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Friday, December 31, 2010

Five Question Friday


Join me in a little Five Question Friday? When you are done visit the My Little Life blog to see what others had to say.

1. How long does your Christmas tree stay up?


There’s something about the tree being up after Christmas. I guess it’s because we start so early that once the event’s over, I’m ready to have it down. Typically, within one to two days after Christmas, the tree comes down.

2. Do you have plans for New Year's Eve?

Each year the kids pick their favorite snacks, we pick a movie and a game, and we all have family time. At twelve, we watch the ball drop, call our friends who haven’t reached New Years yet to taunt them and then head to bed.

3. Do you have any New Year's resolutions?

Nope.

4. How did you spend New Year's Eve when you were younger?

Pretty much the same as we spend it now. Family time.

5. What was the best way you've ever spent New Year's Eve?

I guess just with family. Have never really done anything outside the home for New Years.

Giveaway - Let’s Do Lunch

It’s that time of year again – the time to make our New Year’s Resolutions. For many of us, that includes the resolution to lose some weight. At least lose those extra cookies that clung to our hips and thighs over the Christmas season.

I’ve been one to make this resolution several times. Each time I manage to lose weight. Unfortunatley, I tend to manage to find it again.  :-)

Let’s Do Lunch is a book I reviewed several months ago because I liked the concept – “Eating all the calories and carbs you want to lose weight!” Really, it’s all about balancing what we eat and making smart choices. This book shows you how to do that effectively. It’s not magic, but it is effective.

I wanted to give a copy of the book to my readers. If you are resolving to lose weight this New Year and would like to win this copy, do one of the following:

1. Leave a comment on my blog

2. Leave a comment on Facebook

3. Blog about this giveaway (leave me a link in the comments)

4. Follow my blog then leave a comment

You can have up to four entries.

I’m looking forward to giving away my first item – there are many to follow in the New Year!

As always, resolutions or not, may God bless each of you!

Winner will be picked at random on January 7th.  Be sure to enter before midnight January 6th.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Teen Texting - How Much is too Much?

How many texts do you send per month? Personally, I like texting; it is an easy way to say something quickly or ask a question without having to have a long, drawn-out phone conversation. However, what I don’t get is when people choose to have that long, drawn-out conversation over text. If it’s going to be a long conversation, make the phone call!

As I walk through the stores or (gasp) drive down the road, I see people texting. My teens are hermetically attached to their cell phones. You want to see panic in its purest form? Steal their phone when they’re not looking. Instant horror… Usually followed by – “Dad!” since he’s the king of stealing the cell phone.

My two oldest teens each texted over 11,000 times last month. One has FB sending texts to the phone, the other does not. Scary! 11,000 instances where their attention was diverted by a little tone emanating from the device. How does one study, bathe, eat, sleep, live and spend that much time staring at that little screen for commentary minutia?

My husband is on a tirade – he wants texting banned from our lives. I’m torn – I like it (see above), but there has to be some semblance of restraint. Can a teen function at 100% of their potential and have access to texting? The jury is out on that one. Preliminary evidence indicates – not really.

How does your teen handle texting? What are your limits or do you have them? If you allow it, how much is too much? When does their independence come into conflict with your God given responsibility as a parent to ensure they take full advantage of opportunity and not miss out because… Beep…

Which reminds me, I need to go charge my cell phone…

Saturday, December 25, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas - 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
by Lauraine Snelling


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: http://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}. One entry per person, per day. 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 http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Friday, December 24, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas - Day 12: 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
by Karen O'Connor


