Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Team 413/Gracerunners Ministries - a wonderful ministry/outreach!

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Fred & I are involved with a wonderful ministry called Team 413 - Gracerunners Ministries.  We've been participating in marathons since the Cleveland Marathon in May 2008.  At our next marathon, the Walt Disney World Marathon in January, 2009, we happened upon the Team 413 booth at the Expo.  The founder and executive director of the ministry, Chris Gillespie, and his wonderful wife, Kiki, were spreading the Good News at the booth.  I also encountered Team 413 at the Knoxville Covenant Health Marathon in March and the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon in May.  Fred and I were privileged to serve with Chris in the expo booth at the Detroit Free Press/Flagstar Bank Marathon in October.  It was great fun!

Chris, who is on the faculty of Samford University in Birmingham, AL in the Exercise Science and Sports Medicine Department, founded the ministry in 2003.  The 413 in the name refers to Philippians 4:13 - "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  The ministry sells tech shirts and other merchandise with the objective to spread the Gospel, encourage fellow athletes, and to generate interest and talk about Christ with spectators.  Here is an excerpt from their website:

"TEAM 413  was founded because we believe that while on earth Jesus Christ had the heart of an athlete.  His heart defined courage, endurance, power, perseverance, strength, loyalty, motivation, dedication, compassion, and truth.  We believe that He gives us, as runners, the courage to start, the perseverance to continue the race, and the strength and power to finish strong.  Team 413 is motivated to serve Him in all that we do by sharing His truth and compassion with whosoever crosses our path.  We are loyal to His calling and we long to excel so that we may please Him in everything that we do and say."

It is a joy to be involved in this ministry.  It is doing Christ-honoring and eternal work for the Kingdom of God!  

Chris recently completed his first book, 'Gracerunner: Faith on the Run.'  It will be available at the beginning of January, and Chris will have copies at the 2010 Walt Disney World Marathon Expo (Chris is registered for the Goofy Challenge, where he will run a half marathon on Saturday, January 9 and the full marathon on January 10!).  I had the opportunity to read the book prior to its publication, and it is wonderfully inspiring!  You can contact Chris at chris@team to reserve your copy.  I highly recommend it, and hope to review it in the near future.

Team 413 is in middle of a major fundraising campaign in order to expand its outreach and participate in more marathons.  If you feel led, and want to contribute to a great cause, this is very worthwhile!  You can contribute here.  

Please keep this wonderful ministry in prayer!  And please pray for Chris as he participates in the Goofy Challenge at the Walt Disney World Marathon!

Monday, December 28, 2009

'Cottonwood Whispers' by Jennifer Erin Valent - Book Review

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This very entertaining and page-turning novel is the second by Ms. Valent.  Her first, ‘Fireflies in December,’ won the 2007 Operation First Novel contest as sponsored by the Christian Writers Guild.  This is the sequel to that novel, which I have not read as yet. 

'Cottonwood Whispers,' which has been compared favorably to Harper Lee’s classic, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird,' is set in the South in 1936.  The main storyline centers on best friends Jessilyn Lassiter and Gemma Teague.  Jessie, age 17, and Gemma, age 19, have been friends since they were little girls.  Jessie’s parents brought Gemma into their home after her parents perished in a house fire four years prior to the events of this novel.  The first novel explored race relations and the troubles the Lassiter family endured when they brought in the African-American orphan.  This novel picks up the story of the girls and their lives.

Ms. Valent’s novel transports you to the South during the Depression, complete with vivid descriptions of the landscape, and the dialogue is written very accurately.  She is a native southerner, and does a marvelous job of translating that unique way of life to the reader of this novel.  As a native Michigander, I have visited the South since I was a child and consider it to be my second home – love it!  So this novel is appealing to me for that reason. 

There are some intriguing subplots - including a death and a false accusation – which are handled very expertly by Ms. Valent.  And Jessie still has a crush on her friend Luke Talley, which began in the first novel.  And Luke is finally starting to realize she is no longer a little girl.  Their relationship is sweet and authentic.  I also enjoyed seeing Jessie grow closer to making a decision for the Lord.

