Thursday, December 30, 2010

See What's In the Box

story by: Lisa Petrarca

She walked into the dismal, smelly building, she was on a mission and hardly seemed to notice. The warm paper, carefully resting in her hand. Moving quickly down the hallway, the gold bow shimmered as the light reflected on it.

Last week Mrs. Shoney took the entire class to visit the "old persons" home. Kallie was afraid at first but then realized that these were grandparents, they were lonely and seemed to cheer up as the class entered the room. Everyone except the gray haired man who sat alone in a chair staring out the window, he never joined the group.

Kallie couldn't get him out of her mind. That night she went home, grabbed her kit and began to make him a present. She rushed home from school everyday to work on it.

Her mother asked, "What are you making that's so important?" "My friend is lonely and sad, I need to give him a present," Kallie replied. "What friend?" her mother further prodded. "The gray haired man, at the old persons home. I need to give him something he needs," Kallie said.

A few days before Christmas, Kallie's mom took her to deliver her present. Looking carefully into each room she finally spotted him at the very end of the hall. He was sitting watching the rain drops hit the window. Kallie ran in and shouted excitedly, "Mr., Mr., I have a present for you!" He slowly turned, the tears in his eyes looked like the rain drops sliding down the window. She said, "Are you okay Mr.? I brought something for you to cheer you up, something your missing." "I'm sorry little girl, but what I'm missing is gone forever and I'll never get her back," he muttered.

She walked towards him, slowly opening her hand she gave him the small box. He unwrapped it, sitting inside was a crotchet heart with a picture of Jesus. The man began to cry and said, "Years ago my wife made a heart exactly like this for our Christmas tree and put it up each year. The last Christmas she was with me, she couldn't find it. She was so ill and said she needed it up, she needed to see Jesus' face. I searched through all the boxes and never found it. She passed away the day after Christmas. Thank you for showing me that I'm not alone."

Rest for the Weary

At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure."
Matthew 11:25-26

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden
is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Christmas Miracle-My True Story

Story By: Lisa Petrarca

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 head. 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, blond 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.

I wanted to re-post my true story, which happened over 14 years ago, but continues to leave a mark on my life today!

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

What Is My Purpose?

story by: lisa petrarca

When I think about my life and all the things that have happened over the years, I remember wondering over and over again, "Why am I here? What is my purpose?

I always hoped to make a grand contribution...make a difference that matters, be a person that others would say, "She did something great with her life!"

Imagine my surprise when at 44 years old, I realized that I have made a difference, I have a purpose, I can help others.

Each day I'm given opportunities to reach out and either encourage or discourage people. I have a choice. I can make a conscious decision on how I will treat people. I can be a person of great Godly character by making a right choice each step of the way.
I can push through my difficulties and reach out to the Lord for help. I can pray for others and be a source of strength and comfort when they need a shoulder to lean on.

I am here for a purpose, I've been assigned a task that is very important. A job not for the faint of heart or the weary.

I can complete my hours each day and know that I've run the race, I've sailed my sea, I've climbed my mountain, I've conquered my fears.

All this has been possible through the Lords loving guidance each morning.

He assigns special people to cross my path. He fills me with His spirit of unconditional love so that I can then go out and be a blessing. That is our purpose, our job, to show the unconditional love of Jesus Christ to everyone we come in contact with.

It's that simple!

Then out of that love will flow your individual gifts and talents.
Start at the beginning, start with love and then you'll know you're on the right road to finding your true life purpose.

Love conquers all!


And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self -seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8 & 13

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Beyond Embarrassment

story & photo by: lisa petrarca

Driving home from Newport Beach, California, today in a sea of Bentley's, Mercedes Benz, BMW's, Lamborghini's, and Porsche's...a loud, grumbling, rumbling, clanking noise came up along side me. As I turned to see what was causing such a commotion, a rusty spotted, beat up station wagon drove quickly by. It was quite an eye sore and definitely drew attention.

I noticed all the expensive car owners were staring at it in disgust. But the owner didn't seem to notice or mind. It was serving it's purpose, getting him from point A to point B.

I sat waiting for the light to change, thinking about how often we try to blend into our environment and the people around us. We're embarrassed or afraid to stand out or be different. As followers of Christ, that's exactly how we are supposed to be...a light to others, a change from a world filled with stress, hurt and anger.

We can overcome the fear and stand up for what we believe in by showing the unconditional love of Christ through our actions. Reaching out, stepping outside our comfort zone and helping others in need, through prayer, words of encouragement and loving kindness.

We are different because we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit. This gift helps us, gives us wisdom, peace and discernment in our time of need. Then we can be used to help others going through similar circumstances.

When you find yourself in a human nature situation...stop, pray and ask the Lord to fill you with HIS peaceful, confident, trustworthy spirit of hope and wisdom. Ask the Lord to use you to be a light in the lives of others. Don't be afraid to stand up and make a difference. We are here to do the Lord's will for our lives (point A) and one day return home to our Heavenly Father to spend time and all eternity in His loving embrace (point B).

Shine His light within you on those around you.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that if yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent It. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord's renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed."
Isaiah 55:8-13