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

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

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

 ~~~

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

For more information, please visit Karen on the web at http://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}. One entry per person, per day. 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 http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Meal Menu?

Christmas Eve is tomorrow! As usual, it came way too fast. Not that I’m not ready, but I do miss the holiday excitement once it’s all over.


This year we will be staying home and celebrating the actual day of Christmas with just the six of us. Here’s the menu with everyone’s input:

-   Honey glazed baked ham

-   Cornbread stuffing

-   Homemade macaroni and cheese

-   Nana’s Green Beans

-   Croissant rolls

-   Blueberry cream dessert

-   Hubby’s now famous sweet potato pie

What does your holiday menu look like? Is it a tradition or something you’ve decided to do for this year?

I’m feeling stuffed just writing it!

My heartfelt wishes for a very Merry Christmas!

April

12 Pearls of Christmas - Day 11: Just give me Christmas this year!


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
by
Melissa Mashburn

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}. One entry per person, per day. 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 http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas - Day 10: What’s 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?
by Maureen Lang


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, http://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}. One entry per person, per day. 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 http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sun Stand Still - Review

Sun Stand Still:
What Happens when You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible


Author – Steven Furtick

Elevation Church, where Steven Furtick is pastor, is located not too far from where I live. My son and his girlfriend, along with a dear friend and her family attend Elevation. I have actually attended once myself. When I went, I thought the service was the typical cookie cutter “modern” church venue with loud music, casual attire, video screens and a hip pastor leading the charge. However, I was very impressed with the message that day. It hit home.


Since then, I’ve been intrigued by Sun Stand Still. I was hoping to gain insight into the pastor that has sparked a huge congregation in the Charlotte area. I must say, I was a little skeptical. I’m not sure why – I just was. After reading the book, it is more apparent what the draw is for people to Pastor Furtick. He has a genuine love for God and a charismatic way of showing it.

Sun Stand Still is about praying bold prayers that open you up to living your life for God’s glory much like Joshua prayed when he asked God to stop the sun from setting to complete the victory against the Amorites. A bold, “audacious” prayer indeed. Finding ways to take God’s guidance mold it into willing supplication and take action to follow. This is all done by “reconciling your dreams with God’s desires.”

Pastor Furtick focuses on the scriptural basis for prayer – praying within scripture and for God’s glory, not our own. Additionally, he acknowledges that even the best prayer sometimes comes back with an answer of “no.” Finally, his approach to prayer is refreshing. He encourages us to pray like “Juggernauts” claiming God’s promises without falling back on weak and uncommitted vocabulary. He finishes up with five truths and five steps for praying a Sun Stand Still Prayer.

I read this book in one day – it’s a very easy and engaging read. However, I’m going to go back and read it again. This time taking the time to let the concept of “audacious” prayer sink in. If you’re ready to listen to God’s direction and open yourself up to Him, then I can sincerely suggest reading Sun Stand Still.

***  I received this book free of charge from Multnomah books in exchange for my honest review.

Hartz Dog Toys Review

Hartz - Dura Play Ball and Nose Divers Review
http://www.hartz.com/

Availability - Grocery stores, Pet Stores and Convenience Stores

Hartz is one of my favorite pet brands. They have a wide variety of products that I can count on to be good quality and enjoyed by our pets. We have had a variety of pets over the years - dogs, cats, reptiles, amphibians, rodents and fish.  Hartz has always proven to be a good brand for taking care of our managerie.


I was very excited to be selected to review two pet toys for Hartz. These toys are the Hartz Dura Play Ball and the Hartz Nose Divers. We have a Boston Terrier named Daisy. Her mouth reminds me of a piranha – wide, lots of teeth, and loves to chew. She, too, was very excited to test drive the new toys.


Upon arrival, I presented her with each of them. She didn’t want anything to do with the ball – it was too big for her mouth. However, she was very excited by the nose diving duck. We called in the aid of our friend’s dog, Toby, to take on the challenge of putting the ball through its paces.

First, the Nose Divers duck. The web site says that, “Hartz Nose Divers soft chew toy and nylon tug toy has been designed to provide exceptional durability. Heavy duty cotton rope runs through the entire product to evenly distribute stress from pulling. Ballistic nylon exterior provides enhanced durability for tough chewers.” Daisy IS a tough chewer.


The duck lasted a week. As one would expect – the sewing joints are where she was able to take this toy apart. She still loves it, but the stuffing is beginning to come out. I love that she loves this toy. Younger puppies or older dogs would probably enjoy this toy and have more luck with the durability.




As for the Dura Play Ball – Toby took to it right away. In fact, he sleeps with it. It is a little big, even for his mouth. I believe the larger size is for very large dogs. However, to date, it has been durable and Toby does enjoy playing with it. Personally, I liked the design and feel right away. It’s soft rubber with knobs for the dogs to grab on to.



I can’t say I was surprised that the duck didn’t make it. Daisy has been through many toys in her time. Had we gotten the smaller ball, I feel she would have really enjoyed it. If you have a voracious chewer, I wouldn’t recommend the Nose Divers, but if your dog likes to tug or gnaw, then the Diver is a good product.  The Dura Ball is a well-designed toy.  Dogs of all ages would enjoy playing with it.

*** I received these toys free of charge from Hartz for my honest review.

12 Pearls of Christmas - Day 9: 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!
by Deb Kalmbach


The first Christmas card of the season arrived in my mailbox way back in August. How could anyone be that organized? Then I noticed my friend, Nita, had sent me a card I had written to her more than 20 years ago!

Memories rushed back as I read the words penned in my familiar handwriting. It was Christmas, 1991, and my world had unraveled. I could almost pretend everything was all right at this most wonderful time of the year—but not that year.

My husband Randy’s drinking problem had escalated to the point where his job and career were on the line. He had already been through two alcohol treatment programs and managed to stay sober for short periods of time. Then he slipped back into old, familiar patterns. His ongoing relapses were a crushing disappointment for our family.

I had looked forward to Christmas Eve and our family traditions; making homemade lasagna, singing carols around the piano, attending the candlelight service at church, and then coming home to open one token Christmas Eve present.     

“Randy, are you ready to crank out the pasta?” I called to him over the Christmas music I was playing to lift my spirits.

I peered into the living room to see what was keeping him. My heart froze. Randy sat on the couch, trance-like, watching a basketball game while sipping a drink.

No, not on Christmas Eve, I screamed inwardly. I felt like I was suffocating. Usually Randy pulled himself together but it didn’t happen that night. He drank vodka all evening while I finished holiday preparations on autopilot. None of us felt like eating lasagna or celebrating.

Only a few days earlier, I had written these words on the Christmas card to my friend, Nita. I don’t know God’s plans, his timing or his ways in accomplishing his purposes, but I am learning to trust him. He is faithful!

I suspect Nita kept my card all those years because she saw a small seed of faith and it encouraged her heart. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be eight more Christmas seasons before Randy experienced the miraculous breakthrough of finding freedom from alcoholism.

As I read the card I had written so long ago, I felt awed by God’s faithfulness to us—even when our situation looked completely hopeless.

You may be facing great difficulty as the holidays approach. The last thing you feel like is celebrating. And that’s O.K. The Good News of Christmas isn’t about picture perfect holidays where our homes are decorated a la Martha Stewart and tables are laden with holiday delicacies. Your days may not be merry and bright. You may be grieving the loss of a loved one or the loss of a relationship through divorce or estrangement. Your world has unraveled.

That’s exactly why the message of Christmas is Good News. The Savior is born! The One who came to set you free, to give you peace and hope and help beyond anything you could ever imagine is as near as your next breath. Today you might not be able to see how God’s purposes are unfolding for your future, but you can be assured that He is working all things for good in your life. A twenty year-old Christmas card came on a summer day as an unexpected gift and gentle reminder of God’s presence—especially in the worst of times.