I really enjoyed this novel.  I feel as though I missed out by not starting with ‘Fireflies in December,’ so I may have to backtrack and read that one before Ms. Valent brings the characters back to life again.  Her third novel – a continuation of the story of the Gemma and Jessie – is called ‘Catching Moondrops’ and will be released in the Fall of 2010.  I look forward to seeing how the lives of Jessie, Gemma and Luke continue to interact – and where Jessie and Luke’s relationship evolves! 

Please note that Tyndale House has provided a complimentary copy of this book to me for review purposes.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cirque Dreams Holidaze - An Awesome Show!

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Fred & I went to see the Cirque Productions show, Cirque Dreams Holidaze, last night at the fabulous Fox Theatre in downtown Detroit last night.  It was a Christmas present to each other.  

I saw a Cirque du Soleil show (which is a separate company from Cirque Productions), Mystere,' at Treasure Island in Las Vegas with my mom in 2003 (it is still playing there).  We enjoyed it a great deal!  

The Fox Theatre is a beautiful theater.  It was built in 1928 by film pioneer William Fox and is one of five Fox Theatres.  The other Fox Theatres are in Atlanta, Brooklyn, San Francisco, and St. Louis.  It was purchased by Mike and Marian Ilitch, the founders of the Little Caesars pizza chain, and owners of the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings professional sports teams.  They completely renovated it in 1988.  It is a spectacular venue in which to see a fabulous show!  

'Holidaze' was, as expected, spectacular!  Cirque shows are a dazzling combination of music, tremendous vocals, and amazing acrobatic and aerial acts.  They are all breathtaking individually and terrific as a whole.  

The Cirque Dreams Holidaze show consists of an international cast.  The countries represented are the United States, the UK, Russia, China, the Ukraine, Maldova, and Uzbekistan.  There is an amazing amalgamation of talent!

A highlight was 'Hold on Tight' featuring Santa Claus and Santa's Helper.  These parts were played by Igor and Andrea Matyushenko, a father and son team from Uzbekistan.  Little Andrea, Santa's Helper, is a tremendous acrobat - and quite a showman at such a young age!

Another highlight was 'Marching on Line,' performed by the Toy Line Soldier, Vitaliy Ostroverkhov from the Ukraine.  He is a graduate of the Odessa Circus Studio, and is amazing on the low wire.  He rode a unicycle while juggling 4 hats which he caught on his head - all while balancing on a wire!  Fred joked that we are unable to clap and sing at the same time!  Too true!

My favorite part were the aerial acts.  In particular, I loved 'Holy Night Flight,' the last performance in the second act.  It was a combination of one of my favorite Christmas song, 'O Holy Night,' and the aerial partners Marque and Rebecca Ohmes from the USA.  I was not expecting a song about the real 'reason for the season,' the birth of Jesus, so I was overwhelmed by the whole experience.  At one point, when the lyrics, 'Fall on your knees! O, hear the angels' voices! O night divine, O night was Christ was born, O night divine, O night, O night Divine' - my favorite part of the song - was sung with crisp beauty by the Angel of Music, Amanda Restivo, with the Ohmes doing their beautiful aerial acrobatics, I thought I was going to burst into tears!'

Fred & I enjoyed the entire evening tremendously.  Being that we both love live performance, we thought we chose a wonderful Christmas gift for each other!  It was a beautiful crisp December evening, and it was a treat to see much a large crowd having such a joyful time in this economically depressed city.

We notice that there is a Cirque du Soleil show, 'Alegria,' coming to the Joe Louis Arena (home of the Detroit Red Wings hockey team) in February 2010.  That would be a great birthday present for me ('hint hint' to Fred!)! 

Friday, December 25, 2009

December 25: 12 Pearls of Christmas: Celebrate

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Merry Christmas, everyone! The final pearl from the 12 Pearls of Christmas comes to us from Dawn Meehan.

