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December 14, 2013

12pearlsofxmas
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 from the contributors! Enter now below. The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, 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 Hibiscus “Hug from Heaven”
by Margaret McSweeney

photo-12The flurry of festivities during Thanksgiving weekend came to an abrupt halt as I began the first week of December 2013 with an empty nest. My husband was back at work. My daughters were back at college. And my brother, Claude, and niece, Mary, were back in Alabama and Tennessee.

Bare branches accentuated the overcast gloom in the Chicago suburbs on what marked the third anniversary of my brother Randy’s passing. Randy had been feeding a stray cat on his deck when the fatal heart attack struck.

Walking downstairs, I whispered a prayer. “Lord, I am feeling really sad right now. Please help me experience your joy.” As I walked into the family room, my heart smiled. The pruned hibiscus plant balanced a solitary flower that had blossomed overnight! This was truly a hibiscus “hug from heaven.”

In her book When Grief Is Your Constant Companion, my late mother shared her poignant poem about a hibiscus plant. She wrote this following poem several years after losing my dad to a sudden heart attack while he was in Paris on a business trip.

TEARDROPS: EVERLASTING JOY
By Carolyn Rhea

My love, how can it be
That I no longer think of you
Almost every waking moment
And grieve for your loving presence?

There are small spaces of time
When my life is so absorbed in present living
That you are not in my thoughts at all.
How unthinkable!
How sad that I should forget you even for an hour!

But I have not forgotten you, my dear.
You are forever a part of me.
You helped God shape my life
Into my present self.
I carry your love in my heart.
I miss you so very much and always will.

But now I’m caught up in trying to reconstruct
With God’s guidance
A meaningful life for myself.
One in which I can help,
Serve, share, love, grow.

I remember the hibiscus plant
We bought at the annual show.
It was called Teardrops,
For several perfectly-shaped white teardrops
Spattered the broad expanse
Of its gorgeous pink blooms.
How we loved it!

Then later, after it had grown much taller,
We saw a different kind of bloom:
Multitudes of small, sturdy, happy pink blossoms
Swaying merrily in the Florida breeze!
Teardrops had been grafted onto a stronger plant!

We named it Everlasting Joy.

Teardrops still bloomed at the lower level,
But as the plant grew ever upward and outward,
Everlasting Joy bloomed in profusion!

Lord Jesus, when teardrops fall,
Help me remember that through faith
I have been grafted in You –
You, the vine;
I, a branch –
Eternally secure in God’s love through Thee!
Blessed with Thy fullness of joy on earth
And the promise of everlasting joy in heaven!

Thank you, dear Father for sharing your everlasting joy with me today in my solitude. We are not alone in our grief. You are with us.

“Ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” John 16:20

12pearls-mcsweeney
***
Margaret McSweeney is a well-published author (A Mother’s Heart Knows, Go Back and Be Happy, Pearl Girls, Mother of Pearl, Aftermath), host of Kitchen Chat, and the founder of Pearl Girls™. Through Pearl Girls™, Margaret collaborates with other writers on projects to help fund a safe house for WINGS, an organization that helps women and their children who are victims of domestic violence, and to build wells for schoolchildren in Uganda through Hands of Hope. For the past twelve years she has served on the board of directors and leadership advisory board for WINGS. Margaret lives with her husband and 2 daughters in the Chicago suburbs. Learn more at Margaret’s website.
By: Heather Ivester in: Christian Living,Faith,Family,Marriage,Wellness | Permalink | Comments Off on A Hibiscus Hug from Heaven, by Margaret McSweeney



December 25, 2012

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

By: Heather Ivester in: Christian Living,Faith,Family,Marriage,Motherhood,Parenting | Permalink | Comments Off on 12 Pearls of Christmas | Day 12 – Does it Even Matter? by Tracey Eyster



December 23, 2012

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 my 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 present 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.

By: Heather Ivester in: Christian Living,Faith,Family,Marriage,Motherhood,Wellness | Permalink | Comments Off on 12 Pearls of Christmas | Day 10 – Christmas Mourning by Tricia Goyer



December 20, 2012

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 eggnog 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/.

