12 Pearls of Christmas: Day 12

12pearlsofxmas

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

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

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below. The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

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

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A Teenage Pregnancy
by Robin Jones Gunn

It was early, early morning, that delicate time of day just before sunrise when it seems as if all of creation is still asleep.

In the cold, gray light she gazed at the infant in her arms. He was less than an hour old and so, so small. Instinct prompted her to draw her newborn close that he might feel the rhythm of her heart. He curled his tiny hand around her finger and she smiled. His eyes closed, and with feathered breath he gave way to the blessed sleep that follows such a long journey.

In weary awe she studied his face, his ears, his nose. He was here. He had come at last.

A single tear fell from her eye and rolled across his cheek. She kissed the tear away but could not kiss away the memories that came with the tears; memories of the day she found out she was pregnant. How exhilarated she felt and yet how terrified. She was young, and there was much she didn’t understand.

Trying to justify her condition to her parents proved more difficult than she’d hoped. But the most excruciating memory was the moment she stood guileless before the man she hoped to one day marry. She had no words to make him understand the awful truth—the child she carried was not his.

Leaving seemed to be her only option. A gracious aunt took her in and welcomed her with open arms. From the moment she arrived she was showered with motherly words of hope and sisterly touches of love. Week by week, month by month, the child inside her grew.

Was it a miracle when she returned home, her belly round, her face flushed, and found him there?

What prompted this man to take her back and make her his bride? Did he now believe what she had tried to explain all along, that none of this was her own doing?

When the time was right they left their small town together, as husband and wife, with her due date rapidly approaching. The labor began—tightening her abdomen with a force she had never before imagined. Perspiration streamed from her forehead. The contractions multiplied with a frenzied urgency until the need to push overwhelmed her young body, and the baby was born.

Nothing of the past mattered anymore. He was here. Naked, perfect, quivering in her arms. With a thrill of hope, she believed that her life, her world, would never be the same.

Now as the first silver streaks of dawn pierced through the cracks in the stable, she tenderly wrapped her sleeping babe in swaddling clothes and laid him in the manger.

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Robin Promo Photo Close Up 2013Robin Jones Gunn, bestselling author of the much-loved Christy Miller Series and the award-winning Sisterchicks® series, has had more than 4.5 million copies of her books sold worldwide. Her frequent speaking engagements have taken her around the globe. Robin and her husband live in Hawaii and have a grown son and daughter. You can learn more at Robin’s website.
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12 Pearls of Christmas: Day 11

12pearlsofxmas

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

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

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below! The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

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

***

Do You Hear What I Hear?
by Cynthia Ruchti

To shepherds? Really, God? You crafted a birth announcement that was delivered first to shepherds? The story’s become so familiar to us, so easy for us to visualize because of all the Christmas pageants we’ve witnessed over the years—all the fourth-grade boys in plaid robes with a homemade shepherd staff, carrying a cloth lamb from the toy department that plays “Jesus Loves Me” if you pull the ring where an umbilical cord should be.

Theologians speculate the reason for shepherds as the audience for the holy pronouncement could be as intricate as a genetic retracing of the Baby’s heritage back through history to King David, who started his career as a shepherd.

Or it could have been simpler than that. Maybe shepherds were the only ones listening that night.

“Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night,” Luke 2:8, CEB. The biblical story tells us that the shepherds weren’t sleeping but were on guard, watching, when the news about Jesus came to them.

Distractions were few. Hills, sheep, other shepherds, a low fire, and a wide expanse of sky overhead—a dark sky that held the same stars night after night, until this one.

I wonder if any of the shepherds brought their families to the fields. I wonder if in the tent was a hardworking woman nearing the end of an exhausting day. She’d barely gotten the evening meal cleaned up when she had to start thinking about what her family and the other shepherds would need for breakfast. Soak the grains. Check the progress on the sheep’s milk cheese. And try to get those kids to settle down.

“Stop annoying your brother. Caleb! Last warning. Josh, get your fingers out of your sister’s ears. Turn down that video game. You can’t listen to the radio and watch TV at the same time. Turn one of them off. Better yet, both of them! Who’s singing? What’s that sound? Do you hear what I hear?”

What noise do I need to turn off in my life in order to hear the first notes of the angel’s song?

Another noisy Christmas party. Another trip to the department store for stocking stuffers. Another round of Christmas CDs. Another Christmas special on TV. Another Facebook post to share—the true meaning of Christmas. A text about the practice time for the Christmas program at church. Another phone call about travel plans. Brain waves clanking into each other, making a cacophony of noise.