What Really Matters
by Dawn Meehan

In the hustle and bustle and commercialism of Christmas, take time to remember the real reason why we celebrate - the birth of Christ, our Lord and Saviour. May you all have a blessed Christmas!

I had a VERY long day with the kids doing little but fighting. By the time we left for church, we were all short tempered, snapping at each other, and not at all in the Christmas spirit. Thankfully, once at church, we calmed down. Things were put in perspective for us. We sang Christmas songs and began to smile at one another again. The kids didn't fight once while we were there. Well, they did use their battery operated candles as light sabers for a minute, but we'll forget about that part.

I never sent out cards (sorry to all my family and friends). It just didn't happen this year. I don't think I ever completely finished my shopping, but it's a little late now. Several items I ordered online have been back ordered. I just realized that the kids have eaten all the cookies I've made and there are none to put out for Santa now. I encouraged them to leave him a glass of wine instead. And I failed to read the Christmas story to the kids before they went to bed.

But you know what? None of that matters. It really doesn't. Christmas is here! Christ is born! And He doesn't care if we sent out Christmas cards. He doesn't care if we ate all the cookies we baked. He doesn't even care if we never got around to baking a single cookie at all! He loves us no matter how much we screw up.
Now that's worth celebrating!

Dawn Meehan (aka mom2my6pack) grew up in Chicagoland where she began her writing career at the age of 5 with her widely praised, The Lucky Leprechaun, an epic tale of a leprechaun who is- yes, you guessed it, lucky.

Dawn has six children, basically because she didn't want seven. She is the author of Because I Said So and spends her days blogging at, changing diapers, cleaning pudding off her ceiling, tackling insurmountable piles of laundry, and explaining to her kids why they can't have a pet squirrel or an indoor slip-n-slide.

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 leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Thursday, December 24, 2009

December 24: 12 Pearls of Christmas: Slow Down, Pray & Give Thanks

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The Christmas Eve edition of the 12 Pearls of Christmas comes from author Maureen Lang.

All Decked Out For Christmas
by Maureen Lang

One of the reasons so many of us love the holiday season is that it's just so...pretty! Twinkling lights, shiny ornaments, packages that glisten with bows and fancy wrapping. Our houses are trimmed with wreaths and glowing trees, and the neighborhood lights up the night with strands of icicles and glimmering reindeer.

Even we get decked out for the holidays! Chances are most of us will attend at least one party this season, and if we don't usually don clothing or jewelry with a bit of sparkle, now's the time to take a chance with something that reflects the holiday.

Smiles are another reason this season is such a popular one. They accompany that familiar greeting-Merry Christmas! Smiles go with the gifts we give and with the gifts we receive. Smiles go with the old Christmas carols and classic movies we watch every year.

The holiday season is a time when everything can seem amplified. But what if we're all decked out on the outside, from the sparkling clothing to our best effort at a smile, and on the inside we're anything but happy? If life isn't what we expected it to be, the gap between reality and our happy, hopeful expectations seem wider when everyone around us is laughing through the season.

I know there are as many reasons to be unhappy as there are to be happy, and I wouldn't begin to have the answer to make this season bearable for everyone. But I do know a few things that have worked for me:

Slow down. What? During the busiest time of the year? Yep. I know when I feel completely overwhelmed it's because I'm pressuring myself to do too much. So I try to plan ahead, settle for less than perfection, do my best without driving myself and everyone around me crazy. Choose what's really important and let go of the other things. And I've adopted my aunt's favorite saying: "However it turns out, that's how we like it." Works wonders on attitude!

Pray. As my pastor reminded me this weekend from Psalm 34:18: the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. God may not deliver us from our troubles, but He promises to stay beside us-in fact, closer than when everything seems hunky-dory.

Find a moment to give thanks for what you do have (without looking around at those who have more).

