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December 6, 2011

Our dreams can be like a familiar childhood friend.

They’re often something we’ve grown up with and treasured in our hearts since we were little, but for one reason or another we’ve drifted away from.

We all go through seasons where our dreams need to be grounded so we can focus on other things in our lives, but there is a time to resurrect our dreams.

I struggled for years with figuring out when the time was right for me to pursue writing full time. After ten years of focusing on family, I thought it was time to resurrect my dreams. Looking back, it might have been easier to let my dreams sleep a little longer, or maybe I could have slowly worked toward my goals those ten years. I’ll never know, but here are some things I’ve learned along the way.

Identifying Your Dream Passion
Sometimes it’s been so long since we let ourselves dream, that we’ve forgotten what our passions are. Think back to when you were little. What were the things that brought you joy? Did those same activities extend to your high school and college years? Did you lose your passion in the busyness of family rearing and life? Still stumped at identifying your passion? How about the things you did that you felt God’s smile of approval or presence in? Ask God to stir up a passion inside of you for His glory. Then expect him to! Here’s a peek at one of my childhood dreams…fulfilled!

Pray Before You Leap
It seems so simple, but why don’t we do it? For me, it’s because I’m driven and I see others with the “prize” and I think “I can do that.” But I’ve learned that no matter how hard I try or how talented I think I am, God’s the one in control, not me. I can strive all I want (and I believe in working toward my goals,) but ultimately God knows when I’m ready to take that leap toward my dreams. I’ve learned the hard way not to rush it. Don’t make the same mistake.

Banish the Naysayers
Sometimes our biggest dream killers are our inner voices that tell us our dreams are too impractical or unrealistic. That’s why they’re called dreams! While some seasons of dreaming might have to be practical like having a steady job or bigger home, I believe inside everyone is a dream that connects with our soul that if left to sleep too long will eventually die, killing your spirit as well! Allow yourself to wake the dream!

If you feel that now is your time to resurrect your dream, you might be terrified. But how scary is it to live without the pursuit of our passions? To live with the doubt of never knowing if you might have succeeded because your never even tried or gave up too soon.

I don’t want to live with those regrets.

Do you?

Gina Conroy used to think she knew where her life was headed; now she’s leaning on the Lord to show her the way. She is the founder of Writer…Interrupted where she mentors busy writers and tries to keep things in perspective, knowing God’s timing is perfect, even if she doesn’t agree with it! She is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, and her first novella, Buried Deception, in the Cherry Blossom Capers Collection, releases from Barbour Publishing in January 2012. On her blog Defying Gravity and Twitter she chronicles her triumphs and trials as she pursues her dreams while encouraging her family and others to chase after their own passions. Gina loves to connect with readers, and when she isn’t writing, teaching, or driving kids around, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter.




October 13, 2011



Life Lessons from The Help: Pain Happens in a Broken World

By Poppy Smith

Have you read or seen the movie, THE HELP? If you have, you know it is a story about racism and the treatment of black maids who worked for white people in the South. People’s reactions range from outrage at the humiliation blacks have often received, to charges that it was biased and untrue.

I came out of the movie grieving. I not only felt wretched at the pain racism causes, but also at the hurt and suffering that comes when people mistreat others. Pain Happens in a Broken World. Being cruel to others, whether by actions or words, happens in every culture for many reasons: because individuals think they are superior for some reason due to their skin color, gender, position in society, wealth, or education. Whatever the reasons, they all flow from a sinful heart.



Have you been hurt?

Have you known what it is like to be looked down on, dismissed as unimportant, or made to feel unwanted? Have you experienced cruelty of some kind? How did it make you feel?

Have you wrestled with anger, wanting to get revenge, or feeling crushed and of no worth? In The Help, one of the poorly treated maids gets her revenge in a startling way. But revenge is God’s prerogative, and not ours to take (Romans 12:19).

Your pain might have come from someone you work with, live next to, or go to school with. Its source could be a relative or close family. Even fellow believers hurt others when operating in the flesh and not the Spirit. But no matter where your pain originated, it is something God wants to heal.

God Cares About You. Why should He care? Why does He call you to forgive those who have harmed you? Because He loves you and wants the appalling power of bitterness, hatred, and inner rage to stop poisoning your heart and your life.

God’s Path to Healing. How can you and I, followers of the Lord Jesus, indwelt by His Mighty and All-powerful Spirit, find freedom from pain? Only by forgiving the one, or many, who caused our pain.

