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Christy Catherine Marshall

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March 15, 2016

Happy Spring everyone! I hope you’re enjoying this beautiful season in your corner of the earth, wherever you are. When I first saw the cover of Gwen’s Smith’s new book, the title jumped out at me, like that sign was written to get MY attention.

I Want It All cover
I’m certainly guilty of feeling like I always want a little more, and so I thought this book might speak to me about learning to be more content, more satisfied with the gifts God’s given me. Instead, it pushed me into deep conviction.

I didn’t realize Gwen Smith is a singer/songwriter, as well as an author, yet I was soon mesmerized by her poetic cadence:

Lord, I want it all today
Every blessing you ordain
Every trial, every strain
Break and build me for your gain.

In fact, if you’ve never heard her speak or sing in person, I think you should stop reading right now, and listen to her voice share these words with you. I would not even call them words — they’re lyrics.

The book begins with a quote from one of my all-time favorite authors, Elisabeth Elliot, who wrote in Through Gates of Splendor: “I have one desire now — to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.” Every woman reading this knows our energy is limited, no matter how old we are. We can’t possibly say yes to everything asked of us and get it all done, so it’s a crucial decision: where are we supposed to put our energy and strength to live this life of reckless abandon?

Reading I Want It All will definitely give you ideas of your uniquely personal calling. It’s divided into three main parts: All the Faith, All the Power, and All the Impact. As you increase your faith, you’ll be able to tap into the power available to you through the Holy Spirit, and live with greater impact.

Each chapter begins with a personal story from the author’s life, so in many ways, this reads like a memoir, which is my favorite type of non-fiction book. I love it when a writer is brave enough to allow thousands of strangers to peek into her heart. She’s also deeply knowledgeable about Scripture and how it applies to the life of the 21st century woman. She says her three “go-to principles” for gaining wisdom are:

1. Fear God.
2. Ask God.
3. Seek godly counsel.

I’ve heard these statements before, but Gwen brings such a freshness and zeal with her personal stories about how she seeks wisdom as one digging for sparkling rare gems. “Look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:4-5).

This book would work great for a women’s Bible Study or Book Club, as each chapter ends with Reflection and Response questions. There’s also an extensive Study Guide in the back section that would make it very easy for anyone to pick up and lead. While reading, I realized that’s truly the value of inspirational books, when you can get together with others and share Truth.

Once again, I will defer to this energetic author, Gwen Smith, and let her share with you her purposes for getting this book into your hands!

I had to laugh at the title of her last chapter “Who Me? Yeah You? Couldn’t Be! Then Who!” I grew up in the 80s and played many rounds of “Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar?” In fact, this game worked well in my English classes when I taught junior high students years ago in Japan.

But Gwen’s point here really convicted me — sometimes we want to ignore the pricking of the Holy Spirit when God calls us to be open to opportunities He gives us. I was really amazed at reading some of her stories of how she talks to people in airports, coffee shops, and grocery stores, taking a few extra moments to realize God has put that person in her path for a Divine Appointment. I thought of how often I rush by someone with a smile and a quick “Hi!” instead of stopping to really ask how they’re doing. Yet, I’ve crossed paths with many people who are just the opposite, and have taken the time to really reach out to me.

Gwen writes:

Being salt and light and pointing people to Jesus doesn’t mean we need to start handing out Bible tracts on street corners…It means that you and I should be open to the random God opportunities He brings our way each day, and we should intentionally bless others on His behalf.

So, you can see why this book is easy to recommend — fresh, energetic, and inspiring. Definitely a great pick-me-up for Spring reading.

Enjoy!

About the Author:
Gwen Smith
Gwen Smith is an author and volleyball enthusiast who lives in sunny North Carolina and has been married to her college honey, Brad, for 23 years. They are tired parents to three competitive-sport-playing teens who keep them on their toes and on their knees. Her online friends meet at GwenSmith.net to connect and be encouraged, and her goal is to help women think big thoughts about God and be inspired to live out the grace and truth of Jesus. Gwen speaks, leads worship, and eats potato chips at women’s events everywhere, and she is a co-founder of the conference and devotional ministry Girlfriends in God.
Thank you to the wonderful staff at Litfuse for sending me a complimentary copy of this book for review.