This last point deserves a moment of reflection, and is something I'm still learning to do. I have a child severely handicapped by Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic form of mental retardation. For years I thought I'd accepted his condition. I obediently said to God, "thank you even for this," since it taught me many things about adjusting to the life I've been given rather than the one I might have chosen.

But as my son gets older, I see new forms of acceptance making that feeling of gratitude more genuine. I think I'm finally letting go of some of the hopes and dreams I had for him, my oldest son. I can no longer imagine him any other way than the way he is, even though I'd be first in line if a cure is ever found.

I still think it's a good thing to give thanks in all things, even if it begins out of obedience rather than tender gratitude for whatever thorn we live with. But realizing it's okay to grow into that gratitude was a blessing to me.

Maybe some of the bruises on our spirit seem tender during the holiday season, a reminder that all the glitter on the outside might not light us up on the inside. My prayer is trust Psalm 34:18. Let's lean on Him this season-He's right here beside us!

Maureen Lang grew up loving to tell stories, and God has blessed her immeasurably to be able to tell them to a wider audience these days. For the latest goings-on, please check her blog!

Her latest novel is 'Look to the East.'


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 leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December 23: 12 Pearls of Christmas: Wondrous Mystery

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by Anna Joujan

Holy. Holy. Holy is the Lord. The familiar catch of breath. The sting in the eyes. And the tears begin to flow with the falling rain. Or do the tears fall with the flowing rain. What is it in these words that I whisper that wrenches at my heart so? Why does Mary's prayer touch the core of my being, so many centuries after it was spoken?

I think it must be because I know that she was just a girl, just a human being, with a woman's heart like my own. And so, when I hear her wondering words, I can feel with her the emotion she must have felt. To bear the son of God-what wondrous mystery, what glorious honour! And she was, like me, just a young woman-much younger, in fact, than I am now. And so, no matter how often I hear the story and read her words, it still has the power to bring abrupt and unsought tears.

What a gracious God, to work wonders with such frail and faulty creatures as us!
Anna G. Joujan was born in South Dakota, as a Canadian citizen, and was raised in Zambia, the child of missionary teachers. Since her family's move to the U.S., Anna spent her childhood and early adulthood traveling throughout the world thanks to various educational and work opportunities . . . France, China, Peru, and Jamaica being some of the stops in her journeys. Her undergraduate degree in French Literature led to a Masters in Information Sciences, and to work as a college and high school librarian, and a cross country coach. She has also returned to Zambia multiple times to teach for individual families and for local schools. All the while continuing pursuing her passions of writing, artwork, photography . . . and running to a fault. She blogs at Full of Grace.

Ahe i also a contributing author in the book,'Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace.'


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 leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

'Jesus Lives' by Sarah Young - Book Review

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In my opinion, cultivating the habit of reading a Christian devotional is very important. And using a quality devotional book is essential. It is unique when a devotional is so effective that it makes such an impact on the reader that he/she wants to translate that energy into action and life change. ‘Jesus Lives,’ by Sarah Young, does just that.

This book, which is subtitled ‘Seeing His Love in Your Life,’ is comprised of 180 devotionals, and they are written as from the hand of Jesus. His genuine love and compassion for His people emanates from the page. There is a list of topics that one can reference that coincide with themes in Jesus’ life, such as Adversity, Faith, His Sufficiency, Joy, and Victorious Living. Page One of each theme is the words that are meant to come from Jesus; Page Two includes pertinent Scripture verses.

An important component of Christian living is to be aware of how unique and how loved you are in the eyes of the Lord. This lovely book builds that up in the believer. And I think the Holy Spirit can use those sentiments to speak to the heart of the person who does not yet have a personal relationship with Jesus.

This book is beautiful inside and out. It is a handy pocket size with a lovely padded front cover. It is perfect to give as a gift to that person who is looking to grow in his or her faith, and who wants to be encouraged or strengthened in their Walk with the Lord.

My husband Fred and I have the habit of reading either the Bible or a book that is God-honoring before we retire for the evening. I think we found the book that we’ll be using for a while!

