Saturday, December 25, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas—Love


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

~~~

Love

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

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

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

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

 ~~~

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

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


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

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

Friday, December 24, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas—An Unforgettable Gift


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

~~~

An Unforgettable Gift

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

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

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

 ~~~

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

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


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

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

Thursday, December 23, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas—All I Want for Christmas . . .


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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 ~~~

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

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

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

Verse of the Day

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5–7)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas—The Best Thing about Christmas


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

~~~
What’s the best thing about Christmas?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 ~~~

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

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

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

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

Verse of the Day

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, (Titus 2:11–13)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas—Good News


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

~~~
Good News!

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

Verse of the Day

The LORD is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation. (Psalm 145:9 NLT)

The LORD is good. When trouble comes, he is a strong refuge. And he knows everyone who trusts in him. (Nahum 1:7 NLT)

Monday, December 20, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas—Gift List


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

~~~
Gift List

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

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

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

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

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


 ~~~

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


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

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

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


With two performances of Handel's Messiah yesterday, I didn't get this posted. So I'll post two today.

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

~~~
Hurting Near Christmas? 10 Tips to Hope Again

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.


 ~~~

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.

~~~
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

Verse of the Day

Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. (Ephesians 1:4 NLT)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Verse of the Day

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15–16)

Friday, December 17, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas—There's No Place Like . . .


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

~~~

There’s No Place Like….

I grew up spending Christmases at my grandparents’ quaint Victorian home, surrounded by lots of relatives, laughter and love and really good food. For a little girl growing up in a single parent home, harried working mother, no church family, and TV dinners, these extended family holidays spent at my grandparents were like a real gift from God. But as a young adult, my grandfather passed on, the old house was sold, I grew up and eventually had a small family of my own.
   
Still I longed for those familiar kinds of “big” Christmases—I wanted that house full of relatives and fun times to go home to—I think the “child” in me thought I deserved it somehow. But my grandmother had gotten older and lived in a tiny apartment, and my mother and my husband’s parents were not comfortable hosting Christmas in their homes. For a while we went to my cousin’s, but I soon had to come to grips with reality. The days of going to Grandma’s for the perfect Christmas were a thing of the past.

In other words, it was time for me to grow up—time for me to start hosting our own Christmas celebrations. So biting the holiday bullet, I decided to just do it. With two very small children underfoot, I cooked my first turkey, made my first stuffing, invited some family, neighbors, and friends over, and we all crammed ourselves into our little house, balanced our plates on our knees, and had a very good time. Oh, I’m sure the turkey was dry and the gravy lumpy, but what I remember most is that everyone seemed truly happy to be there. And I realized that I wasn’t the only one longing for that sense of warmth and community—that longing to “go home again”—and I finally grasped that I could (with God’s grace) help to provide that for my family and others.
   
So for the next three decades we continued to host Christmas in our home. I got better at decorating, cooking, gifting…the works. Some years the place would be packed and crazy. A few years were thinner and quieter. But family, friends and neighbors could always count on the fact that the Carlson’s would be “doing something for Christmas.” It was a no-brainer.
   
Until this year. This year, for the first time in more than thirty years, my husband and I decided we’re going to take a pass on hosting Christmas—we are going to the beach. At first I felt terribly guilty, and even right now I’m a bit unsure—and wonder if I’ll end up changing my mind at the last minute. And yet, I believe it’s the right thing for us to do—for a lot of reasons. One being that my husband’s birthday is Christmas and he never gets to do what he wants on his birthday—this year will be different. But more than that, I hope that our stepping aside will encourage the younger members of our family to find and embrace some of their own traditions—to grow up and look for opportunities to stretch themselves a bit. Because, similar to how an oyster creates a pearl—or how a young mom learns to be a hostess—with some discomfort and distress over burnt turkeys, the end results are truly valuable.