 ~~~

About Deb: Deb Kalmbach is the coauthor of Because I Said Forever: Embracing Hope in a Not-So- Perfect Marriage and the author of a book for children, Corey’s Dad Drinks Too Much. She has contributed to The New Women’s Devotional Bible, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, and other anthologies. She is a vibrant and engaging speaker who gives hope and practical solutions to those who struggle with difficult relationships. Deb and her husband, Randy, live in a tiny town in Eastern Washington. Visit Deb at: http://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}. One entry per person, per day. 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 http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday Memoir - Week 13


Brick!  I've been out of town!  I set this to publish Monday, but then forgot to publish it, so here it sits in draft.  Doh! 

What a weekend!  We had our TaeKwonDo testing and a family party on Saturday.  Then, our church cantata was on Sunday.  We're definitely full into the swing of the holidays.

Just a reminder, Monday Memoir will be taking the Week of Christmas off. I'll be ready to start back the week after.

Here are the Monday Memoir questions – pop by, check them out, and link back up …

1. What is the best gift you have ever given? 

2.  What is the oddest gift you have ever received?  What did you do with it?


1. What is the best gift you have ever given?

I wrack my brain every year trying to find just the right gift for each person on my list. With unlimited funds, I could probably achieve my goals, but that’s not reality. I’ve had hits or misses with gifts, but I always try my best to create that WOW factor when giving gifts.

As for the best gift, my husband loves guitars. He loves to play his guitars and enjoys his time in the church praise band. I gave him his first Bass as a birthday present which lead to his playing in the band. That was a good gift, but one that I got lucky with. Guitars are very specific (or so I’m told as my musical talent is miniscule). So, I wanted to really show him how much he is appreciate and loved at Christmas one year and wanted to get him the perfect guitar. I asked his buddies what would be best and kept getting the same advice – let him pick it! Finally, I did get gift cards so he could pick his own guitar. He LOVED it! So, believe it or not, gift cards were the best gift I ever gave.