You can find this lovely book at or

This book was provided to me by the publisher, Thomas Nelson. This review includes my thought and opinions that are strictly my own.

December 22: 12 Pearls of Christmas: Perspective

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A Soggy, Jolly, Holly Christmas
by Melody Carlson

One of my most memorable Christmases started out as a natural disaster. But isn't that a bit how a pearl is formed? An oyster's soft easy life is disrupted by the invasion of sand, but something good comes out of it. When I was eight, we experienced the worst flood in recorded Oregon history. It was only a few days before Christmas when our streets became shallow rivers and the governor proclaimed a state of emergency. My sister and I assumed the flood was simply our new water-world playground and didn't understand the seriousness of washed out bridges and downed power lines and submerged homes. But when we realized this flood was about to nix our usual three-hour trek to our grandparents' home near the coast, we were not happy.

Naturally, our mom, a single parent, protested the sensibility of holiday travel (most of Oregon's rivers were involved in the flood). But Christmas at Grandma's house was our favorite event of the year. And thanks to our persistence, Mom finally gave in. We piled into the car and headed out. Flood waters climbed higher the closer we got to the coast. And at one point the road behind us was closed and the one ahead was flooded and about to be closed as well. The state policeman told us we could cross "at our own risk." We followed a Volkswagen Bug into the water-then we actually watched the bug floating away! Of course, there was nothing to do besides plow on through the water, which appeared to be nearly two feet deep! Fortunately we had an old heavy Chevy that did not float away, but the water seeped in and pooled on the floors.

Fortunately, we made it safely to the grandparents. But once we arrived, we learned there would be no Christmas tree because the road to the woods was closed. Then my grandpa picked up his ax and led us outside where he chopped down his prize holly tree planted in the parking strip. I stared in horror, thinking Grandma was going to have a fit. But then he explained the city had told him to remove the tree for traffic visibility. So we had a twelve foot holly tree for Christmas. It was a little prickly decorating it, but with its shiny green leaves and red berries, it was the most beautiful tree ever! So what started out as a disaster turned out to be a soggy, holly, jolly Christmas after all.


Melody Carlson, author of Limelight, Love Finds You in Sisters, The Christmas Dog, 86 Bloomberg Place, Diary of a Teenage Girl, The Carter House Girls, and much more...


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 leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

Monday, December 21, 2009

'Primal' by Mark Batterson - Book Review and Giveaway

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I first learned of Mark Batterson while attending the 2008 Group Life Conference at Willow Creek Community Church in S. Barrington IL. Mark, the senior pastor of National Community Church in Washington D.C., was there with Heather Zempel, the discipleship pastor at NCC. I can say without reservation that they were the highlight of the conference for me. The focus of their church is to reach the unchurched in the Nation’s Capitol – a high calling indeed! They are so innovative and insightful, brilliant and committed to the Lord! So I was excited when I found out Mark had a new book coming out!

I had the opportunity to receive an advance copy of ‘Primal.' It exceeded my high expectations! Mark’s purpose in this book is to take Christians back to the basics of their faith. He believes Christians have lost the soul of Christianity, and it is detrimental to us and to those who are still outside of the faith. We need a new reformation – to get back to ‘primal’ Christianity. He encourages us to lay aside our differences in doctrine, etc… and instead to focus on the four elements of Great Commandment Christianity: compassion, wonder, curiosity and power. He bases these four elements on Jesus’ teaching in Mark 12:30: “…30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. 31The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these" (NIV).

Mark’s primary motivator is to show more people the love of the Lord, and to have them see that He is what they need. He makes the observation that many young people are very turned off on church and Christianity because of judgmental attitude and ‘unlovely’ behavior of those who profess Christ as their Lord. We need to return to our first love, and allow Him to reflect through us by the power of His Holy Spirit – the same power which raised Him from the dead. As Christians, we have that power available to us, and we need to use that gift! I love Mark’s quote on page 150 – “Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Break a sweat.”

