Monday, December 28, 2009

Where's Your Joy?

By: Lisa Petrarca

Walking into class I noticed an older Asian lady standing near the back of the room. Her clothes were mix matched, black biker shorts, flowered green shirt over a red tank top and high yellow socks. It was a stark contrast to the stylish, younger crowd of dancers in the class.

As the class began the lady, tried to keep up with the complicated steps. Half way through however, she seemed to be dancing to her own music. Her arms flailed in the air, she jumped, kicked her feet up and then out to the side. I looked at her time and time again throughout the hour long class, each time smiling and actually giggling. I wasn't laughing at her. The lady radiated pure joy. She was beaming, cheeks flushed as she let out a laugh and then yelled, "Yaaay...ya...this is fun!" Others in the class were now smiling. She was infectious. Her happiness radiated and lifted the entire room.

What was it about her?

She was just one person. But...she decided to be happy no matter what. She knew that she couldn't keep up, yet she was still able to continue to find joy in what she was doing and shared her exuberance with everyone around her.

Be sure to look at the good things in your life, no matter what else is going on around you. Focus on the the blessings you've received from the Lord and change not only your circumstances, but others around you.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

This week I would like to challenge each of you to wake up in the morning and think of five blessings in your life. Start your day off looking for the good, instead of going over your endless "To Do List" the minute your feet hit the floor. I think you'll be amazed at how your day will be transformed and the difference your attitude will have on others around you.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Christmas Miracle-A True Story

By: Lisa Petrarca
I wanted to re-post my true story, which happened over 13 years ago, but continues to leave a mark on my life today!

Christmas time was closing in on me and it had been a hard year. I was just newly separated and trying to support my three boys on a minimal income. Not to mention my ex was not paying child support, in fact he had completely disappeared. Christmas was just three weeks away. The panic I felt was so different from the years of joy that Christmas had always brought me. I knew that I would not be able to provide a Christmas for my kids. I was barely able to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. The agony and despair was tearing me up inside. I began having trouble breathing, not sleeping and would cry myself to sleep at night. The stress was almost too much to bear.

I was working at a bank and had made a few close friends. They were very sympathetic, uplifting and encouraging, always willing to listen and lend their support, which I must admit helped me make it through the days as Christmas drew near. The bank employees passed around the annual Christmas donation envelope, which would provide a Christmas for needy families, I took out a $5.00 bill and folded it so that no one could see the small amount of money that I was donating. I felt embarrassed at such a measly amount, but thought that there must be families going through worse situations than I was facing, families without a home, a warm place to sleep and food on the table. I quickly shoved the only amount I was able to give into the crisp white envelope and passed it to the person next to me.

Two days left, and still no way to get even a Christmas tree. I spent that long agonizing night awake trying to come up with some ideas to bring Christmas to my young innocent, trusting and excited children. What can I do to give my kids a Christmas? I awoke early and put on a cheery face for my kids. The dreaded day, Christmas Eve, I have never experienced a more miserable day in my life. The kids excitement was making it hard to fight back my tears. They thought that Santa would surprise them with a tree and the presents this year. I didn't even know what to tell them. How do you tell your sweet, naïve children that there would be no Christmas this year!

In the evening as I was preparing Macaroni & Cheese, which thank goodness the kids loved and thought was a very special Christmas Eve dinner, the doorbell rang. I opened the door and to my utter shock, there stood the entire bank staff, singing Christmas carols. Every single member of the staff was carrying armfuls of brightly wrapped presents with shiny silver, red and gold bows along with bags full of food, while the men unloaded a Christmas tree. The women hugged and comforted me as I began to sob uncontrollably.

The kids were squealing with excitement and said, “What’s wrong mommy? We told you that this was going to be the best Christmas ever”! The presents were flowing out from under the tree and seemed as if they were multiplying every time I looked over. They were spilling out from under the tree and into the entryway. The kids were running around the presents, trying to shake them to see if they could figure out what was inside. I looked over to see my youngest son being tossed in the air, blonde hair flying, cheeks flushed and giggling as he was caught and hugged. I had been chosen as the needy family this year. My “family” at the bank had made sure that my kids and I would have a wonderful Christmas. As I stood at the bottom of the stairs, looking over the picture in front of me, my only thought was, this is the true meaning of Christmas. These wonderful people have given much more than material gifts, they have brought the gift of hope, faith and love to a hopeless and desperate mother.


This was the best Christmas I have ever had and looking back over the years and all the gifts that I've received and the "must have" items, I can honestly say that not one of the material gifts stand out in my mind. The gift of love and compassion from others is something that I will remember for as long as I live. During this Christmas season I hope my story will encourage others to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate, it is a gift that lasts a life time. As Christmas time draws near, I want to challenge everyone to give of themselves not only monetarily but give the gift of love, kindness and advice to those who are suffering, struggling or in need of encouragement. You will never know how much your small gifts will touch the lives of others and change their world forever!

1. Volunteer to serve Christmas dinner to the homeless

2. Visit an elderly person or convalescent hospital to spend time with someone in need of love.

3. Organize a food drive in your community to take to a women's shelter / homeless shelter.

4. Have everyone bring an un-wrapped gift to your annual Christmas party. Then contact your local fire station or police dept. to drop the gifts off for them to distribute to local charities.

5. Invite a friend whose family is far away to spend Christmas at your home.

6. Invite your family and friends to participate - donate presents/food/Christmas tree to a local family in need of a Christmas Miracle!