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

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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


Verse of the Day

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me. The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting; do not forsake the works of Your hands. (Psalm 138:7–8)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas—The Joy of Unexpected Circumstances



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

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The Joy of Unexpected Circumstances
by Lori Kasbeer

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

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

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

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

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

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

 ~~~

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

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

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

Verse of the Day

 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46:10)

In the original language, the instruction an emphatic command: Not, “Quiet down and you’ll discover God’s presence,” but rather, “Quit what you’re doing right now and acknowledge who God is.” The only way to rid ourselves of fear and anxiety is to acknowledge who God is (Prov. 3:5–6)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas—The First Christmas


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

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

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The First Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

Verse of the Day

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? (Psalm 56:3–4)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas—Wear Joy


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

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

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Wear Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ever just know? God is calling.

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

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

A time of rest.

A time of JOY!

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

JOY!

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

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

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

His joy. Your strength.

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

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

Wear joy this season.

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

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

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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

Verse of the Day

From the bottom of my heart I thank you, dear Lord; I've never kept secret what you're up to. You've always been great toward me--what love! You snatched me from the brink of disaster! (Psalm 86:12–13 MSG)

Monday, December 13, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas—Pearls of Patience

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

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

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


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Pearls of Patience
by Margaret
Mcsweeney <http://pearlgirls.info/>


As I write by the light of my Christmas tree on a late winter’s night, I reflect upon the poignancy and purpose of this season.  The tiny white lights look like strands of pearls draped gracefully (perhaps haphazardly is a more honest description) across the evergreen boughs.  Tomorrow I will hang the ornaments and at last place the angel atop the tree         
        
Angels carry a special meaning this Christmas.  My brother, Randy passed away on December 2nd from a heart attack at age 53.  He was feeding a stray cat on his side porch.  Randy was always like St. Francis of Asissi – animals would find him, sensing a kind soul.  And my brother was a gentle and patient soul.  He loved to fish.  He tried to teach me, but I immediately lost interest when I realized worms were involved. And I could never sit still on the banks of a river and just wait.  However, Randy could do that.  He could wait, and waiting is a true gift.  He put into practice the Scriptures.  “Wait upon the Lord.”  “Be still and know that He is God.”  Patience doesn’t have to be passive.  Wait is still an action verb.  Part of the waiting process for fishing is seeking.  Elaine (Randy’s wife of 31 years) told me that Randy said he could see the fish deep beneath the waters.  He actively waited for the right time to catch them.
        
During Randy’s last fishing trip on earth – just a week before his death, he felt an urgency to take a picture of the clouds with his cell phone.  When he returned home, he showed the picture to Elaine.  They realized that a face of an angel was looking at Randy from the sky – perhaps waiting for God’s timing to bring Randy home to heaven.  In my heart I like to think that this “angel in the sky” was part of the heavenly host that appeared to the shepherds over two thousand years ago.  A Christmas Angel.
        
The Christmas Angels brought tidings of great joy that Jesus, our Lord and Savior was born.  And because of that incredible gift from God that these angels announced, we all have the promise of eternity. Let us actively wait for His return by sharing our faith, offering hope and acting with love in everything we do.
        
May each of you be blessed this Christmas as you celebrate the purposeful promises of the Season: Faith, hope and love.   And may the 12 Pearls of Christmas be a blessing to you, too.




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About Margaret: Margaret McSweeney lives with her husband, David and two teenage daughters in the Chicago suburbs. After earning a master's degree in international business from the University of South Carolina, Margaret moved to New York City to work at a large bank where she met David. Charity and community involvement are very important to Margaret. She is the founder and director of Pearl Girls. For more information please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/">www.pearlgirls.info>. Margaret is fast at work on several fiction manuscripts and her book Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace was written to help fund the Pearl Girl Charities. Connect with Margaret on  <http://www.facebook.com/#%21/profile.php?id=1422308888>  or Twitter <http://twitter.com/mcsweeney>

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http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_zNJSAho3bgU/TQGritMWMrI/AAAAAAAAAUE/pBElUI4MKDk/s1600/Pearl-Jewelry-Set.jpg

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 http://www.blogger.com/goog_1676782242 http://www.blogger.com/ {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=dGQyNFlId1ZDUEVUMm0wZjVIYUZielE6MQ}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com/) on New Years Day!