b-blog

The Faces of Haiti

The whole world is devastated by the news from Haiti. We can’t fathom the suffering and loss of life piled on top of the difficulties this impoverished nation already endures.

I wanted to show you the faces of Haiti – before the quake – so we know who we’re praying for. Each year my husband, Dave, goes to Haiti with a group of men from our church to help with construction at a village school which also feeds hundreds of orphans every day. He’s grown to love these people deeply.



These people are more than dust-covered faceless victims – they are God’s beloved children. Look at these faces. Pray for these people and countless more like them. And pray for God to perform a mighty work in this country.

Little Dark Lies

“White lies are harmless as long as you use good judgment.”
“You may tell a white lie to avoid discussion. But that only breeds mistrust and distance.”

These quotes from two marriage and family experts appeared in the article “’Fess up or Fib?” by Jessica Yadegaran in the Contra Costa Times on January 6, 2010. Which expert is right?

Lying is so easy. If I lie about my mistakes, I avoid the consequences. One little white lie about a friend’s new outfit and I make her happy. Conceal a purchase from my husband and he won’t lecture me about my spending habits. A well-told lie can make life feel smooth.

But lying becomes a habit. We feel more comfortable making mistakes, knowing we can talk our way out of them. Underlying issues grow in magnitude as necessary conflict is put off. Then we’re caught in a bald-faced lie, and trust is shattered. And trust shattered is not easily glued back together.

Truth is hard. But truth is right. Truth means owning up to our mistakes. Truth means finding a creative way to compliment a friend even if we don’t care for her fashion sense. Truth means opening up to those we love, exposing ourselves to the pain of conflict—and to growth.

Let’s look to the only Expert who matters. God never condones lying, even little white lies. Rather, “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful” (Proverbs 12: 22). The story of Jacob and Rebekah deceiving Isaac for his blessing shows the disastrous results of lying—anger, threatened murder, and a family fractured.

As in most things, God calls us to the difficult road. Truth requires humility, creativity, and hard work. But it’s always worth it.

My Favorite Books of 2009

Nothing says New Year’s Eve like a list! Here are my favorite reads from 2009 in alphabetical order. It was hard enough to pick only ten, much less rank them. This is why I don’t do book reviews.

1. Blue Heart Blessed by Susan Meissner
A lovely story of a woman jilted at the altar, who opens a secondhand wedding dress boutique. Susan Meissner writes beautifully, and the story has both humor and depth.

2. The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry
All I can say is, “Wow!” This debut novel is about a troubled marriage shaken up by a horrible accident. I was pulled in by realistic characters, original writing, and plenty of unexpected twists.

3. The Frontiersman’s Daughter by Laura Frantz
On the Kentucky frontier, a girl comes to age in a dangerous land. In her debut novel, Laura Frantz sets the right balance between a beautifully crafted story with interesting characters and plenty of fascinating historical detail.

4. Home Another Way by Christa Parrish
A young woman comes home to a small mountain town to claim her inheritance and comes to grips with her past. This heroine may be the prickliest I ever met, but Christa Parrish is such a gifted writer, you care about this heroine deeply.

5. Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana by Melanie Dobson
A young Quaker woman helps runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad, and tries to keep her distance from an attractive, outspoken abolitionist who could threaten her work. Melanie Dobson drew me in with a compelling heroine living in secrecy. Her writing conveys historical detail that enhances and never distracts from the story.

6. Michal by Jill Eileen Smith
The first wife of King David has always fascinated me, so I loved seeing her come to life in Jill Eileen Smith’s gifted hands. Full of detail about life in biblical times and a good read about a conflicted woman.

7. The Queen of Sleepy Eye by Patti Hill
A teenage girl is trying to get to California to go to college, but her colorful mother waylays her plans at every turn. With her blend of quirky characters and laugh-outloud humor, Patti Hill is one of my favorite authors. See if you don’t both hate and love the mother – and feel for the daughter.

8. Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove
A young widow begins to hear her dead husband’s voice – is she losing her mind or is there some deep secret she’s hiding from herself? Bonnie Grove’s debut novel is a well-written page-turner.

9. The Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh
I hesitate to pick up novels set during World War II because I often find historical inaccuracy. However, this novel was both well-researched and delightfully written. This is a poignant story of a little boy who loses his mother and the crotchety grandfather forced to take him in.

10. Yesterday’s Embers by Deborah Raney
A whirlwind romance leads to a troubled blended home, and Deborah Raney portrays both parts of the story with realism and talent. Deborah Raney is another of my favorite authors with her heartfelt stories in beautiful prose.

And for 2010? I can’t wait!

Musings on Faith

I have faith that chocolate will make me feel better. I have faith that my friends will be there for me. I have faith that when I press the power button my computer will hum to life and I can get my work done.

However, this is not true faith because all these good things can fail—and I know it. Some dark moods are unmoved by even the darkest of chocolate. Friends can be busy, out of town, or distracted by their own troubles. Computers can crash.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (NASB). True faith leads us to the omnipresent God for comfort to break any mood. True faith leads us to the omniscient God for advice, because His wisdom never fails. True faith leads us to the omnipotent God for power to complete any job He gives us.

But “faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26), not because deeds lead to faith but because deeds prove the depth of our faith. Do I really trust God to provide for me financially if I’m unwilling to tithe? Do I really believe God will give me the power to do any task He gives me if I’m only willing to serve where I know I can do so in my own strength? Do I really have faith if I refuse to sacrifice time to read my Bible, pray, and worship Him?

As we look forward to a new year and a new decade, let’s put our faith in the only One who never fails. And let our faith be shown true by our actions.

12 Pearls of Christmas: Celebrate

12 Pearls of Christmas: Celebrate

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!

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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 BecauseISaidSo.com, 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.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year’s Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is 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 www.pearlgirls.info

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

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

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!

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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!

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year’s Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is 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 www.pearlgirls.info

12 Pearls of Christmas: Wondrous Mystery

12 Pearls of Christmas: Wondrous Mystery

Magnificat
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!

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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.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year’s Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is 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 www.pearlgirls.info

12 Pearls of Christmas: Perspective

12 Pearls of Christmas: Perspective

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.

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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… http://www.melodycarlson.com

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year’s Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year’s Day to see if you won!

12 Pearls of Christmas: Help & Support

12 Pearls of Christmas: Help & Support

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.

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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 www.triciagoyer.com.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year’s Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is 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 www.pearlgirls.info