As a sidebar, one year I gave my sister four huge cans of hairspray. She’s never let me live that down. It was truly done from the heart, though. We grew up in the eighties during the big hair craze. Our hair was rock solid before we ever left the house. I thought she’d appreciate the magnacious supply – chalk that up to one of my misses.


2. What is the oddest gift you have ever received? What did you do with it?

I’ve received some pretty odd gifts over the years. It’s hard to narrow down to the oddest gift ever. But, I’ve have to say is was the PJ’s Scott’s aunt gave me for Christmas one year. These were the full body PJ’s minus the footies at the bottom. There was a dog embroidered on the front and a hatch in the back. A nice deep red – striking. What did I do with them? I wore them of course. When it got really cold at night, those PJ’s were just the ticket for staying warm. The hubby didn’t mind – he’s not much for caring what I wear to bed. I never test drove the hatch, however – just couldn’t quite bring myself to give it a shot. :-)


12 Pearls of Christmas - Day 8: 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
by Tricia Goyer


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 http://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}. One entry per person, per day. 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 http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Sunday, December 19, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas - Day 7: Hurting Near Christmas? 10 Tips to Hope Again


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
by Stacie Ruth Stoelting


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

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

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

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

10 Tips for Hurting Hearts to Hope and Cope at Christmastime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going thru a rough time? Join Stacie Ruth’s prayer group at http://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 http://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}. One entry per person, per day. 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 http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Seeds of Turmoil - Review

Seeds of Turmoil Review
Author – Bryant Wright

This book gave me a lot of food for contemplation. I have not devoted a lot of research time into understanding the trouble in the Middle East and wanted to have more depth in my understanding of the turmoil and its roots.

Wright does a convincing job of showing the genealogical impact brought on by Abraham and Sarah’s choice to “take matters into their own hands.” Sarah’s urging of Abraham to father a child with her servant Hagar, it is asserted, is what began the lineage that leads to the Muslim stronghold of in the Middle East. It is reasonable, the way it is presented, to see that Abraham’s son Ishmael is the line that leads to Muhammad while Isaac’s line leads to Israel.

I also found the historical background on the struggle of the Jews in Israel and their ‘miraculous’ victories despite incredible odds compelling . These are God’s own people and surely His hand has been present in assuring their continued presence and victory.

What I didn’t love about this book was the writing style. Repetition is a device used throughout that I found to be unnecessary. Once a scriptural story has been presented, I didn’t see the need to repeat its telling for each new point. Additionally, while I appreciate the love that the author has for the Jewish people, his emphasis on the reader not having anti-Semitic feelings seemed out of place. Perhaps this is naiveté on my part, but I didn’t feel the need to be reminded several times that I shouldn’t feel hostility towards the Jewish people because I never have. Historically, they have been persecuted, so, perhaps, I am more in the minority on this concept than I realize.

Overall, however, I’m glad I read this book. It did bring to light several biblical, scriptural and historical facts that I would not have considered on my own. Additionally, when I doubted the efficacy of the author’s statements (like the Muslim’s belief that it was Ishmael and not Isaac that Abraham was ordered by God to slay), I was able to find sources to corroborate the statements. This gave me greater faith in the remainder of Wright’s assertions.

If you are interested in the historical lineage of Christians, Muslims and Jews from a Christian perspective, I would recommend this text.

***This book was provided to me free of charge by BookSneeze for my honest review…

Monday Memoir - Week 13 Sneak Peek

I'm a little late in posting this.  We just finished our first Christmas party of the season.  Each year we get together with my husband's, father's family for a party.  This year we were the hosts.  Eight pizzas, numerous dips and tons of desserts later - fun was had by all!

Monday Memoir will be taking the Week of Christmas off. I'll be ready to start back the week after.

Here are the Monday Memoir questions – pop by, check them out, and link back up on Monday… 

1. What is the best gift you have ever given? 

2.  What is the oddest gift you have ever received?  What did you do with it?





12 Pearls of Christmas - Day 6: Wrapped in His 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.

~~~
Wrapped in His Love
by Rebecca Ondov

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

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

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

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

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

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


 ~~~

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

Friday, December 17, 2010

Five Question Friday





Join me in a little Five Question Friday? When you are done visit the My Little Life blog to see what others had to say.