Three necessary principles for dealing with pain:

*Reject blame and bitterness. It doesn’t move you forward. It chains you to the past.
*Pray for willingness to forgive. It is a process that often requires time to work through.
*Forgive the offender. Be willing to release that person from your desire for revenge, or even for an apology. Realize they most likely have moved on and forgotten the incident. Remembering is only hurting you. Let it go.

Remember something else: the Lord is our Healer. He wants you to experience joy, no matter how much pain you have experienced. He wants you to THRIVE in every aspect of your life. And He has provided a way for this to happen! Will you walk in it?

With her fun personality and passion for communicating life-changing truths, Poppy Smith inspires believers to thrive spiritually and personally. Poppy’s practical how-to messages (in print or in person) uses colorful examples from her own struggles to be more like Jesus. She encourages women (and men, at times) to grow in every kind of situation—whether joyful or painful! Poppy is British, married to an American, and has lived in many countries. She brings an international flair seasoned with humorous honesty as she illustrates Bible truths. A former Bible Study Fellowship Lecturer, Poppy’s teaching challenges women to look at their choices, attitudes and self-talk. As a result, God’s speaks, changing hearts, changing minds, and changing lives. You can learn more at PoppySmith.com.




May 6, 2011

Welcome to another day of the Pearl Girls Mother of Pearl Mother’s Day blog series.

Don’t forget … you can enter the contest for a chance to win a beautiful hand crafted pearl necklace. To enter, just {CLICK THIS LINK} and fill out the short form. Contest runs 5/1-5/8 and the winner will on 5/11. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents.

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 Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT Mother’s Day gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

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

When Mother’s Day is Difficult by Holley Gerth

I have a confession (anyone surprised?). I have mixed feelings about Mother’s Day.

On one hand, I love celebrating all the women who have made a difference in my life (thanks, Mom!).

On the other hand, a long journey of infertility has left my heart with some tender places.

On May 8th, we’ll celebrate Mother’s Day once again. For many, it’s a time of appreciation and joy. For others, it can be one of the most difficult days of the year. This is often true for women facing infertility, families who have recently experienced the loss of a mother, and many other painful situations.

At one point in my life it seemed as if I couldn’t take another step. In addition to infertility, I was facing several other losses. I felt as if I were in a dark cave. But then I sensed the Lord gently and lovingly speak to my heart, “You may be in a cave, but you still have a choice. You can sit in despair or you can diamond-mine your difficulties.” I decided I was not leaving that time in my life empty-handed. I was taking every hidden blessing I could find. Of course, I still had difficult days. But choosing hope made a difference.

As a reminder, I now wear two rings. The one on the fourth finger of my left hand represents my commitment to my husband. The one on the fourth finger of my right hand is a simple silver band inscribed with the word “hope” and it represents the commitment I have made to God and myself to hold onto hope no matter what happens.

The story of an inspiring woman named Terrie also reminds me to hold onto hope. She endured the loss of four pregnancies and waited seventeen years before adopting a little girl. She told me, “I think one of the most important parts of this journey is learning to trust God. I don’t mean the flippant kind of trust. It’s easy for people to say, ‘You just need to trust God.’ It’s much harder when you’re in the middle of all this pain. But he is trustworthy. Through it all, God has given us an amazing story. I wouldn’t have chosen this road, but he has been with us. I can look back and truly say every step was worth it.”

I don’t know how my journey will end and you probably don’t know how yours will either. I also don’t know how many of you will be silently grieving your losses as we sit in church together on May 8th. But I do know that God sees each one of us. He knows how many hairs are on our heads and how many cares our in our hearts. Whatever you’re going through this Mother’s Day, you’re not facing it alone. As King David, a man who experienced many losses in his life, expressed in Psalm 34:18 NIV, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” May God surround you with love, fill you with hope, and give you strength for each moment—especially this Mother’s Day.

Excerpted from When Mother’s Day is Difficult.

Holley Gerth is an award-winning writer for DaySpring, a cofounder of the popular web site (in)courage, and licensed counselor. Holley loves chocolate, coffee, Jesus and connecting with the hearts of women through words. Her next book, a devotional titled God’s Heart for You: Embracing Your True Worth as a Woman (Harvest House) will release this July. You can find Holley online through her blog Heart to Heart with Holley.




May 3, 2011

Welcome again to Pearl Girls Mother of Pearl Mother’s Day blog series. The series is a week-long celebration of moms and mothering.

