He Sees You When You’re Sleepin’ *Guest Blog*

He Sees You When You’re Sleepin’…
By Dr. Charles W. Page
 
Do you recall trying to sleep on Christmas Eve while waiting for Santa to come to town? The anticipation of Saint Nicolas and all his goodies was just too much—who could sleep? The lyrics of Santa Claus is Coming to Town taunted me. “He sees you when you’re sleeping—he knows when you’re awake…” I tossed and turned trying to fall asleep, fearful I’d miss out on Santa’s visit if he caught me awake. I never doubted Santa’s ability to be aware of my wakefulness.

Unfortunately, as adults, the issues that keep us awake during the Christmas season are more complicated than those we experienced as kids. Financial burdens, strained relationships, difficult decisions, brooding regrets and fretful thoughts race through our minds and hinder our rest.

There is someone who “sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake.” It’s not Santa Claus. The Bible reminds us, God’s eyes never close. Perhaps this truth can tuck us in for the night.  

 
“He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:3-4) 
 
We erroneously think that as we “turn in” that God somehow “turns off” or moves on to do more important things. But God doesn’t wait for us to wake up before He returns to work. God is just as active during our sleep—or sleeplessness. Believers can rest assured knowing God is awake guarding our lives.

What does God do as we slumber? Psalm 127:1-2 reminds us that God gives to those that He loves as they sleep. What does God give? Understanding God’s generous nature, one rendering would be that God gives to the believer whatever is needed at the time. God can give you wisdom and direction with decisions as you “sleep on it” overnight (Psalm 16:7, James 1:5). Maybe there is a financial need. The scriptures are filled with examples of how God provided for the physical needs of those He loved as they rested (I Kings 19:1-8; Exodus 16:1-8).

God’s gifts are good, perfect (James 1:17), eternal (Ephesians 1:3) and purposeful (Galatians 5:22-25). They do not require batteries, warranties and cannot be purchased in stores. But they are available 24/7/365—not limited to one night each year. God’s greatest gift did not arrive under a tree but on a tree (John 3:16). “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

It’s plain to see, God has our back as we sleep. Try this Christmas recipe for rest.  

  1. Repent—in areas where we are aware of our transgressions. “A clean conscience
    makes a soft pillow.”
  2. Release—control of problems you’re facing and give them over to God.
  3. Relate—connect with God through prayer and meditation while in bed.
  4. Rest—allow God to do what you cannot do for yourself as you sleep.
  5. Receive—God’s unmerited forgiveness, grace and blessings while you sleep.
An English proverb reminds us, “As you make your bed so you must lie in it.” The truth of God’s Word helps us face our situations. Although we cannot change the failures of our past, we can rest with a clean conscience based on God’s gift of forgiveness. Our current circumstances may appear overwhelming, but God gives His presence and His guidance in our hour of need. Our future is secure and hopeful when God’s greatest gift—His Son—is kept in view. A life supported by a vibrant, healthy relationship with the Shepherd of Sleep makes the most comfortable mattress. In childlike faith learn to trust Him as you lie down to sleep and remember: “He sees you when you’re sleeping.”


 
Author Bio
Charles W. Page, M.D.
Dr. Charles W. Page is a sleep-deprived surgeon who completed medical school and residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Dr. Page is currently a rural surgeon and has taken numerous medical mission trips to South America and the Middle East. He and his wife Joanna live in Texas with their five children. He is the author of Surrendered Sleep: A Biblical Perspective. You can find more information at surrenderedsleep.com.
 
 

Thanksgiving in Early America *Guest Post*

Last year when my family visited in the Fall one of my favorite stops we made was to Plimouth Plantation, so I really enjoyed this article–I hope you will as well!


 
Thanksgiving in Early America
by Elaine Marie Cooper
 
When we sit down at our Thanksgiving meal this month, we’ll be recreating a celebration that is as old as our country: sharing food with loved ones while thanking the God Who has provided the abundance.
 