By: Heather Ivester in: Christian Living,Faith,Marriage,Motherhood,Wellness | Permalink | Comments Off on When You’re Ready to Make an Impact: Gwen Smith’s ‘I Want It All’



July 14, 2015

Letters from My Father's Murderer


The night is far gone; the day is at hand.
So then let us cast off the works of darkness
and put on the armor of light.

Romans 13:12

When I first encountered the story behind Laurie Coombs’ newly released book, I couldn’t wait to read it. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine how she could ever forgive the man who took the life of someone she loved so much. I thought right away of how Corrie ten Boom was able to forgive the German guard who caused the death of her sister in Ravensbruck concentration camp. The book struck me as a modern-day story of the power of forgiveness.

From the very first page, I was amazed at Laurie Coomb’s bravery in sharing personal details of the events leading up to the crime, as well as the years of agony following this horrific event. As she searches for truth, she has the courage and tenacity to pursue a correspondence with the killer, even behind bars of a maximum security prison. She cares about him as a human being, knowing that despite what he took away from her, God still loves him and has a plan for his life.

She writes:

I began to see Anthony as a real person, just like me, with thoughts and feelings and life circumstances that molded and shaped him into the person he is. I began to question what happened in his life that allowed him to become the person who ultimately murdered my dad… As the days passed, I felt God’s nudge to write back. But the thought of engaging this man in correspondence was unsettling. I was standing on rocky ground, and every step I took would lead deeper into enemy territory–deeper into the pain of my past. It was scary, but I knew this was where God was leading.

Over the course of four years, Laurie and the man responsible for her father’s death, write letters. Through it all, they both begin to see a greater purpose for their own lives. Even a man imprisoned for a lifetime can still make an impact on the people around him. The book contains pictures that also bring the story to light, and its messages are applicable to any reader who is struggling with forgiveness. The truth sets all of us free.

Here is a recent interview with author Laurie Coombs telling her story to Anchor/Reporter: Kristen Remington on KTVN Channel 2 News:

From Litfuse Publicity:
Can God heal the deepest wounds and redeem what seems unredeemable? Laurie Coombs experiences God’s transforming and redemptive power in her new book, Letters from My Father’s Murderer. When her father was murdered, Laurie Coombs and her family sought justice―and found it. Yet, despite the swift punishment of the killer, Laurie found herself increasingly full of pain, bitterness, and anger she couldn’t control. It was the call to love and forgive her father’s murderer that set her, the murderer, and several other inmates on the journey that would truly change their lives forever.

Join Laurie in celebrating the release of Letters from My Father’s Murderer by entering to win a Kindle Fire!

letter from father's murderer - 400 

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire HD 6
  • A copy of Letters from My Father’s Murderer

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 20th. The winner will be announced July 21st on Laurie’s site.

letter from father's murderer - enter banner

About the Author:
Laurie Coombs
In 2010, Laurie Coombs was called to love and forgive the man who murdered her father, which led to an exchange of letters between she and Anthony, her father’s murderer. During their correspondence, Laurie was healed from her past wounds, was given grace to forgive Anthony, and witnessed a powerful transformation in Anthony as Jesus brought him to repentance.

Laurie’s story is featured in Billy Graham’s new film, Heaven, part of the “My Hope with Billy Graham” series broadcast nationally in an effort to reach people with the message of the gospel.

Laurie writes on her blog to encourage others to draw close to God and follow Jesus despite fear or feelings of resistance. She is passionate about the topic of forgiveness and feels called to share the story God has entrusted to her in hope that, through her testimony, many may receive the freedom she has experienced through Christ. Laurie is a regular contributing writer and blogger for iBelieve.com and Crosswalk.com.

Thank you to Litfuse for allowing me to review a complimentary copy of this book.

By: Heather Ivester in: Christian Living,Faith,Wellness | Permalink | Comments Off on Laurie Coombs’ ‘Letters from My Father’s Murderer’ Kindle Fire Giveaway



May 23, 2015
whosthenewkid-400

Yesterday was the last day of school for my kids, so with summer here, I’m all for seeking ways to stay active. When I heard about Heidi Bond’s book, Who’s the New Kid? I couldn’t wait to read it.

It seems like every day I’m bombarded with adult weight loss success stories and before/after photos, yet I’d never seen or read anything about a child successfully losing weight. In fact, that’s one of those taboo topics, where mothers are more likely to say, “Well, that child is just big-boned.” Or “It’s hereditary, and he can’t help it.” In the South, we may even add, “Bless her heart.”