Shutting down one layer at a time. Unplugging. Keeping even “Silent Night” low so I can silence my night and hear the downbeat of “Glory to God in the highest.”

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Cynthia Ruchti is an author and speaker who tells stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark through her novels and novellas, devotions, nonfiction, and through speaking events for women and writers. Of seven books on the shelves currently, her latest releases are the novel When the Morning Glory Blooms (Abingdon Press Fiction), the nonfiction Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices (Abingdon Press Christian Living), and several dozen of the devotions in Mornings With Jesus 2014 (Guideposts). Spring of 2014 will see the release of another novel—All My Belongings, also from Abingdon Press Fiction. You can connect with her at www.cynthiaruchti.com or on Facebook.
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12 Pearls of Christmas: Day 10

12pearlsofxmas

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

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

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below! The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

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

***

Wrapping Paper and Fancy Bows Not Required
by Jodi Murphy

For more than a decade I worked in the luxury design field, and every year around Christmas time there were holiday show houses and charity events where the designers would hold nothing back to create the most beautiful displays for the Christmas season—trees with baubles and sparkles, swags of fresh greenery festooned with handmade bows, every room dressed to the nines, dining and breakfast tables set for imaginary entertaining, and hundreds of perfectly wrapped packages that would make Santa’s elves go green with envy.

The sights, sounds and smells were magical! And though I enjoyed the “eye candy” and appreciated all of the creativity, I often left these events on a “sugar high” of the season’s pufferies and feeling disconnected to the spiritual significance of Christmas.

As we begin to count down the days toward December 25th, I will do my share of simplified decorating as a way to mark such an important day, and I will be celebrating Christ’s birth with a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the gifts God has given to me . . .

My Parents

I was blessed with parents who loved and respected me. I was always important, seen and heard. They gave me the confidence and strength to go out into the world because I knew they were standing right behind me in case I stumbled. They modeled generosity, loyalty and commitment.

My Sister

Tenacious, strong-willed, and determined balanced by a friendly, supportive, “I’m there for you” spirit—that’s my amazing younger sister. She’ll step out on the front line to stand up and defend you or throw on some work clothes and volunteer to help with whatever dirty work needs to be done. No questions asked . . . you need her, she’s there.

My Husband

My husband is so comfortable in his own skin. He doesn’t compare himself to others or secretly long for what they have. He doesn’t get embroiled in other’s gossip or petty arguments. His loving influence has made me happier and more at peace. Every day I wake up to the joyful realization that I am his friend, wife, and life partner.

My Son

My firstborn. My son with Aspergers Syndrome. Raising him is the most extraordinary journey. He has made me more accepting, patient, and understanding. He has helped me find my passion to support and advocate for him and those just like him. He doesn’t filter or concern himself with being anything but who he is. I admire his strength to put himself out into a world he doesn’t fully understand.

My Daughter

She was born with grace and an “old” soul. From a very young age, she had an understanding and compassion for others well beyond her years. And when she was excluded for not following the crowd, she never compromised her values in order to fit in. She personifies all that is good and right in our world.

So I’m taking a pause from the hustle and bustle of the designers’ holiday season. This Christmas, and every Christmas henceforth, you’ll find me singing praises of “Gloria!” to God for the walking, breathing beautiful gifts of my family.

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jodi_murphy-Headshot 1Jodi Murphy has been a freelance marketing specialist for the last 25+ years working for clients in a variety of industries, a journalist in the design/luxury lifestyle industry, and co-founder of Nesting Newbies, one of the first independent lifestyle digital magazines. But her most important role and her life’s passion is being a mom! She founded Geek Club Books to share her son’s life on the spectrum in a positive and entertaining way. Her focus is on building a community of spectrum and neurotypicals who are engaged with and inspired by the Geek Club Books’ message of self-acceptance—“I’m unique. I’m a geek.” Jodi writes original content on the blog, and, with the help of her talented kids and top-notch creative team, she produces audio stories, e-books, and interactive storybook APPs.