While we understand that the First Thanksgiving was celebrated here by the Mayflower survivors along with the Indians that had helped them, the first official proclamation that was decreed to celebrate such a holiday was in 1777. It was a recommendation to the thirteen states by the Continental Congress to set aside December 18th that year as a “solemn thanksgiving” to celebrate the first major victory for the Continental troops in the American Revolution: the Battle of Saratoga.
 
The Battle of Saratoga has significant interest for my own family since one of my ancestors was a soldier there. But he was not on the American side—he was a British Redcoat. After surrendering to the Americans, he escaped the line of prisoners and somehow made his way to Massachusetts and into the life and heart of my fourth great-grandmother. *SIGH* L’amour!
 
This family story was the inspiration for my Deer Run Saga that begins in 1777 with The Road to Deer Run. There is an elaborate Thanksgiving meal scene in this novel as well as in the sequel, The Promise of Deer Run.
 
Some may wonder why such detail was afforded this holiday in my novels set in Massachusetts, while Christmas is barely mentioned. The reason is simple: Thanksgiving was the major holiday in the northern colonies, with Christmas considered nothing more special than a workday. According to Jack Larkin in his book, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, “The Puritan founders of New England and the Quaker settlers of Pennsylvania had deliberately abolished (holidays) as unscriptural.”
 
But Thanksgiving was begun as a way to give thanks to God for His provision. It usually began with attending church services in the morning, followed by an elaborate feast in the afternoon. The food for this meal was prepared for weeks in advance.
 
Since the individual state governors chose their own date to celebrate the holiday, it was theoretically possible for some family members—if they lived in close proximity—to celebrate multiple Thanksgiving meals with family and friends across state borders. The dates chosen could be anywhere from October to December, according to Dennis Picard, Director of the Storrowton Village Museum in West Springfield, Massachusetts.
 
Chicken was most commonly served, said Picard, as it was readily available in the barnyard. And the oldest woman in the home had the honor of slicing the fowl for dinner.
 
Pies were made well in advance of the holiday and stored and became frozen in dresser drawers in unheated rooms.
 
“I like the idea of pulling out a dresser drawer for, say, a clean pair of socks, and finding mince pies,” said Picard, tongue in cheek.
 
Indeed!
 
Have a BLESSED Thanksgiving!
 


Author Bio

Elaine Marie Cooper
Elaine Marie Cooper grew up in Massachusetts but now lives in the Midwest with her husband, her three dogs and one huge cat. She has two married sons and triplet grandchildren who are now one years old. The Promise of Deer Run is dedicated to the triplets and to veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.Elaine has been a magazine freelance writer for many years, and is a regular contributor to a blog on the Midwest called The Barn Door (www.thebarndoor.net) and a blog on Christian living called Reflections In Hindsight (ReflectionsInHindsight.wordpress.com). She is the author of The Road to Deer Run and the sequel, The Promise of Deer Run. Prior to becoming an author, Elaine worked as a registered nurse.

Martyr Mom or Servant Model? *Guest Blog*

Do you know a martyr mom? She does her teens’ laundry and makes their lunches. She cleans the house from top to bottom—all by herself. She stays up late, day in and day out, doing all of the unfinished work.

She’s the mom who ‘sacrificially’ gives up a family outing—even though they were her kids’ chores she stayed home to do. She recites her arm-length to-do list after telling you about how she agreed to help her kids with their various projects.

You likely know a martyr mom. But have you ever wondered if you might be one?
We started serving our families out of love. We loved them as we did their laundry. We served them as we packed lunches, cleaned bathrooms, drove carpools, and fixed bicycles . . . And then somewhere along the line, our serving morphed into martyrdom.

Is doing everything for everyone really loving? How can we protect ourselves from becoming martyr moms?

What would Jesus advise you to do? He taught his disciples to do what he was doing. He took them along wherever he went. He let them do some work. He sent them out to preach, heal, and cast out demons. Sometimes they did well, other times they came back wondering what went wrong. Jesus knew they needed plenty of room to try, and sometimes to fail. He didn’t hover to make sure they did things perfectly and neither did he rush to fix things when their attempts went awry.

To be servant models, we need to imitate Jesus. We need to give our children the tools to work hard and develop responsibility. Let your children watch you work, then work with you, and eventually you can watch them work and succeed without you. Give them household chores and tasks so they can develop skills, recognize what they are capable of, and discover their contribution is valuable.

