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

12PearlsOfChristmasWelcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

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

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

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

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A Mistletoe Medley

By Margaret McSweeney

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illness, you ugly parasite!

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

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

I shall fight!

Battalions stand by to help!

My doctor’s scalpel will sever you.

Modern medicine will shrivel you.

You shall fall to the ground,

And I shall stand again strong and well.

But what if I cannot conquer you?

If you are with me still

As my constant, inevitable companion,

I pray that God will help me

Learn to live with you in peace

And somehow discover how you, my enemy—

Like mistletoe at Christmas—

Can serve some useful purpose.

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

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

May you feel an extra “hug from heaven” this Christmas season from the loving arms of our Heavenly Father.  God is present, and He knows your name!

*Text quoted from Aftermath (New Hope, 2012) by Margaret McSweeney, pp 114-115

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

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

12PearlsOfChristmasWelcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

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

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

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

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Who is Mr. Carbunkle?

By: Debora M. Coty

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is Mr. Carbunkle?  

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

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

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

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

So Mr. Carbunkle it is.

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

Who is your Mr. Carbunkle?

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

*Name changed for privacy

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

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

12PearlsOfChristmas

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

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

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

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

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An Inexpensive New Christmas Tradition

By: Christy Fitzwater

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12PearlsOfChristmas

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Betrayal by Robin Lee Hatcher



MY REVIEW:

I have always enjoyed Robin Lee Hatcher’s books, especially those with historical western settings so I was excited to have the opportunity to review “Betrayal”, the second book in the Where the Heart Lives series. Having recently read “Belonging”, the first of the series, I was primed and ready for “Betrayal”. I was not to be disappointed.

“Betrayal” features Hugh, the oldest Brennan sibling and Julia Grace, a young widow who offers Hugh food and lodging in return for help with chores while his lame horse has a chance to heal. Both Hugh and Julia are wary of other people due to their personal histories. Each of them has good reason to distrust others because they have each been betrayed by those who should have their best interests at heart. However something draws them together despite their misgivings and their pasts. Slowly they learn to trust each other and their friends and neighbors.

A well-paced plot and well-rounded characters make “Betrayal” a delight to read. I enjoyed getting to know Julia and Hugh as they matured in their faith and learned how to forgive the ones who had betrayed them. The story had a good blend of drama, action, and romance that moved steadily toward a satisfying ending. I am now eager to read the final installment of this series, “Beloved” to discover the story of Diana, the other Brennan sister.

I recommend “Betrayal” to all who enjoy Christian historical romance, particularly those who like myself enjoy those with western settings.

This book was provided for review by Thomas Nelson Publisher’s BookSneeze program.



ABOUT THE BOOK:

The latest historical romance from award-winning author Robin Lee Hatcher and the second book in the Where the Heart Lives series, Betrayal will take readers to the high desert of western Wyoming, through the crags of the Rocky Mountains, and into the hearts of two seekers learning to trust God’s love no matter the circumstances.

It’s the turn of the twentieth century and drifter Hugh Brennan is a man well acquainted with betrayal. Hugh finds himself drawn to the attractive widow, Julia, yet when he looks into her eyes, he recognizes the same hurt that haunts him.

Julia Grace has little reason to trust men, but she’s going to have to trust someone if she’s to keep her ranch from the clutches of her dead husband’s half-brother. Is it possible God had a hand in bringing Hugh to her door?

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Robin Lee HatcherRobin Lee Hatcher is the bestselling author of over sixty books. Her well-drawn characters and heartwarming stories of faith, courage, and love have earned her both critical acclaim and the devotion of readers. Her numerous awards include the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, two RITA Awards for Best Inspirational Romance, Romantic Times Career Achievement Awards for Americana Romance and for Inspirational Fiction, and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award. Robin currently resides in Idaho. For more information, visit www.robinleehatcher.com.