There’s still time to enter the contest for a chance to win a beautiful hand crafted pearl necklace. To enter, just {CLICK THIS LINK} and fill out the short form. Contest runs 5/1-5/8 and the winner will be chosen on 5/11. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents.

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 Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT Mother’s Day gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

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


A Merry Heart … by Megan Alexander

Sometimes family is really all you need. This was reinforced to me when my Mother shared a story a few days ago about her mother, my Grandma. You see, when my Grandma was a very young girl, around age 10, she was diagnosed with polio. This meant long hospital stays, extremely limited interaction with children her own age, and lonely days staring out the window from her hospital bed. In those days, with polio, they felt keeping the children very subdued and quiet was best, and this particular hospital was as drab as can be. It was also during the time of the Depression, which meant money was tight and life was tough. Day in and day out, she was given the best medicine and treatment, but she wasn’t thriving and recovering. Daily visits from adult doctors and specialists is not exactly stimulating for a young girl. Her health was so poor, at one point, a Catholic Priest had administered the “last rites” at her bedside.

One day, her older brother and sister decided to sneak some brand new baby kittens into her hospital room. Their cat Fitzy had just had babies, and the cute kittens were small enough to put in a basket. Upon entering her room, my mother says they quietly took off the lid and showed my Grandma the sweet little kittens and let her cuddle with them. Her mother, my Great Grandmother, observed my Grandma’s mood instantly lift. Her eyes sparkled and she squealed with delight at the cute kitties! Her whole demeanor changed and she came to life.

My Great Grandma took all this in and made a decision that day. She decided that my Grandma would heal much better at home. She promptly checked my Grandma out of the hospital and brought her home with her family. My Grandma did gradually recover, among the love and warmth of her family. You know what Proverbs 17 says “ A merry heart does good like a medicine.” Also, I can imagine that she healed emotionally and physically and spiritually as well and that combined strength wouldn’t have been possible in the hospital alone.

When they left that day, the hospital instructed my Great Grandmother to massage my Grandma’s legs every day, something she promised the hospital she would do, and she did. My Grandma was one of the few people we know who did not have a limp or shortened leg due to polio. And perhaps most importantly, the entire family was always praying for my Grandma.

I’m not saying that medicine is bad or not necessary. But there is no cure quite like the warmth of your family. It’s like milk; it simply does a body good. As a pregnant mom about to give birth to a baby boy, I am inspired to provide this same love to my child. May he feel the same warm love from his family that my Grandma felt from hers.

And in this same way, we are called sons and daughters of God. Galatians 4:1-7
“Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”

God claims you and I as his children. This is a wonderful gift and identity that is good for our heart and soul, and something that is more powerful than all the medicine in the world.
 
Megan Alexander can be seen nightly as a television correspondent for the top-rated news magazine show “Inside Edition”.  She also appears on the CNN program “Showbiz Tonight”. She especially enjoys reporting on stories with a heart. She graduated from Westmont College with a degree in Political Science. She loves speaking to youth and works with Girls Inc and National American Miss. She and her husband reside in the New York City area and attend Redeemer Church of Manhattan. For more on Megan, go to www.meganalexander.com. Megan’s mother, Mary, resides in Seattle and provided insight into this essay.




April 28, 2011

When I saw the previews for Soul Surfer a few weeks ago, I was squeamish about seeing a movie involving a shark attack. Yikes. It reminded me too much of “Jaws,” which I remember seeing on someone’s cable TV back in the early 80s. I really had no desire to see a girl survive something horrible like that.

But … several of my daughters’ friends saw this movie — and their moms, of course, and everyone loved it. People kept telling me, “It’s got a great Christian message.” OK, so there are not many movies you can say that about, especially not on the big screen. So we went to see it.

And it was amazing. Soul Surfer is based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton, who was attacked by a 14-foot shark off the coast of Hawaii when she was 13 years old. This happened in October 2003, so now she’s around 20, and she’s become an inspirational role model to kids, teens, and even adults (like me) around the world. She’s also authored several books where she uses her platform as a survivor and champion athlete to share her faith in Jesus Christ.

Before the attack happened, Bethany was training for a national surfing championship, with her heart set on turning pro. After the tragedy in which she lost her left arm, she didn’t know if she’d ever surf again, and she questioned God about why He had allowed this to happen. Yet, only a month later, she was back out surfing the waves, regaining her footing as a fierce competitor, and capturing the hearts and admiration of millions of fans.