We need to teach our children to set boundaries. Let your children see you turn down requests to serve sometimes. Do you really need to volunteer on every committee? Healthy boundaries encourage your kids to experience the joy of serving and to choose best over good.

Serving our families requires us to teach our kids to do their best. If we expect their best and then accept what they do, we are setting them up to succeed and persevere. If your children do their best but it isn’t as good as you would do it, leave it alone. Don’t redo the job! If Jesus only accepted perfect work from his people, he wouldn’t have chosen the rag-tag team of men he did. He expects our best, and then accepts it, even when our efforts fall short.

Love sometimes says no. When we are exhausted and we do for our kids what they could do for themselves, we are teaching them they don’t need to care about how they affect others. We are also saying that our poorest effort is better than their best. Occasionally saying no to our children also gives them permission to say no when a request butts up against their limits. 
Serving also means looking around to see how you might bless someone. It means bringing a meal to a sick family, or clothes to the family who needs some, or giving Daddy a backrub. Teach your children to ask, “How could I serve someone today?” Give them the joy of serving others at home, and by volunteering at church or in the community.

Let’s leave the Martyr Mom complex behind and be like Jesus—Servant Models.

Carla Anne Coroy runs the Married Single Mom blog  . She speaks regularly and serves as a staff writer for an online Christian women’s magazine Mentoring Moments for Christian Women. Carla Anne lives in Canada with her husband and four homeschooled children. For more information, visit www.carlaanne.com.

SIMPLE GIFTS By Sharen Pearson *Guest Blog*

I just love having guest bloggers from time to time, and this article really hit home for me because it is *exactly* how I feel birthday parties should be ran! I’ve now thrown 4 (what I would consider) wildly successful parties for my children and they cost very little and weren’t too much work! Enjoy!

My munchkin at his first bday party this July

SIMPLE GIFTS
By Sharen Pearson

As a mother of five and now grandmother of seven, I’ve planned my share of birthday events. I am a creative person, so my problem is “going over the top.” My expectations supersede those of the birthday child. So, I have to step back and say, “Whose birthday is it anyway?” And, therein lies the key to a successful birthday party.
I recently assisted with my grandson, Waylon’s party. He was reaching that big-boy age of 5 years. He knew what theme he wanted: Herbie the Love Bug. He wanted a backyard campfire and a cake with Herbie on it. Simple—Herbie, campfire, cake. Got it! My daughter complied. She invited a few families from church that Waylon knew well and was comfortable around. Since entire families were represented, parents were there to help with crowd control. Bowls of chips and dip provided a place to gather around as people arrived. Children scattered to play in the back yard, parents grouped to watch and chat. Easy, huh? Daddy lit a small fire in the campfire ring in the yard. More talk, more easy playing. The cake was a simple giant chocolate chip cookie with a frosting “Herbie.” Waylon thought it was wonderful. 
Mommy announced that it was gift-opening time and everyone pulled up lawn chairs and sat in family groups. Waylon sat in the middle of the circle on the grass and guests watched as he opened each gift and thanked the giver. He received many nice gifts, but to everyone’s delight, a small, inexpensive VW bug toy car was his favorite. He opened it, raised it above his head as if it were a trophy and yelled in delight. Waylon slept with his “Herbie;” woke up and greeted it; placed it on the edge of the tub so he could see it. He had the birthday he wanted. Simple party, simple gift, simple fun!
Some suggestions to consider when planning your party:
  • If your child is old enough to have input, allow it.
  • For ages 1-5 years, simple is best. Simple decorations, simple food, simple games.
  • Invite only one party guest per age of the child. Young children are very intimidated by many children of the same age. Remember, “Whose birthday is it?”
  • If guests include family/friends with older children, add activities especially for them.
  • Home is the best place for children ages 5 and under. Big party venues are confusing, scary and do not position the “birthday child” as the center of attention as he should be. 
Some traps that parents fall into:
  • Making the party so complicated that you, as the parent, no longer enjoy it. (Been there, done that.)
  • Allowing young party guests to get close to and grab for gifts as as the birthday child is opening them. (Admit it, you’ve seen this haven’t you?)
  • Spending too much money. (Guilty as charged.)
  • Preparing food for adults and not age-appropriate to the guests. (The only thing to show off today is your wonderful child)
  • Engaging in sleepover parties before the age of 9 years. (Children younger than 9 or 10 years often find sleeping at someone else’s home frightening and uncomfortable.)