1. Do you regift...and if so, do you have a regifting horror story?

Sure, I regift. No horror stories, though. I only do it if I have been given something that I know someone else (besides me) would love. No reason to not give it to a happy owner. Besides, the alternative is to take something back. I’m not opposed to that either. If I get something I don’t want and don’t know anyone else that would want it, then I’ll return. I see no reason in returning something that someone would love to get money and then turn around later and buy them a gift they may or may not love.

2. Do you know what you are getting for Christmas this year?

I mean… I could probably guess one or two things, but I prefer not to. My husband is very clear about me outlining what I want for Christmas. I’m very clear that I don’t want to do that because I’d rather rely on him to have ESP and figure out the absolute perfect gift for me. :-)

3. Who brings the most gifts in your family, you or Santa?

Santa brings the big, fun presents. We tend to give them more practical gifts. It’s so much fun Christmas morning to have the kids come down the stairs to see what Santa has brought. Stockings are a fun aspect of Santa too. My good friend fills giant stockings for her family – she’s inspired Santa to become more industrious with filling the stockings this year.

4. What store do you love to by jeans from?

Jeans and me don’t get along. I must have a deformed body or something. They just don’t look good on me. Maybe I haven’t found the right place yet.

5. Christmas meal: Big, All Out Meal or Snacks and Apps?

Typically we have a nice family meal. Sometimes it’s with lots of people over and sometimes it’s just the six of us. This year I’m making by request for just us six. Looking forward to relaxing and enjoying some good family food and fun.

12 Pearls of Christmas - Day 5: Home


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….
by Melody Carlson


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 and oyster creates a pearl—or how a young mom learns to be a hostess—with some discomfort and distress a burnt turkeys, the end results are truly valuable.

 ~~~

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, http://www.melodycarlson.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}. One entry per person, per day. 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 http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Tiny Planets Review

Tiny Planets
http://www.tinyplanets.com/

Ages:  Toddler to Twelve

Cost:  Free for access, Keys - 10 - $1.95, 25 - $3.95, etc.

Tiny Planets just looks like fun from the minute you arrive. The graphics are stunning and immediately draw kids in. Spaceships are flying, the planets are busy.  It is a graphical feast for the eyes.  I was extremely impressed!


See what I mean?

Bing and Bong
The premise is that there are two characters called Bing and Bong who provide kids with lots of learning opportunities. There are comics, TV programs (all with Bing and Bong), books to read, and games to play. The learning section even helps kids with their letters and numbers among other things.

I wish I had access to this site years ago. My boys, when they were younger, would have really loved playing all the games and reading the material. Being 11 and 13, they have just about outgrown this format, but, were they younger, they would have spent hours playing on the site.

I like the fact that is it secure. When a parent sets up an account for his/her child, the ID is generated by the site. The kids don’t have an option to put in their real names. My son picked the ID – Stealthy Cheetah. :-) Then the parent and child get to assign a password. Parents then create a parent account that allows him/her access to the child’s account as well as the opportunity to purchase Keys that give the child access to more content such as additional stories, books, etc. Additional books or TV shows typically cost 5 or 10 Keys.  Kids can have their friends join them online, but they are only able to communicate through scripted text – no typed in information. In today’s online world, it’s important to give kids the opportunity to understand online interaction without exposing them. I like this feature.

There were a few minor issues we noticed. The first issue we had was getting logged on. The site says – “Create your Kid Account Here. “ When you click on it, you are taken to a logon page for current users. The child can just hit Play and start playing. I thought that was a bit odd. I guess they just don’t have an account then to store their accomplishments. You have to click the “Account” arrow at the top of the screen to get to sign up. Once that hurdle is overcome, the rest is pretty intuitive.

The second was just getting used to how the site is controlled. For example, kids are asked to hit the “Return” key. Most American keyboards don’t have a Return key, but my kids quickly figured out they meant the “Enter” key. Some of the games took patience to learn to control, but the kids didn’t mind.

Overall, this is an excellent site. Younger kids will really enjoying exploring the world of Bing and Bong as they learn lessons about space, character, letter, numbers, flying their spaceship, creating their own little world, the list goes on.  It's worth taking a look!

To see additional reviews by the Homeschool Crew click here.

*** I received Keys to explore this site free of charge for my honest review.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas - Day 4: 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.

~~~
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.

~~~

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}. One entry per person, per day. 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 http://www.pearlgirls.info/