By: Heather Ivester in: Christian Living,Faith,Marriage | Permalink | Comments Off on 12 Pearls of Christmas | Day 7 – When God Wraps a Present . . . by Julie Lessman



December 19, 2012

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

By: Heather Ivester in: Christian Living,Faith,Family,Marriage,Motherhood,Parenting,Travel,Wellness | Permalink | Comments Off on 12 Pearls of Christmas | Day 6 – Year of Adversity Brings Joy by Leslie Gould



February 3, 2011



If you haven’t made it to the movie theater lately, here’s a film that will surely entice you. The King’s Speech is a gorgeous British film that is every bit worthy of its 12 Oscar nominations. I hope it wins “Best Picture” because it’s far and away the best movie I’ve seen all year.

Our pastor gave a sermon on “The King’s Speech” a couple of weeks ago, reminding us to read our Bibles so that our daily speech will be more in line with that of our King. He also shared the background story to this film, and I was so intrigued, I felt like I had to go see it. Thankfully, my husband agreed.

I love movies based on true stories, and this one centers around the rise of King George VI (played by Colin Firth) to the throne of England in 1936. No one ever thought “Bertie” (as his close friends and family know him) would become king because he was the younger brother — and he had a terrible stammer that made it downright difficult for him to speak in public.

But when his father dies, Bertie’s older brother, Edward, abdicates the throne. He’s in love with an American divorcee and chooses to go against the rules of the Church and marry her, giving up the kingship. Bertie then accepts his calling and grave responsibilities of his public role with the help of Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush.)

Throughout the film, Bertie’s wife, Elizabeth, played by the beautiful Helena Bonham Carter, supports him and believes in him. It’s her love more than anything that seems to give him the strength he needs to persevere through the challenges of his speech therapy and service to his country. I loved everything about Helena Bonham Carter — the breathtaking tilt of her hat, reminding me of Kate Winslet’s first upward glance at the Titanic, her lovely English accent, the way she cares for her two princess daughters, everything! Oh, I hope she wins Best Supporting Actress! She’s a role model for all married women and mothers.

There are a few funny parts in the movie. Lionel Logue uses some unconventional methods to bring out the best in his patient. And the actor who plays Sir Winston Churchill is a hoot — I giggled every time he said a line. How could the people around him keep from laughing?

My only regret is that the movie is rated “R.” I don’t normally go see rated “R” movies, but since it was recommended by my pastor, hey, I thought it couldn’t be all that bad. Well, it wasn’t. That’s my regret — that it wasn’t labed PG-13.

This is a great movie for teens to see, even kids as young as 11 or 12 EXCEPT there is a brief moment of bad language. The speech therapist makes the discovery that when Bertie is angry, like cussing angry, he doesn’t stammer. So the therapist asks Bertie to cuss a time or two, to see how his speech can be controlled through his emotion. Yet because the f-word appears a few times, I guess this earned the film an R rating. I just kept thinking what a shame! Of course I’m not taking my young kids to see a rated R movie at the theater, but when it comes out on DVD, I think it’s fine for families to rent — maybe keeping the fast forward controller nearby to speed through that brief R-rated speech.

Otherwise, I think this is a family-friendly film. I left the theater thinking how many of us could use someone like Lionel Logue in our lives, coaxing us through our fears and helping us believe in ourselves when our moment comes to give our own “king’s speech.”

The Academy Awards will air on ABC on February 27 at 8 pm. I may try to watch it since Anne Hathaway is co-hosting, and I love her dearly. Well, here’s to “The King’s Speech” for leaving its mark on award history!

[Update: Congratulations to the 2011 Academy Award Winners! “The King’s Speech” did indeed win Best Picture, Best Actor (Colin Firth), Best Directing (Tom Hooper), and Best Writing (Original Screenplay).]

By: Heather Ivester in: Marriage,Movies | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)



December 21, 2010

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




December 20, 2010

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

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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




December 15, 2010

Welcome to day 3 of the 12 Pearls of Christmas. Our guest today shares what it’s like to suffer the loss of a loved one during the holidays and how important it is for all of us to reach out to those who may be hurting during this season.

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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)!

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About Pat: Dr. Patricia Ennis is 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. She’s also professor and establishing chairperson of the Department of Home Economics at The Master’s College. Visit Pat’s blog, Unfading Beauty for more information.

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Enter to win a three strand pearl necklace, bracelet and earrings. All you need to do to is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls blog on New Years Day.