Author Bio
Sharen Pearson

Sharen Pearson’s Goof & Giggle classes and materials continue to provide a quality Mom/Tot interaction. Widely popular, Goof & Giggle’s child-focused play plans are offered in various Arizona communities. She’s also created a variety of Goof Juice DVDs and filmed episodes of Baby D.I.Y. and written workbooks for BabyFirstTV. Arizona Midday (NBC) tapes monthly segments with Sharen to provide their audience with a variety of original and creative “easy to do” activities for babies and preschoolers. Sharen’s creativity reaches a combined audience over 200 million viewers worldwide. Goof & Giggle classes and products encourage green living, repurposing materials from around the house into affordable objects for play and learning. Learn more at: http://sharenpearson.com/

STOP BUGGING ME Buggy Fun for Summer By Sharen Pearson *Guest Blog*

 STOP BUGGING ME
Buggy Fun for Summer
By Sharen Pearson
Much to the dismay of their mothers, toddlers hold a relentless fascination for bugs. They follow, squish, catch and even eat them! Perhaps the novelty lies in the never-ending variety of creepy crawlers or that bugs are smaller than these little ones. Here are some simple buggy activities that will enchant your children this summer.
Bug Catcher
Save the net from your fresh produce. Lace a chenille wire around the top to support the sides. The net makes a tiny bug catcher for your child. Always help identify any bugs that might be dangerous. Catch, observe and release.
Butterfly or Dragonfly
Attach colored tissue paper wings to a toilet tissue or paper towel tube for wings. Slip a hair band over the tube and place on toddler’s wrist to flap and fly. For more advanced work, drop food color onto a wet coffee filter. Allow to dry and use for wings. Two filters for dragonfly and one for butterfly.
Big Bug
Fashion antennae with chenille wire and attach to your child’s head with clips. Gather a sheet of tissue paper at the center. Duct tape to the back of the shirt for butterfly wings. Fly away little butterfly!
Tot Cocoon
Give your toddler the end piece of a roll of toilet tissue. Have him gently spin to wrap the paper around and around forming a cocoon. If the paper breaks, just tuck the loose end in and begin again. Continue as your child is comfortable (most won’t let you cover the face). Count 1, 2, 3 and have your butterfly “hatch out” and fly away.
Lady Bug
Make a tiny ladybug from the cup of an egg carton. Cut the section. Paint red and add black dots. Tape twisted bits of paper on for antennae. For a counting activity: make five bugs and draw 1 spot, 2 spots etc. on the five bugs. Count the spots and the bugs.
Caterpillar
Cut a six-section length from an egg carton. Your toddler can glue cotton balls on each section for “fuzz.” Draw a face on one end of the section and add chenille or paper antennae. Punch a hole in the front and tie a string on to “walk your bug.” For more advanced work, paint each section of the caterpillar yellow or even a rainbow.
Bug Collage
Draw (or print from a website) several bugs on paper. Make a simple paste of flour and water. Your tot can glue on dry rice, macaroni, bits of colored paper and/or cake sprinkles to decorate the bugs.
Bugs in a tub
Pour 6 cups of dry rice into a large flat container. Add toy plastic bugs (or your ladybugs), measuring cups, recycled plastic containers, paper tubes and play as in a sand box. To protect the floor and give your activity a boundary, place the tub in the center of a sheet or shower curtain. Your child will play
for hours.
Sharen Pearson’s Goof & Giggle classes and materials continue to provide a quality Mom/Tot interaction. Widely popular, Goof & Giggle’s child-focused play plans are offered in various Arizona communities. She’s also created a variety of Goof Juice DVDs and filmed episodes of Baby D.I.Y. and written workbooks for BabyFirstTV. Arizona Midday (NBC) tapes monthly segments with Sharen to provide their audience with a variety of original and creative “easy to do” activities for babies and preschoolers. Sharen’s creativity reaches a combined audience over 200 million viewers worldwide. Goof & Giggle classes and products encourage green living, repurposing materials from around the house into affordable objects for play and learning. Learn more at: http://sharenpearson.com/