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Add a Favorite Flavor to Holiday Baking with Butterfinger

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.
**I was provided with a sample bag of Butterfinger Bites to facilitate this review.  No other compensation has been received**

Butterfingers are one of my top 5 favorite candy bars.  If there is an option for Butterfinger topping or addition like a sundae, I’m all over it.  I’ve seen a few recipes here and there with Butterfingers and I thought to myself that I’d have to buy several Butterfingers bars and smash them up.  I’m completely sure the recipe would be tasty but I don’t buy myself a Butterfinger bar often, it’s a real treat for me.   Butterfinger has made it easier though with Butterfinger Bites!

butterfinger bites stock

 

YUM!  I’m excited about this for several reasons, one it lets me portion better when I want a sweet snack. Two it makes it real easy to add them to desserts.  Three because if I do bake with them I can snack on a couple and not feel too guilty.  Butterfinger Bites are new and it’s Butterfinger’s 90ish anniversary!  I don’t know, 90ish, it’s what they told me, lol.  I’m happy thought because they partnered with dessert food trucks to help created lots of Butterfinger recipes from ice cream sandwiches, cake pops, cookies, and more.  To think that these little bites:

butterfinger bites

 

Can help you create something like this (which I will insist on being my next birthday cake):

butterfinger bites cake

 

I received some Butterfinger Bites to try in a recipe myself.  Since I’m still in the process of my holiday cooking baking I thought it would be nice to make a Butterfinger cookies.  I searched some of the recipes on facebook.com/butterfinger there were so many.  Ultimately I wanted to make a cookie so I found a great recipe simply called “Butterfinger Cookies”  The recipes was very easy to make. My youngest son, my little baker, loves to help.  He enjoyed helping me with this recipe.

making butterfinger cookies Ty adding butterfinger bitesbutterfinger doughI used an electric beater and it broke up the Butterfinger Bites with little effort.  My cookies ended up turning out kinda flat but I think it’s because my baking soda might be outdated.  Even thought they didn’t look like the example picture on the recipe page they still turned out super yummy.

butterfinger bite cookieAs a matter of fact they were supposed to be for Christmas and hubby has been eating them by the handful.  I may have had a couple myself already.  I think there’s only about a half dozen left.  My little assistant of course got to taste a couple as well.  Oh well, guess I’m just gonna have to go buy more Butterfinger Bites.  Shucks!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.


JOLLY TIME Popcorn Holiday Recipe Ideas

**I received a kit from Jolly Time to facilitate this review. No other compensation has been received**
Holiday guide 2013 button

I love working with JOLLY TIME.  Each time I do I try a different recipe that my family always seems to love.  I always like to have some treats sitting around other than cookies for guests and my family.  We usually do a bunch of baking throughout the month freezing cookies and such and then put everything out on Christmas Eve and everyone can indulge a little .  I’ve already made a few cookies so what else to make, after checking out the recipes available on JOLLY TIME’s website.  I knew just what that other treat would be, White Chocolate Pecan Popcorn.

ingredients jolly time recipe

The recipe is super easy and you don’t  need a lot of ingredients.  All you need is enough JOLLY TIME popcorn for 12 cups of popped popcorn.  I brought out all the JOLLY TIME I had but in the end I only ended up using 2 popped bags of the JOLLY TIME Butter with Smart Balance.  I used a bag of Hershey’s white chocolate morsels but you can use white chocolate bark or whatever you have and a 1/2 cup of pecans.  My youngest son loves to help me bake so he helped me measure out the popcorn.

jolly time tyler

 

After putting your popped popcorn in a large bowl you simply melt down your white chocolate in the microwave.  Once melted you mix in your 1/2 c of Pecans to the melted chocolate.  The pour the mixture over your popcorn in the bowl.  Here’s my tip, my chocolate didn’t “pour” it kinda glopped so I spread it around the best I could on the top, mixed it, then added a little more, and so on until all the chocolate mixture was in there.

 

 

jolly time mix

 

After it’s mix you spread it out on a cookie sheet to dry.

jolly time white choc pecanAfter it dries you can pack it up how you want to.  Frugal tip here, save your cookie and popcorn tins from previous years.  I had a small holiday popcorn tin from when my boys were in boy scouts. This recipe filled the small popcorn tin.

jolly time popcorn tinIt honestly did fill up the whole tin but I may or may not have had about 3 handfuls of this already lol.  Seriously this recipe is so simple but is so good.  This would also make an excellent budget friendly last minute gift for a neighbor, mailman, etc.  Packed in a nice tin, yummy.

You can find this recipe and more on JOLLYTIME.com I also recommend creating a profile on the site.  They have printable coupons on the site as well as free offers and free with shipping offers with JOLLY TIME UPCs .  Right now they have a pedometer, water bottle, and reusable shopping bag deal.