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




August 27, 2010



We went and saw Eat Pray Love last weekend. I just had to see it, even though I haven’t read the book yet. (I’ve got it on hold at the library, so it should be coming soon.) I was so curious about this story — a woman’s year-long spiritual memoir, as she travels through Italy, India, and Indonesia. Eat Pray Love. What a great title.

The book, which came out four years ago, is a true phenomenon. It’s #1 on the New York Times bestseller list in paperback nonfiction, and it’s made the list for 180 consecutive weeks. The author, Elizabeth Gilbert, has appeared on Oprah Winfrey telling her story, and of course now it’s a blockbuster movie starring Julia Roberts.

But I went to the movie not knowing much about the book, so I confess it was a little messy and confusing for me — real life is never as neat and tidy as fiction. This movie is a woman’s true story — a very brave woman in my opinion, and I admire her for being a writer willing to share it.

The film opens showing us the glamorous life Julia Roberts/Liz Gilbert is leading: she’s a travel writer based in New York who seemingly has it all: a cute husband who’s crazy about her, a beautiful home, career success with travel assignments around the world. What more could she want?

Yet something is amiss — Liz is unhappy. Although it’s not clear in the movie, she apparently doesn’t want to have a baby. She holds her friend’s baby and asks her, “How did you know you wanted this?” and her friend shows her a box full of little baby clothes that she’s kept for years. Liz then discloses that she’s kept this same type of box … full of magazine clips about travel destinations she longs to visit. She’s confused, and so are we, the movie watchers.

Liz decides to divorce her husband, and this bothered me the whole movie. It was the first time I can remember not sympathizing with a main character. I kept wanting her to wake up and realize she’d made a mistake — but she leaves her old life behind to embark on new adventures. She has a fling with an actor, who’s not quite as tantalizing when they’re in the laundry mat, broke, folding clothes together.

So Liz decides to see the world — these three “I” countries, Italy, India, Indonesia, as she explores her inner “I” and tries to heal from the mess she’s made of her life. Here’s something else that confused me — the movie doesn’t make it clear where she gets the money to do this. There was no scene where Liz approaches her agent or editor and snags a six-figure advance (as she does in real life) to finance her travels. The whole movie I kept wondering, “How does she have enough money to do this?” But in reality, she’s been paid up front to write a book.



So it’s a little similar to the Julie and Julia story and movie, except Julie Powell wrote her year-long blog first, which got picked up by a publisher and turned into a book, then a movie. Gilbert’s book idea was sold before she left, then her travels became a book, which became a movie. OK. See, I’m making this easy for you, so you won’t be as confused as I was.

The film itself is gorgeous. I loved traveling right along with Liz/Julia as she experiences the world far from the madding crowd of New York. (And oh, you’ll want to dive head-first into that Italian pasta!) I looked around the packed theater at people of all sizes and ages, realizing most of us couldn’t afford to travel even for a week to one of these countries. Yet for less than 10 bucks, we’re getting to eat, pray, and love our way through three. Pizza and gelato in Italy, silence and prayer in India, and fresh air and romance in Bali. *sigh.*



There are many reasons for seeing a movie, and here’s one where you’ll spend your money to escape, and that’s OK. For all of us scribblers, the fun part is that Liz is writing the whole time — emails back home, journal entries, tap-tap-tap into her laptop, as she’s forming her thoughts into a book. We can relate to this.

One more confusing thing I’ll clear up: the actress Julia Roberts is 42, although the woman she’s playing was only 31 when she took off on her journey. I think that’s an important point. As I watched the film, I personally felt relieved that I’d gotten most of my traveling out of my system in my early to mid-20s before marriage.

So back to that point I made in the beginning — I couldn’t sympathize with Liz who left her husband because she was unhappy. I kept thinking — why didn’t she and her husband travel together? That seems like more fun to me. When I watched Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side, I sympathized with her the whole movie, as did everybody. Liz is a more complex character, that’s for sure.

If you want to find out more nitty-gritty details about the PG-13 rating, check out the Plugged-In review. I definitely wouldn’t take any of my kids to see it. This is a movie you go see on a girls-night-out, in my opinion. But be prepared — the ending is a surprise for those who haven’t read the book.

Which I plan to do very soon!