3 DIY Mother’s Day Gifts that Celebrate Family By Beth Engelman *Guest Blog*

Welcome to Pearl Girls Mother of Pearl Mother’s Day blog series. The series is week long celebration of moms and mothering. Each day will feature a new post by some of today’s best writer’s (Tricia Goyer, Megan Alexander, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Beth Engelman, Holley Gerth, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, and more). I hope you’ll join us each day for another unique perspective on Mother’s Day.

AND … do enter the contest for a chance to win a beautiful hand crafted pearl necklace. To enter, just {CLICK THIS LINK} and fill out the short form. Contest runs 5/1-5/8 and the winner will on 5/11. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents.

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

And to all you MOMS out there! Happy Mother’s Day!

3 DIY Mother’s Day Gifts that Celebrate Family By Beth Engelman

This Mother’s Day, celebrate family with this crafty games the whole family can enjoy.  

Block Photo Puzzle
Not only does this 6-sided photo puzzle provide hours of family fun, but it’s also a great way to reuse favorite family photos.

Materials:
•    9 – Wooden Blocks (Use old alphabet blocks)
•    6 – 8 x 10 Photograph Prints or Colored Copies
•    Ruler
•    Scissors
•    Mod Podge and Paintbrush

Directions:
1.  Arrange blocks in a square and measure the length and width of the square.
2. Measure and cut print to the exact same size as the 9-block square.
3. Place blocks in a square on top of print. Position blocks so they’re lined up neatly and as close together as possible.
4. Trace and cut the outline of each block.
5. Glue print pieces to blocks using Mod Podge. Set aside to dry and then seal with 1-2 top layers of Mod Podge.
6. Repeat process until all 6 sides of the blocks are covered with different photographs.
Thank you to the creative folks at www.photojojo.com for sharing this idea!

 “Go Fish with the Family” Card Game

This gift is perfect for Moms who like card games. Another bonus?  There’s always room to “grow” the deck.

Materials:
•    Camera
•    Double stick tape, or a glue stick
•    Several pieces of cardstock (one color)
•    Scissors

Directions:
1.    Take pictures of each family member and develop the pictures in duplicates (3×5 or 4×6 is fine, just make sure all the pictures are the same size).
2.    Turn the pictures into playing cards by gluing or taping a piece of card-stock to the backside of each picture.
3.    Game ideas include “Go Fishing with the Family” which is similar to “Go Fish” but, instead of matching numbers, the object is to collect matching pairs of photos. “Memory” is another fun game to play.  Place the cards face down in a grid and try to find matching pairs of photos.

Family Bingo
In my house, Bingo is always a big hit because regardless of age or skill level, everyone has the same chance to win.  However this version is extra special because the playing boards are populated with pictures of family members.

Materials:
•    Color Coordinated Game Boards (download here)
•    Images of Family Members (use photographs, drawings or clip art)
•    Bingo Markers (pennies, pebbles or buttons)
•    Glue and Scissors

Directions:
1.    Create the game boards:  Download and print desired number of game-boards. Remember each player gets a different game board.
2.    Color-copy and paste images of family members onto each game board.  Remember to paste one person per square and make each board slightly different.
3.    Make “call-out cards” by writing the name of each family member in yellow, green, blue, purple and pink (which coordinates with the colors on the board)
4.    To Play: Game play is similar to traditional Bingo except the caller will randomly select a call-out card and then read the color and person.  For example, “Blue, Grandma Mary” means there is a picture of Grandma Mary in a blue square.  Just like Bingo, the first person to get 5 in a row (horizontally, vertically or diagonally) wins!