The actress who plays Bethany, AnnaSophia Robb, is the same adorable girl who played Opal in Because of Winn Dixie and Leslie in Bridge to Terabithia, two of my favorite books adapted into movies. AnnaSophia has grown up quite a bit and, at age 17, appears older than the 13-year-old Bethany she portrays. But she does a wonderful job of helping us to imagine what life would be like having to recover from such a devastating loss.

There are some poignant scenes with Bethany and her mother (Helen Hunt), as well as Bethany and her church youth counselor, played by vocalist Carrie Underwood, in which these women steer Bethany back in the right direction, as she seeks a new purpose for her life.

If you’re a mom of a teen daughter, I highly recommend you to take her to see this movie. Our theater was filled with teen girls, and afterward, everyone had to compare notes about which scene caused the most tears. Bring your tissues!

On her website, Bethany says this about her faith:

When people ask me what my faith in God means to me, I usually answer in just one word: “everything!”

As I left the movie theater after seeing Soul Surfer, I couldn’t help but feel gratitude for the WRITERS who captured Bethany Hamilton’s story into words. How else would I have heard of a surfer girl in Hawaii who got attacked by a shark and used her experiences to reach the world for Christ? Thank you, writers, web designers, photographers, and filmmakers, for producing wholesome, encouraging stories that give all of us a reason to hope!




February 21, 2011




I just finished reading Kathi Lipp’s really fun book, The Me Project, and I’m happy to join in the blog tour to help spread the word.

I started reading it a couple of weeks ago without having any idea what my “project” might be. After slipping this book into my purse and carrying it around to basketball games, school pick-up lines, and doctor’s appointments, I feel like Kathi Lipp has become a friend, someone who wants me to seek God’s best for my life.

The book is divided into 21 “projects” that will help you take small steps toward dreams you may have on hold. It would be a great resource for women’s book clubs and church groups, since one of the main points Kathi Lipp makes is that friends can hold you accountable as you make progress toward your goals.

Here’s a little about the book:

Has that rush to make (and break) New Year’s resolutions already waned? According to Daniel Pink, author of 
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, taking small steps every day will not only help you stay committed to your goal, 
but will also help you ultimately achieve that goal when obstacles come up. Author Kathi Lipp wants you and your friends to live out those dreams—and have some fun along the way.

As women, we forget the goals and dreams of our younger years. The busyness of everyday life gets 
in the way. To-do lists replace goals. The Me Project provides women with fun and creative ways to bring back the sense of purpose and vitality that comes with living out the plans and dreams God has planted in our hearts. Kathi Lipp’s warm tone and laugh-out-loud humor motivates women to take daily steps toward intentional goals. The end result? We get back our lives and enjoy living in the confidence of a purposeful life in spite of our chaotic schedules.

This handy guide coaches women to do one simple thing toward achieving our goals each day for three weeks. A woman experiencing the exhilaration of a rediscovered life offers more as a wife, mother, friend, volunteer, career woman.

Now you get a chance to meet Kathi Lipp as she shares how you can get started on your own “Me Project.” And if you leave a comment below, you’ll be entered in to win a really cool Starbucks gift basket full of caffeine-loaded goodies that will certainly energize you and your accountability buddies to reach for the stars!



Three Super-Simple Ways to Kick Start Living Your Dreams — In the Next 15 Minutes
by Kathi Lipp

Is there a dream that God has given you, but you are waiting until the kids are grown and you have money in the bank before you get started?

You may not be able to enroll in a month-long pastry making class or take a week off of work to get started on your novel, but today you can take three little baby steps to making your dream a day-to-day reality.

1. Go Public with It.
It’s a little scary to tell the world what you want to do when you grow up — but this one little step could get you closer to living your dream than almost any other. Plus — it takes very little time, and you don’t have to raid your kid’s college fund to make it happen.

When you gather up all your courage and tell your best friend, “I want to learn how to paint,” suddenly she remembers an old art book she has laying around she would love to give you, or her friend from church who teaches art classes. The people you know and love want to be a resource. Give them the privilege of being a part of making your dream happen.

2. Join an Online Group.
This is one of the simplest — and cheapest — ways to start exploring your passion. Find out who else is talking about restoring antiques and listen to their conversation. Start by Googling your interest along with the term “online groups.” You’ll be amazed with the number of people who want to talk about the proper way to care for 1950’s lunchboxes as much as you do.