Heidi Bond knew her daughter needed help when, at age nine, Breanna tipped the scales at 186 pounds. She became fatigued just walking up the stairs to her room. Her legs chafed to the point of bleeding from rubbing against each other, and her school days were filled with taunts of “Hey, Fatty!”

The book explores Breanna’s infancy and childhood, as her mother looks for clues as to how her daughter became overweight. In infancy, Heidi noticed Breanna’s unusually strong appetite, and she confesses a personal struggle with junk food that made it easy for her daughter to access calorie-loaded snacks. But I’m sure all of us, if we’re honest, can plug ourselves into this equation. At first, Heidi tried hiding snacks to help her daughter eat healthier, but then a point came when she did what all of us should do: she decided to make a complete lifestyle change for her entire family.

And here’s where the real heart of the book lies, and why I found it so inspiring. Heidi succeeded in helping her daughter lose 86 pounds in a completely natural and healthy way. She didn’t use dangerous diet pills or crash diets; instead she began to incorporate two main activities: swimming and walking. She drove Breanna every day of the week to swim team practice, and this daily commitment became crucial to her weight loss transformation.

Also, one day a new neighbor invited Heidi to go walking on a 3.8 mile trail loop behind her house, something she’d never done before. She describes what happened:

“Sure,” I said. “Just let me put on some sneakers.”

I had no idea that this was a moment that would change all of our lives. It was an ordinary weekday like any other. The “Hallelujah Chorus” was not trumpeting in the background, and no neon signs lit up to tell me that this was The Day until a couple of months later. But looking back now, it’s obvious to me that this was where it all began.”

From that point on, Heidi began encouraging her entire family to walk together. Her husband and younger son also needed to lose some weight. All they needed to do was put on a pair of tennis shoes and head to the trail. After only a few weeks, Breanna had lost six pounds, and Heidi says, “Fireworks went off in my brain!” It was the first time Breanna had ever lost weight; in fact, she had been steadily gaining 20 pounds per year! Her mother writes:

The day I saw “possible” was the day I realized we were going to war against nine years of bad habits. It was a war we needed to win, because my daughter’s life was literally on the line. If we continued on our old path, it was clear what was going to happen to her: multiple health problems leading to an early grave, and a limited life where she wouldn’t be able to enjoy the things other people can do with ease…But now everything looked different.

Heidi developed a plan, which she called the “Five Four Three” Plan. Swimming five days a week, walking four days a week, and eating three healthy meals a day. The best part about this book is that she gives you a very detailed 40-day plan that you and your child or family can work on together, including dozens of delicious, healthy, and extremely easy-to-prepare recipes. I’ve been keeping this book on a shelf in my kitchen as I try out some of her recipes!

I appreciate this mother’s honesty as she shares both the ups and downs of her story. Some days were so hard. Not only did Heidi get rid of all junk food in her house, she literally walked every step of the way with her daughter. Her commitment was unbelievable, even walking in the rain, sleet, or freezing winter weather. She had to battle against early whining, which can be completely demoralizing, as every mother knows! She listened to Breanna’s complaints, and says her “resolve was being tested.”

Breanna was begging to stop the walks, and each time she came up with endless excuses about why she needed to stop. There was a pebble in her shoe. Her shoelace had come untied. Her shirt was itchy. She was hot and dizzy, and she was definitely going to throw up, and a bug flew in her shirt, and a twig was stuck in her shoe, and there was bubble gum stuck to the street, and it looked like rain was coming, and she was sure she was going to die of thirst, and she was sure her kneecap was going to pop right off. Some of those things were true, and some of them weren’t. It didn’t really matter.

“Keep going,” I said. I wasn’t going to waver. No matter what.

Gradually, naturally, the weight began to drop off. When Breanna started school the next year, several kids didn’t even recognize her! That’s where the title of the book comes from. Her story got picked up by a local journalist, which led to national recognition and appearances on Good Morning America, CNN, and The Biggest Loser. You can keep up with Heidi and Breanna’s updates on her website. I loved watching her and her mother tell the story in person on Good Morning America:

I hope you’ll have a chance to read the whole book! Filled with helpful diagnostic tools, easy-to-make recipes, eye-opening nutritional information, fun exercise ideas, and practical tips and advice, Who’s the New Kid? will not only show parents how to help their kids lose weight naturally but also introduce them to simple, yet effective lifestyle changes that will benefit the entire family.