Beth Engelman is a columnist for the Sun Times News Group’s Pioneer Press. Her column “Mommy on a Shoestring,” appears in over 30 local papers around Chicago area as well as on the Sun-times website where you can also view her Mommy on a Shoestring video series. She is also a regular on “You and Me this Morning” on WCIU and is frequent contributor for WGN America’s Midday News at Noon.  Recently, Beth was chosen by a celebrity panel from NBC Universal and iVillage to become one of 15 national  “mom” correspondents for NBC’s popular website, www.ivillage.com (over 3 million visitors a day) where she reports on issues that affect moms, families and communities such as bullying, divorce and weight loss.  For more information visit Beth at www.mommyonashoestring.com

Pearl Girls™ Mother of Pearl Mother’s Day blog series

Welcome to Pearl Girls Mother of Pearl Mother’s Day blog series. The series is week long celebration of moms and mothering. Each day will feature a new post by some of today’s best writer’s (Tricia Goyer, Megan Alexander, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Beth Engelman, Holley Gerth, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, and more). I hope you’ll join us each day for another unique perspective on Mother’s Day.
AND … do enter the contest for a chance to win a beautiful hand crafted pearl necklace. To enter, just {CLICK THIS LINK} and fill out the short form. Contest runs 5/1-5/8 and the winner will on 5/11. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents.
If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT Mother’s Day gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.
And to all you MOMS out there! Happy Mother’s Day!
PEARL PINS by Margaret McSweeney
At age 49, I am a mom without a mom. This deep longing for my mother continues to surprise me. During milestone moments, I imagine phone conversations with her.
“Can you believe that Melissa is graduating from high school in June? I’m so glad you will be flying to Chicago to be here with us.” 
“Wasn’t that a fun family dinner we all had last weekend to celebrate Katie’s ‘sweet sixteen?’ I am so glad you could join us.”
“Isn’t this exciting? I just got a new book contract. Will you please edit my manuscript before I send it in?”
Sadly, this will be my eighth Mother’s Day to spend without my mother. She has missed some poignant milestones in my life and in the lives of my daughters. Both Melissa and Katie were very young when she died so they don’t have a full reservoir of memories about Grandmommy Rhea. However, they do have the legacy of faith that she helped instill in them as toddlers. She loved to send Veggie Tales tapes, Children’s Bibles and devotional books. 
Melissa and Katie were blessed to have Nana, (Dave’s mother) around for much longer. Nana passed away two years ago. A few years before Nana died, she gave me a beautiful necklace with a diamond pendant made from her wedding ring along with a pair of diamond earrings. She asked me to give these special gifts to Melissa and Katie for their sixteenth birthdays. Even though Nana wasn’t around to celebrate, my daughters were so happy to receive such special keepsakes from her. Hugs from heaven.
Last week on Katie’s 16th birthday, I discovered an unexpected blessing that had been tucked away in a cardboard container of my mother’s things. A jewelry box with three pearl pins! I gave one to Melissa as a belated 16th birthday gift, and I presented one to Katie for her 16th birthday. This Mother’s Day, I will wear my mother’s pearl pin as a tangible reminder that a mother’s love (and a grandmother’s love) is an everlasting gift from God.  
Finding these gifts made me think about what I might leave for my own daughters someday. It isn’t the external value of the gift that matters, but rather the love that it represents.
Is there a special gift or letter that you would like to leave your children?
Margaret McSweeney lives with her husband, David and two teenage daughters in the Chicago suburbs.  After earning a master’s degree in international business from the University of South Carolina, Margaret moved to New York City to work at a large bank where she met David.  Margaret is the editor of Pearl Girls, author of A Mother’s Heart Knows and co-author of Go Back and Be Happy. Charity and community involvement are very important to Margaret. She has served on the board of directors for WINGS (Women in Need Growing Stronger) for over eight years. For more information, find Margaret at www.pearlgirls.info and www.kitchenchat.info