A big ‘take away’ for me is that Mark thinks our love for God grows when we learn more about all subjects. He is especially drawn to the Lord when he thinks about astronomy and the vastness and majesty of the universe. That really impressed me. I have over the years put myself in a small ‘sacred’ box, and rejected a lot of what I categorize as ‘secular’ – and, by default, have put the Lord in an equally small box. Mark’s observations, along with the teachings at our church, have ‘allowed’ me to broaden my horizons. It is so freeing – and honoring to the Lord, in my opinion!

I highly recommend this book. I think if we all read this book, and put the practices into action(which are very solidly biblical), I think it will definitely draw more people to the Lord, and will help us to live a life that is more honoring to Him! It will also give us the freedom to learn and explore and discovering how God wired us and what He wants us to do with our lives!

This book was provided to me by Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Company. There was no remuneration involved and this review is based strictly on my own thoughts and opinions.

This book’s release date is December 22, 2009. You can order a copy from Waterbrook here.

You can also order from or


I have a copy of this book that I would love to give to one of you! You can receive entries in several ways:

1) Leave a comment on this post – please make sure to include your email address in this form – 

2) Follow me on this blog – please make me aware of that ‘follow’ in your blog post!

3) Follow me on Twitter. Please make me aware of your ‘follow’ in your blog post!

Or any combination of the three!  Please limit one entry per option!

The winner will be chosen by the Random Number Generator.  Each separate entry will be assigned a number.

Due to the holidays, the contest will run two weeks. The deadline for entry is January 4, 2010 at 6:00 pm Eastern Time. The winner will be notified by January 5 via email. So please be sure to leave your email address in your blog comment!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

December 21: 12 Pearls of Christmas: Help and Support

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Today's Christmas Pearl is from the inspirational Tricia Goyer!

Calling Elizabeth ... HELP!
by Tricia Goyer

Mary, the mother of Jesus is one of the most well-known women of all time. She was also a teen mom facing an unplanned pregnancy. This Christmas we will see evidence of Mary's story all around us. And as you hear it through Christmas songs and Christmas shows think of three things:

1. Mary was signed up for a big task she wasn't prepared for.
2. Mary no doubt faced criticism from people around her.
3. Mary found someone to turn to - a friend who could help Mary to succeed in her new role. It was Mary's older cousin Elizabeth.

Elizabeth played an important part in Mary's life. We know this because the book of Luke begins by telling us Elizabeth's story first. Elizabeth was the wife of a priest. She was very old and had no children, but God blessed her in her old age by allowing her to get pregnant. After Elizabeth's story comes Mary's story ... another surprise pregnancy. Can you imagine what a shock that was to everyone who knew both women? (Yes! I'm sure you can!)

The cool thing is that the angel Gabriel told Mary about Elizabeth's surprise pregnancy. It's as if he was saying, "Look, there's someone in your same situation. Turn to her. She can help you."

Mary did go to Elizabeth. In fact she lived with her older cousin for three months. Elizabeth was the first one who rejoiced over the child Mary held within her womb, and I imagine Elizabeth was there to encourage Mary as she coped with the idea of becoming a teen mom.

Like Mary, each of us should have people in our lives who we turn to for help, support and encouragement. Being a mom isn't an easy thing, and facing an unplanned pregnancy is even tougher.

When I had my son Cory I was 17-years-old, and there were a group of women from my grandma's church who supported me. They were the first ones who showed me that the child that was growing inside me was a gift. They gave me a baby shower, and they fought over holding my son after he was born.

As my son grew, there were other women I looked to ... and most of the time they didn't even know I was watching. One of them was Cheryl. Cheryl was patient with her children, she gave them big hugs, she laughed with them and played with them and I modeled myself after her. The thing about finding mentors is sometimes we can observe them without them even knowing. And if we're really lucky they enjoy their role of giving us advice.