Celebrate the release of Who’s the New Kid? by entering to win a Fitbit and RSVPing to Heidi’s June 9th author chat party!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A Fitbit
  • A copy of Who’s the New Kid?

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on June 9th. Winner will be announced June 9th at Heidi’s Facebook partyRSVP here! Plus, participate in the #WhosTheNewKid conversation by pinning a family-friendly, healthy recipe (or two) to a Pinterest board!

whosthenewkid-enterbanner

RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on June 9th!

Note: I received this book, complimentary, in exchange for my honest review.

By: Heather Ivester in: Book Reviews,Cooking & Recipes,Family,Motherhood,Parenting,Wellness | Permalink | Comments Off on Heidi Bond’s Who’s the New Kid? Fitbit Giveaway and Facebook Party



December 22, 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.

***

My Gift to the King
by Sheryl Giesbrecht

It was a week before Christmas. A woman in the rush of her last-minute shopping bought a box of fifty identical greeting cards. Without bothering to read what the card said, she quickly signed and addressed all but one of them. A few days after they had been mailed she came across the one card that hadn’t been sent. She was horrified to read, “This card is just to say, a little gift is on the way!”

Gift-giving is just one of our many Christmas traditions. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, Jesus, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Truly Jesus is the best gift we would ever want to receive.

One year a friend gave me a Christmas devotional book that turned my holiday traditions upside down. Anne Graham Lotz shared her custom of asking King Jesus what gift he would like for his birthday. God wants us to give freely out of our love for him as an act of worship. This process of intentionally and sacrificially giving a “love gift to my King” is something I have added to my personal Christmas traditions. I wonder, have you ever thought about giving Jesus a gift? Maybe this year you might ask Him what He would like you to give Him.

Each year, as the Christmas holidays approach, I ask the King what he would like for his birthday. I remember Anne Graham Lotz’s criteria: “Something I would not do except the King requested it. And it is something I could not do except the King enabled me,” (Christmas Memories by Terri Meeusen pg. 159).

One year the King began asking me for His gift in September when a local high school contacted me to develop a truant program. I didn’t feel qualified. Lotz’ words rang in my mind: “Something I would not do except the king requested it. And it is something I could not do except the king enabled me.” “God, not me,” I argued. I remembered what God brought me out of; I was a rebellious and promiscuous teenager, chain-smoker, alcoholic, drug addict, and drug dealer who cut class all but five days my junior year of high school. At age seventeen, I went to work at a Christian camp and there I was shown the love of God through the experience of working transformed believers. I was shown God’s love could cover a multitude of sins. Now He asked me to share this same love with those who are looking for love in all the wrong places. I committed to doing the King’s bidding.

What gift will you give your King this year? Maybe God is asking you to serve in your child’s classroom at school or teach a Sunday school class. Or maybe God is calling you to prayer or to spend more time with Him? Maybe Your King is asking you to give Him control over a situation?

“Something I would not do except the King requested it. And it is something I could not do except the King enabled me.” Ask the King for His gift suggestion. When He impresses on your heart the gift He desires, offer it to Him as your gift of thanks for His indescribable gift, His Son, Jesus.

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” (I Cor 9:15)

12pearls-giesbrecht
***
“Exchanging hurt for hope” is Sheryl Giesbrecht’s focus. She loves to share how God rearranges loss, bitterness, and mistakes, and turns them into something remarkably beautiful. Learn more about Sheryl and her book, Get Back Up, at her website.
By: Heather Ivester in: Christian Living,Faith,Wellness | Permalink | Comments Off on My Gift for the King, by Sheryl Giesbrecht



December 21, 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.

***

New Beginnings
by Sharron Cosby

Christmas. The mere mention of the word sends thoughts and memories skittering like a box of spilled ornaments. Some roll toward sweet remembrances of times shared with family. Others bounce to the let’s-not-go-there corner of our minds.

I recall Christmas 2009. The one I wanted to cancel. My only son is an addict, and this was his worst year ever. I had convinced myself it would be his last, assuming he would be in prison or dead by the next Christmas. I told my daughters we would exchange gifts and have our usual holiday dinner, but no tree or decorations. I couldn’t dredge up the emotional energy to plaster contrived cheer around the house.