7. Take your entire family to an orphanage to visit and love on children who need it.

8. Offer words of encouragement, love and advice to someone in need.

9. Share your personal life stories of your triumphs and defeats. You never know whose heart it will touch.

10. Step out of your comfort zone and make a difference in the lives of others. You will receive the gift of the TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS.

And He said to me,"My Grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9

"For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2:11

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I've Fallen & I Can't Get Up

By: Lisa Petrarca

Do you remember that old commercial in the 80's & 90's, in which an elderly lady fell down and used her "LifeCall" pendant to shout, "Help...I've fallen and I can't get up"?

As kids we often mimicked this commercial when one of us would trip and fall.
It was also a constant punch line for comedy skits on television shows like
Saturday Night Live.

I often wish during the difficult times in my life, when things seem to be falling apart around me, that I could push my pendant and shout, "HELP...I've fallen again and I can't get up!" LifeCall would respond immediately, sending someone over to help me get my life back in order.

Once I began to build a closer relationship with the Lord, praying each morning, reading the Bible and asking for His help throughout my day, in every situation, I realized that He is my LifeCall. He helps me when I fall down, He comes to my rescue when everyone around me has let me down. He picks me up and tells me, "I'm here, I will help you, let go and trust in me. Do not depend on your own weakening strength, lean on me and I will carry you to safety."

If you are feeling like you can no longer go on without help...make a LifeCall to God, He will ALWAYS answer!

Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness.
Isaiah 43:18-19

And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.

Matthew 21:22

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Why Worry?

By: Lisa Petrarca

Recently I was thinking back on all the times in my life that I've worried. So many things that I've spent hours, weeks, months, and even years thinking about. Trying to figure out how I might fix each and every situation. I even thought of ways that I could get out of problems that I might face in the future. It was overwhelming to my senses, putting my feelings and emotions on high alert. The worry consumed my day, each nerve exposed, living on the surface, exploding time and time again throughout my daily activities. It wouldn't take much to send me into a frenzy. If I wasn't worrying about my life, then I worried about other people.

Worry became a Badge of Honor. I was strategizing and preparing for whatever was thrown at me so I would never be caught off guard. Worrying about others made me feel like a caring and good friend. I was trapped behind this false pretense.

Worry is a trap, a trick of the enemy. It keeps our minds so busy and overwhelmed that we can see nothing but the problems. We forget to pray and turn EVERYTHING over to the Lord and let Him handle it. We forget to trust and have faith that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He has given us a promise, all we have to do is LET GO. It is scary, but you've tried handling things yourself and you continue to feel stress, anxiety, disappointment and fear. LET GO, turn every single care and worry over to the Lord. You will find peace in every area of your life, no matter how difficult the situation. He is waiting and asking, "Why worry, I'm here to help you, let Me carry your burdens."

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Is That You?

By: Lisa Petrarca

I spotted him the minute he entered the stadium. He made his way to the bleachers directly below me. I chuckled to myself...the resemblance was uncanny. I looked around to see if anyone else had noticed.

A small boy sitting next to me had covered his mouth, eyes the size of saucers, turned to look at me with complete amazement and shock. He pointed and said, “It’s Santa Clause! He’s here watching the football game too.”

I couldn’t resist, “Yes, I saw him too.” I smiled, “Did you tell him what you want for Christmas yet?”

He shook his head rapidly back and forth, “Nope.”

Feeling the child inside of me rising to the surface, I watched his face light up, then whispered, “Maybe you should go tell him what you want.”

He raised his eyebrows, large blue eyes sparkled, “I’m going to go tell him!” He popped up and looked around to find his friend, “There’s Santa, let’s go tell him what we want for Christmas,” he giggled. They both hopped like rabbits, two feet together, jumping onto each wobbly bleacher, inching closer to Santa. Stopping three bleachers above him they shouted, “Santa, Santa, is that you?” The deafening noise of the crowd cheering on our local high school football team drowned out their shouts.

With nervous anticipation they hopped down two more levels, and yelled again, “Santa, Santa is that you?” A moment later the two boys, sprinted up the bleachers in my direction. With flushed cheeks they breathlessly said “It’s him and Mrs. Clause too!”

I grinned, “What did he say?”

Unable to sit still, he wiggled, twisted and danced around, still out of breath, “It’s...really (deep sigh) really him and he...he winked at me. I knew it was him!” His friend stood beside him unable to speak, just nodding his head in agreement.

“You didn’t tell him what you wanted?” I asked.

Shaking his head again, “No but we’re going back down to tell him.” This time they didn’t hop, they ran down the bleachers...excited to have discovered Santa and Mrs. Clause. They wanted to be the first to tell him about all of the presents that they wanted him to bring them.

Why don’t we find the same excitement in running to the Lord? Imagine if our faces lit up with excitement and anticipation, as we awoke each morning knowing that God has a gift for us today. Anxiously running downstairs everyday to sit in a quiet place to read the Bible and see what He has for your day, praying and talking to Him.

His present to each of us is life changing. It’s worth more than gold, silver, diamonds and rubies or anything of this world. He has given us the most incredible and amazing gift...His son and our Savior Jesus Christ. Run to Him like a child ready to receive the presents he has to offer you. He will give you forgiveness, peace, joy, love, happiness and salvation. Don’t leave your presents sitting on the table unwrapped! Call out to God…he will hear you through the deafening noise of your life and troubles.

Build on the Rock
"But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: "He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. "But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great."
Luke 6:46-49

Build your foundation on the rock that God has given you and you will withstand all of the troubles of this life. UNWRAP YOUR GIFT!