Later, when I had two kids, I met a friend named Cindy. She and I were the same age and we became quick friends. Cindy was a support to me because we traded babysitting, talked about parenting problems, and we encouraged each other. She was someone who was walking the same road as me, and her advice helped more times than I can count.

No matter who we are, or where we live, each of us can look around and see the people we have in our lives. Some may cheer us on, some may guide our parenting, and others may just be there to walk along side us. If the mother of Jesus needed someone to look to for support ... shouldn't we? Everyone needs someone to provide a little help and support.

Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-one books including From Dust and Ashes, My Life UnScripted, and the children's book, 10 Minutes to Showtime. 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 Today's Christian Woman and Focus on the 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 the mountains of Montana. Connect with Tricia at

Tricia's latest novel, 'The Swiss Courier' is available here.

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 leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Sunday, December 20, 2009

December 20: 12 Pearls of Christmas: God Intervenes

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Today's edition of the 12 Pearls of Christmas comes to us from the fabulous Susan May Warren!

The Answer
by Susan May Warren

Whos, Here, we are Whos here, smaller than the eye can see. Whos here, we are Whos here, I'm a Who and so is she...

I've always wanted to live in a musical. When I was a kid, I loved Oklahoma, Sound of Music, West Side Story. I seriously thought that, if the moment was right, maybe the stars aligned, people would break out into song and dance.

I was sorta right. Because in my house, one needs to be able to talk in movie lines and song lyrics to effectively communicate. At any moment, someone might break out with a quip from the Princess Bride, or Finding Nemo. They might sing Tomorrow from Annie, or My Favorite Things like Julie Andrews.

But, most recently we've found ourselves speaking in "Suess"...

It's suppertime, son, and the time is near To call far and wide the sneetches who hear Just the sound of their bellies, the whir of their gear The Gurgles and Burbles that give them great fear Tell them all, tell them loud, tell them clear Their hands they should wash, check their face in the mirror Because the food is now ready and it's time to steer Close to the table, where they'll find hot gribbles here.

Why, you ask? Because David and Sarah are performing in the community theater's production of Suessical the Musical, a hilarious conglomeration of Dr. Suess' fun work, from Horton hears a Who to Horton Hatches an Egg.

As the Christmas season draws close (and the songs from the play linger in my head), one line has stood out to me... "We are here, we are here!" You know the story - that part where, after everyone has called Horton names and they're about ready to boil the speck that contains Who-ville, Horton calls out to the Whos to send up a cry to prove themselves as real. "We are here, we are here!"

It strikes me that sometimes we can feel like Whos...smaller than the eye can see. Tossed hither and yon by the wind, helpless and facing being boiled. Tired, perhaps, or alone. Wishing someone might find us and pay attention.

Someone has, and that's the good news about Christmas. Because we don't have to "make ourselves heard," like the Whos. In fact, even before we realized we were headed for the cauldron, God intervened. God demonstrated his own love for us in this - while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8). That's what Jesus is all about - he's the answer to even the unspoken cry of our hearts, saying, "I am here, I am here." Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

So as this season approaches with its whistles and bells I hope you hear the voice where the Mighty One dwells -- down deep in your hearts, so nothing can shake the knowledge of his love, given all for your sake.

Merry Christmas from Susie May Warren

Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of twenty-one novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep's Clothing, a thriller set in Russia, was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader's Choice award. A former missionary to Russia, Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota. Check out her Christmas Novella, 'The Great Christmas Bowl'.

Another novel is 'Finding Stefanie.' You can find it here.


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 leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Saturday, December 19, 2009

December 19: 12 Pearls of Christmas: He is Always Enough

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Today's Christmas Pearl comes to us from author Mary DeMuth!

Christmas in a Barn
by Mary DeMuth
The Christmas of 2006 we were homeless. We didn't have keys. Not to a car, not to a home. We'd flown halfway around the world, leaving behind a ministry we toiled over. Much, particularly in our hearts, lay in ruins.