3. Don’t be Afraid to Pray.
I remember the first time I put an offer in on a house — I wanted it more than I had wanted almost anything else in my life. While I knew that I had dozens of other people praying on my behalf, I was too scared to pray.

I didn’t want God to tell me no. I was afraid to pray until my co-worker Kim asked me (in a loving, kind way), why I didn’t believe that God wanted His best for me. Don’t be afraid to pray — as with anything amazing in my life, the path is never what I expected, but it has always been obvious that God’s hand has been on it the whole way.

Kathi Lipp is a busy conference and retreat speaker, currently speaking each year to thousands of women throughout the United States. She is the author of The Husband Project and The Marriage Project, serves as food writer for Nickelodeon, and has had articles published in several magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman and Discipleship Journal. Kathi and her husband, Roger, live in California and are the parents of four teenagers and young adults. For more information visit her website.



Grand Prize Giveaway: Deluxe Starbucks Coffee Gift Basket

* Three 2.5-oz. bags of Starbucks coffee
(Sumatra, House Blend, and French Roast)
* Tazo black tea
* Starbucks marshmallow cocoa
* Almond roca
* Almond roca buttercrunch toffee cookies
* White chocolate and raspberry cookies
* 2 Starbucks mugs
* Keepsake black bamboo basket

$62 value




December 24, 2010

I wish you all a blessed Christmas Eve, celebrating the birth of our Savior. Today’s installment in the 12 Pearls of Christmas series is from talented author Karen O’Connor. I hope her story here will remind you of the importance of writing down and preserving your own family memories. If you don’t write them down, how will your great-grandchildren know about them?

~~~

An Unforgettable Gift
by Karen O’Connor

On Christmas morning, 1912, in Paducah, Kentucky, fourteen-year-old Charlie Flowers and his three brothers and two sisters huddled in their beds, fully dressed, trying to keep warm as the wind howled outside their small frame house.
       
It was a desperate time for the family. Earlier that year the children’s father had died. And their mother had not found work. The coal had run out and there was little money––none for gifts. Their scrawny tree with decorations made from scraps of colored paper had been given to them the night before by a local merchant.

“Can’t sell this one,” the man said with a nod of his head before handing it over to the eager children.
   
To pass the time, the siblings joked and shouted stories from their bedrooms across the hallway from one another. Then suddenly a racket from the alley at the rear of the house broke into their games.
       
“Charlie,” his mother called, “would you see what’s going on out there?”
      
Charlie pulled on his shoes, grabbed a thick overcoat from the hook by the door, and ran out back.

There stood a man in a wagon bent over a load of coal, shoveling it into the shed as fast as he could.
       
“Hey Mister, we didn’t order any coal,” Charlie shouted. “You’re delivering it to the wrong house.”
       
“Your name’s Flowers, isn’t it?” the man asked, still shoveling. 
       
Charlie nodded yes.
      
“Well then, there’s no mistake.  I’ve been asked to deliver this to your family on Christmas morning.” He looked the awe-struck boy square in the eye. “And I’m under strict orders not to tell who sent it,” he teased.
       
Charlie ran into the house, his coattail flapping in the cold morning wind.  He could hardly wait to tell his mother and brothers and sisters. God had provided––just as he had on that first Christmas morning so long ago when He sent his only son to a needy world.
       
Charlie Flowers died in 1994 at age 96. And right up to the last year of his life, not a Christmas went by that he didn’t tell the story of that sub-zero Christmas morning of his boyhood when two men gave his family an unforgettable gift.
       
It wasn’t the coal that was remembered or cherished, Charlie often said––welcome as it was––but rather what two men brought to his desperate family. One, for his gift of recognizing their great need and taking the time to do something about it. And the other, for being willing to give up part of his own Christmas morning to deliver it.
       
That gift of so long ago has continued to warm the Flowers family from one generation to another, as Charlie’s son––my husband, Charles––calls to mind these two unknown men each Christmas morning and whispers a prayer of thanks.

 ~~~

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

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

~~~


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

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




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 19, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

10 Tips for Hurting Hearts to Hope and Cope at Christmastime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Heather Ivester in: Wellness | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)



December 18, 2010

I’m not really sure how it happened, but today I’ll be DANCING with my daughter’s ballet school in “The Nutcracker.” Please keep me and my stage fright in your prayers!

Today’s installment in the 12 Pearls of Christmas series is from author Rebecca Ondov.

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Wrapped in His Love
by Rebecca Ondov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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