I’m usually the decorator, gift purchaser, food preparer, and mess cleaner-upper. Executing the necessary holiday tasks takes time and effort. Worrying about my son had left me drained of the required get-up-and-go. I couldn’t do it. Thank goodness for online shopping; at least there would be presents to hand out.

My pastor’s message four days before Christmas cut straight through my Scrooge-like attitude. His sermon points were: The holidays are too much trouble, count your blessings, and forgive someone.

Considering Christmas too much trouble reflects a selfish attitude, according to my pastor. What if Jesus had thought that way? My icy heart began to thaw.

The second point, count your blessings, stopped me dead in my tracks. Count blessings with a broken heart? I considered my husband’s love and my two daughters who have stood by their brother. I smiled as I pictured the faces of my four grandsons and the joy they brought our family. Yes, I had many blessings to number.

The third was the hardest: forgiveness. Forgive my son for the pain and suffering he had caused? “God, you can’t be serious,” I protested. “We’ve spent thousands of dollars on him, he’s broken our hearts, and he’s in worse shape than ever before.”

“Forgive him,” the Spirit whispered.

Tears slid down my face as I chose to forgive my son. No strings attached.

After church I headed home with a changed attitude. When my husband left for work, I retrieved the ornaments, dragged the Christmas tree from the garage, and set it up, my gift to the family. Decorating our tree with the children’s handmade ornaments is always a joint project, but that day I worked alone. I held the clothespin reindeers, popsicle stick picture frames, and monogramed angels and remembered the good times.

With tear-filled eyes, I watched as amazement etched the faces of my daughters when they came to our home Christmas morning and saw the decorated tree. “Mom! You put up the tree after all,” they said.

The biggest surprise of the day came when our daughter’s boyfriend knelt in front of her and asked, “Will you marry me?”

The discouragement of addiction was replaced with the joy of new beginnings, which is, after all, the message of the Christ Child.

12pearls-cosby
***

Sharron Cosby has been married to Dan for thirty-nine years, is Mom to three adult children and “Mimi” to five grandchildren. Her family was rocked by her son’s drug addiction for fifteen years until he laid it down on February 18, 2010. She uses her life experiences to offer hope and encouragement to families caught in the chaos of addiction. Sharron is available to speak to groups on addiction related topics. Sharron recently published her first book, Praying for Your Addicted Loved One: 90 in 90, a ninety day devotional for families in recovery or those wanting to be. Receive weekly encouragement at her blog, www.efamilyrecovery.com, and Twitter @sharroncosby or contact her at moc.liamg@ybsocnorrahs.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

By: Heather Ivester in: Faith,Family,Motherhood,Wellness | Permalink | Comments Off on New Beginnings, by Sharron Cosby



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

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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



May 13, 2013

ImageProxyServletWelcome to Pearl Girls™ Mother of Pearl Mother’s Day blog series—a nine-day celebration of moms and mothering. Each day will feature a new post by some of today’s best writers (Tricia Goyer, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, Beth Vogt, Lesli Westfall, and more). I hope you’ll join us each day for another unique perspective on Mother’s Day.
 
AND . . . do enter the contest for a chance to win a beautiful handcrafted pearl necklace and a JOYN India bag. Enter at the bottom of this post. The contest runs 5/4-5/13, and the winner will be announced on 5/14. Contest is only open to U.S. residents.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info, subscribe to our blog, 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: Luminous Lessons and Iridescent Faith to help support Pearl Girls™.


And to all you MOMS out there, Happy Mother’s Day!
~

Mother Ship by Melody Murray

Mother Ship (N.) – a ship that serves or carries one or more smaller ships.

Raising two boys in India is quite nice, really. We have monkeys, scooters, plenty of dirt, and mountains. The challenges are comical. I found very quickly on that if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. It’s been an excellent motto for our three years thus far, one I learned shortly after our arrival here in June of 2010.