Some friends had a camp, and on that camp stood a barn. In the corner of the barn was a tiny apartment, flanked by this caboose and hundreds of acres of Texas pasture. We'd never been there before, so we followed directions at night, making plenty of wrong turns.

When we found the place, we drove a borrowed car over the cattle guard toward what would be our home for a month. String lights illuminated a small porch, a window and a door in the corner of an aluminum-sided barn. We hefted large pieces of luggage to the apartment.

And when we opened the door, Love welcomed us.

The place, usually completely unfurnished in the winter, was decked out with just the right amount of beds, couches and tables. The pantry was full. We had dishes and garbage cans, and cups and forks and food. But even more, we had a Christmas tree. Friends had hijacked the place, decorating it for Christmas. Cookies preened on the table.

I will never, ever forget that Christmas. We had so little. We felt the painful burden of failure. But we were loved, so terribly and wonderfully loved.

Christmas felt right there, in a barn. We heard the nickering of horses, the meowing of kittens, the clop of hooves against the barn floor. Chickens and goats and cows served as a holy object lesson of the incarnation. Although we were warm and clothed, we understood more keenly the Savior's homelessness, how He left the splendor of heaven for the sodden earth. We experienced barnyard life alongside him, without much to call our own except our Heavenly Father and our sweet family.

He was enough, that Christmas. And He will always will be.

Mary DeMuth writes fiction and nonfiction. Her latest book, 'A Slow Burn,' released in October and she has a memoir entitled 'Thin Places' coming out in February of 2010. You can meet her:,, 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 leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Friday, December 18, 2009

December 18: 12 Pearls of Christmas: Faith, Hope & Love

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Today's sweet family pearl memory during the 12 Pearls of Christmas is from Holley Gerth.

The Pearls We Pass Down
by Holley Gerth

Ten years ago my Grandma Frances went home to heaven in her sleep just before Christmas.

My Grandpa carefully handed me a brightly-wrapped box on Christmas morning and said, "This is her gift. Now I want you to have it."

I opened the lid slowly and tears came to my eyes as I saw a lovely string of pearls.

My Mom gently helped me fasten them around my neck. As I ran my fingers over each one, I thought of my Grandmother and all she taught me through her life...

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13

At age twenty-nine, my Grandma contracted polio and learned she would never walk again. She had a husband, two little girls, and a future suddenly very different than she imagined.

A pastor came to visit her in the hospital. He said, "Frances, this can make you bitter or better." She often told that story with a sparkle in her eyes as she said, "I chose better." I learned through her example that faith is a choice and with God we can thrive through anything.


My grandparents took a leap of faith and started the first Christian bookstore in their city with a small kiosk in the center of a mall. Over the next few decades that little kiosk grew into a large and successful store that touched countless lives.

Many of my favorite childhood memories are of curling up in the back room with a stack of books. My Grandma taught me hope is like a small seed and, watered with prayer, it can grow into a huge blessing for many.


For fifty-six years my grandparents shared a life together. I adore these two pictures because one is taken when they were dating and the other just a few weeks before she died. The twinkle in their eyes is still the same-and that's not easy in this world. They faced their share of challenges, like my Grandma's disability, but always got through them together.

My Nana also loved her family deeply. When I went to college, she often wrote notes to me and signed each one, SCTH (Stay Close to Him). She showed me love is a commitment that begins with Christ and then overflows to everyone else in our lives.

I still miss my Grandma Frances, especially this time of year. Sometimes I pull out her string of pearls and hold them in my hands. Then I think about how we're all creating our legacy as we live. And while the difficulties we face may seem hard to understand now, God can turn each one into beauty that blesses our family for generations.


Holley Gerth - Cofounder of (in)courage, editorial director for DaySpring, author of Rain on Me, wife of Mark, lover of Jesus, friend to YOU.

Visit Holley at Heart to Heart with Holley or follow her on twitter as @HolleyGerth.

You can also see her devotional, 'Rain on Me: Devotions of Hope and Encouragement for Difficult Times' here.


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