Starting a 50/50 Journal *Guest Blog*

                                                   Kathy Carlton Willis Communications      
Starting a 50/50 Journal
By Kathi Lipp
I am a serial journaler. In my years walking on this planet, I have left an impressive number of three page-filled journals in the wake of my path. I am a sucker for a cute journal—something romantic about a private place to keep my thoughts and dreams. Each time I’m at a bookstore I can’t help but peruse the journal section, dreaming about the beautiful things I’d write in that gorgeous black leather bound book—or maybe the bright orange and green floral journal with the matching pen. Oh—the possibilities.
That is how it went on the day that I met my new journal. With its dark red cover and Irish proverb on the front, it not only matched my mood, it matched my hair color and heritage at the same time. Love at first sight.
After purchasing the journal and a hazelnut latte, I curled up in one of the bookstore chairs to … what I didn’t know.
I didn’t want this to just be another started and abandoned journal. I wanted this journal to be different. I spent almost half an hour staring at a blank page.
If I knew I was going to live another 50 years, what would I want those fifty years to look like—what would I like to say I had done with that time?
So, I started to write everything down. I figured that if I was healthy and stayed out of the way of people talking on cell phones while driving, it was conceivable that I could have another fifty years on this planet. I wrote down fifty things I wanted to accomplish in the next fifty years.
Somehow, this new journal seemed different than the ones I’d started before. This was not a daily recitation of deep thoughts that I had while walking on the beach. This felt big, important, and all for me.
I felt silly writing some of those goals down—getting my nails done once a week—that seemed less like a goal and more like self-indulgence. “Take a gourmet cooking class” seemed a little frivolous as well. But one of the things I promised myself was that I was going to be very free in what I wrote down—I would not censor myself because it seemed silly or trivial. I trusted that these goals were between me and God, and asked Him to bless me in the goals that were within His will, and to take away the desire for the ones that may not be from Him.
It has been fascinating to see God working in my 50/50 journal. About once a month, I update any progress made towards the goal. It can be as simple as buying a book on cross-country travel; I make a note of it on the page that has “Travel around the United States for a month without a schedule” as the goal. Any progress is noted and celebrated.
In my 50/50 journal, every small step is recorded and celebrated—my own personal record of how deeply interested God is in delighting me by first putting desires in my heart, and then blessing me by giving me the desires of my heart.
We all have these nebulous goals in our lives that we want to accomplish, someday. If you have never taken the time to commit them to paper, do it today. There is power in writing your goals down. They become concrete and tangible. The goals are easier to break down into smaller steps—giving you a real chance at seeing those dreams become a reality.

Kathi Lipp is a busy conference and retreat speaker, currently speaking each year to thousands of women throughout the United States. She is the author of The Husband Project and The Marriage Project, serves as food writer for Nickelodeon, and has had articles published in several magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman and Discipleship Journal. Kathi and her husband, Roger, live in California and are the parents of four teenagers and young adults. See: www.kathilipp.com

Money and Marriage: Living With Financial Freedom *Guest Blog*

 I’ll be doing a review of his book very soon and thought that this article was excellent and wanted to share! Bob and I just paid off the last of our “bad debt” and the feeling was *amazing*!

Money and Marriage: Living With Financial Freedom

By Matt Bell

For many couples, money is a tough topic.  But there’s one financial issue that, like no other, causes financial discomfort among couples and raises the chances for financial fights: debt.

Take Off the Shackles

The Bible says, “The borrower is servant to the lender.”  Living as a servant to a lender isn’t wise for any of us, but it’s especially problematic in marriage. Researcher Jeffrey Dew at Utah State University has found that not only does consumer debt (credit card debt and other installment loans) fuel a sense of financial unease among couples and increase the likelihood that they will argue about money, but “this financial unease casts a pall over marriages in general, raising the likelihood that couples will argue over issues other than money and decreasing the time they spend with one another.” Dew’s research shows that newlyweds that take on substantial consumer debt become less happy in their marriages over time. On the other hand, newly married couples that pay off their consumer debt within their first five years of marriage are more satisfied with their marriage. Those findings held up no matter whether couples were rich or poor.

Whose Debt Is It?

