you, every day. 

***
Susan May Warren is the best-selling, award-winning author of over 40 novels. With over 750,000 books in print, her stories of family, romance and adventure have earned her acclaim and reader fans from around the world. Visit her website for upcoming books and sneak peeks!