We’d been in India for just three days when I had my first major meltdown. Our two boys, ages three and four, were sitting in big plastic buckets in our smelly bathroom, covered with mosquito bites, jetlagged as can be. I was frantically pouring cold water over them, trying to scrub off the India grime that had caked on their scrawny little bodies. I was having to hold them like puppy dogs so they wouldn’t scurry out from underneath the cold water. It was a far cry from the sweet, warm, bubbly, happy bath time we’d experienced together for the past four years in the States! Talk about culture shock. They were in shock. I was in shock. I’m sure the neighbors were in shock, too. I’m not sure my boys have ever seen me scream, cry, and stomp that much. Thank God it is just a memory now.

Somehow, by God’s grace, we’ve figured out life here. It looks much different than I had ever thought it would look, especially as a mother. We don’t go to the library, make elaborate crafts, play T-ball, shop at Target, sing in church choir, or take family bike rides. I have had to redefine my ideal upbringing for my children and have had to let go of many expectations. But I’ve managed to grasp hold of a new set of dreams.

My children are global kids. They have an incredible adventure every day. They see the “majority world” firsthand. I think they are some of the most privileged kids I know. I’ve stopped feeling sorry for myself that my kids don’t get to go to ballgames or have a huge tree house or wear cute clothes. Why focus on what I think they’ve lost, only to lose sight of what they’re gaining?

murraypg

My attitude shift didn’t come easily. I can be quite stubborn. I clung to what I knew and what I thought was “normal” and “right,” as all of us moms do. I’d cry after phone conversations with friends back home who had their children signed up for karate, soccer, and swim lessons, with loads of choices for good schools, churches, and neighborhoods. I had nothing of the sort available for my kids, and I felt bitter and resentful.

But then I slowly began to change. Slowly, after months of getting over culture shock and cold baths, we began to love this place and the people we were with. We began to know them, understand them, become like them. Our community here became our family. Just this week, I’ve been sick with an awful kidney infection, and my living room has been full of my Tibetan, Nepali, and Indian friends, bringing me food, rubbing my feet, playing with my children, washing my dishes. I’ve never experienced community in this way before. My boys are loved so well by so many. And they are learning how to love back, even when it’s not easy.

My attitude shift didn’t come quickly, but when it happened, it took a 180°. I realized how wrong I’d been. These people I live with—their kids don’t have organized sports, church choirs, or fancy vacations either. Their kids aren’t signed up for after-school activities and aren’t becoming multi-skilled elementary school prodigies. Yet, in spite of this, they are content. Like none I’ve ever seen. They love each other. Like none I’ve ever seen. They have very little, yet they have so very much.
 
In the western world of comparisons and endless striving, I believe we sometimes lose touch of the things we actually care most about. I know most of us moms actually don’t care whether our children are the best at T-ball or whether their crafts look better than the next kid’s. But I think we all care deeply that our kids are loved, and that they know how to love. We all have a common dream that our kids will grow up to be world-changers, to strive for what is right, to love the unloved, to see the world in a different way. These are the deepest dreams of moms. So let’s not forget that the most important things we can give our kids are not the things we can buy them or sign them up for. One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is to give them sails, let them explore new things, meet new people, and learn to make lasting change in this world.

So join me this Mother’s Day. Let’s all be “mother ships,” leading our kids to new adventures, new beginnings, new relationships. Let’s serve and carry our little ones to places they can only dream of, whether it be making dinner for a neighbor, smiling at the homeless man in front of the grocery store, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or moving to India. Let’s take them with us and teach them how to sail.
 
“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” —Grace Murray Hopper

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068In June 2010, an opportunity arose to work with a small needy community in the Himalayas, so David and Melody Murray and their two young boys packed their bags and moved to Rajpur, North India. Mel has grown JOYN, fulfilling her passion to connect artisans with western markets. They now have a diverse and growing team of Americans, Australians, Indians, Tibetans and Nepalis working together to create a community that strives to take care of each other and bring opportunity to as many as they can. Visit her website for more information.

 
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By: Heather Ivester in: Christian Living,Crafty people and things,Faith,Family,Motherhood,Parenting,Travel,Wellness | Permalink | Comments Off on DAY 9 – Mother Ship by Melody Murray



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.

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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 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.

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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.

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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



December 17, 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.

***

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

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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 atKitchen Chat or the Pearl Girls blog. Margaret lives with her husband and two daughters in the Chicago suburbs.

By: Heather Ivester in: Christian Living,Faith,Wellness | Permalink | Comments Off on 12 Pearls of Christmas | Day 4 – A Mistletoe Medley by Margaret McSweeney