How couples approach their debt is important as well. When Scott and Karen got married, Karen brought $50,000 of non-mortgage debt into the marriage.  Scott jokingly referred to it as a reverse dowry. One of the things I love about their story is that from the earliest days of their marriage, whenever Karen would talk about “my” debt, Scott would correct her by saying is was “our” debt. Now there’s a guy who is committed to financial oneness. One other notable part of their story is that their faith-based convictions motivated them to give away 10 percent of their income throughout their journey of getting out of debt. Karen remembered seeing their year-end giving statement, and thinking, ‘Gee, we could have gotten out of debt so much faster if we had put that money toward our debts.” And she remembers hearing other people’s stories of unexpected blessings they felt came about because of their giving. “I started wondering where’s my cool story?” she said. Six-and-a-half years after getting married, Scott and Karen made their last debt payment. It was a day neither one of them will ever forget. “It was amazing,” Karen says. “We felt like it was a hard road we had traveled, but we did it, and we did it in a God-honoring way. We are 100 percent debt-free.” Scott will soon be able to retire with a full pension at a much younger age than most people, having put in over twenty years as a Chicago firefighter. They’re thinking about getting an RV and spending a year traveling the country.
Sounds pretty cool to me.

Be Done With Debt ASAP

If you are engaged or newly married, make it one of your highest financial priorities to get out of debt and then live the rest of your lives with no debt other than a reasonable mortgage (One that requires no more than 25% of monthly household gross income to pay for the combination of your mortgage, taxes, and insurance). Put together a spending plan that enables you to maximize debt repayment.  You may find it helpful to use the recommended spending plans found in the “Money, Purpose, Joy,” workbook, which contains detailed plans for four different size households across nine different annual incomes. Very often, when couples get married they get excited about all that they’ll be able to afford with two incomes.  But I encourage all newly married couples to base their lifestyle mostly on one income.  It’s the single most helpful step you can take to prepare for children since it makes it much easier for one spouse to choose to step out of the paid workforce if that’s their desire.  If you have debt, it’s especially important to live mostly on one income so you can use the other income to get out of debt.  Doing so will make all the difference in helping you build a solid financial foundation and live with financial freedom.

Matt Bell is the author of three personal finance books published by NavPress, including his latest: “Money & Marriage: A Complete Guide for Engaged and Newly Married Couples.”  Matt leads workshops throughout the country and blogs at www.MattAboutMoney.com.

12 Pearls of Christmas *Guest blog*

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

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

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

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Pearls of Patience

by Margaret Mcsweeney

As I write by the light of my Christmas tree on a late winter’s night, I reflect upon the poignancy and purpose of this season.  The tiny white lights look like strands of pearls draped gracefully (perhaps haphazardly is a more honest description) across the evergreen boughs.  Tomorrow I will hang the ornaments and at last place the angel atop the tree

Angels carry a special meaning this Christmas.  My brother, Randy passed away on December 2nd from a heart attack at age 53.  He was feeding a stray cat on his side porch.  Randy was always like St. Francis of Asissi – animals would find him, sensing a kind soul.  And my brother was a gentle and patient soul.  He loved to fish.  He tried to teach me, but I immediately lost interest when I realized worms were involved. And I could never sit still on the banks of a river and just wait.  However, Randy could do that.  He could wait, and waiting is a true gift.  He put into practice the Scriptures.  “Wait upon the Lord.”  “Be still and know that He is God.”  Patience doesn’t have to be passive.  Wait is still an action verb.  Part of the waiting process for fishing is seeking.  Elaine (Randy’s wife of 31 years) told me that Randy said he could see the fish deep beneath the waters.  He actively waited for the right time to catch them.

During Randy’s last fishing trip on earth – just a week before his death, he felt an urgency to take a picture of the clouds with his cell phone.  When he returned home, he showed the picture to Elaine.  They realized that a face of an angel was looking at Randy from the sky – perhaps waiting for God’s timing to bring Randy home to heaven.  In my heart I like to think that this “angel in the sky” was part of the heavenly host that appeared to the shepherds over two thousand years ago.  A Christmas Angel.

The Christmas Angels brought tidings of great joy that Jesus, our Lord and Savior was born.  And because of that incredible gift from God that these angels announced, we all have the promise of eternity. Let us actively wait for His return by sharing our faith, offering hope and acting with love in everything we do.

May each of you be blessed this Christmas as you celebrate the purposeful promises of the Season: Faith, hope and love.   And may the 12 Pearls of Christmas be a blessing to you, too.

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

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

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