Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace


After experiencing the death of both parents, Margaret McSweeney recognized the importance of community like never before. Through these difficult times in life, she learned how God uses gritty circumstances to conform us to the stunning image of Christ.

McSweeney also realized that she was not at all alone. It is for this reason that she decided to compile essays into an inspiring book: Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit Experiencing Grace. Through this collection, readers will be...

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After experiencing the death of both parents, Margaret McSweeney recognized the importance of community like never before. Through these difficult times in life, she learned how God uses gritty circumstances to conform us to the stunning image of Christ.

McSweeney also realized that she was not at all alone. It is for this reason that she decided to compile essays into an inspiring book: Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit Experiencing Grace. Through this collection, readers will be encouraged by the heartfelt writings that deal with loss and hardship in a real and honest way. Respected authors such as Shaunti Feldhahn, Melody Carlson, Debbie Macomber, Robin Jones Gunn and others help remind every woman that they are not alone and that no circumstance is beyond the grace of God.

McSweeney uses the metaphor of a pearl in order to better describe the situations that ail us all. When an oyster takes in a piece of sand in order to create its coveted masterpiece, it is initially painful to the soft flesh of the creature. But after the pain, appears a clean, white symbol of simplicity, purity, and endurance that any woman would be proud to wear. McSweeney believes that each woman is a pearl and together, form a necklace of great worth. In this book, readers will discover community and encouragement: women are alone in neither their pain nor victories in life.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802458629
  • Publisher: Moody Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/1/2009
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 1,002,175
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

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 six years.
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Read an Excerpt

Pearl Girls

Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace

By Margaret McSweeney

Moody Publishers

Copyright © 2009 Margaret McSweeney
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57567-350-9




Ephesians 4:32: (ESV): Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Angels of Forgiveness

I felt as if I had been slapped. I gaped in horror as I stared at the empty storage room and tried to comprehend my mother-in-law's words, "... and we even made $200!" She had sold all my worldly possessions without my permission. She was trying to be kind, but in doing so, she plowed a cavernous furrow through the garden of our friendship. I knew it would never bloom again.

Our family had just returned home after serving as missionaries for four years in Russia. We still hadn't found a place to live, and my mother-in-law wanted to help by clearing out room for us in her unfinished basement—in the space our hundred boxes of lifetime treasures once occupied. She'd sold everything from hand-knit sweaters to homemade quilts. Only a forlorn crate of John Denver records and a bag of used mittens remained.

The money she handed me from the proceeds of the sale felt like blood money. I had waited for four years to unwrap my wedding china, greet my books and knickknacks, and slip back into my fine dresses. I couldn't believe I had put so much value on possessions, but I had, and now I was stripped.

Then I discovered she'd sold my Christmas ornaments. Every year since childhood my mother had given me a special gift at Christmas, a new and unique tree decoration that symbolized my life for that year, as well as her love for me. The box of heirloom ornaments I had so carefully packed had been sold for a dollar; my memories traded for the price of two cheeseburgers.

A ball of anger swelled in my heart. As I curled in my bed, sobbing out my grief, the ball gained momentum and became an avalanche, burying any tendril of love I had left for the mother of my husband.

Christmas loomed close and everywhere I saw beautiful, glittering Christmas trees. My tree was naked, its arms bare against the white lights. Where was the golden star with my name etched on it, or my tiny porcelain piano? How could she have done this? I felt entombed by my anger.

Sometime in January I realized I had missed the joy that came with the advent season. It couldn't penetrate my icy heart. I could barely look at my mother-in-law, despite the fact she begged my forgiveness.

"I didn't know how much this would hurt you," she said, weeping. "I was just trying to help."

I turned a stone heart to her plea. Frost laced the edges of our conversations and although I said the words, "I forgive you," my soul was an iceberg and I knew I had not.

In the past, my mother-in-law had been my greatest supporter, encouraging me, helping me pack, babysitting, and stuffing thousands of newsletters. She had cried with me, prayed for me, and tolerated me living in her home. I missed her and knew that if I wanted warmth to reenter my heart, I had to forgive her. But nothing could ease the ache of losing my memories. I avoided her and resolved to live with the pain.

When we moved away in February, I slammed the door on our relationship and didn't talk to her again.

Three days before the following Christmas, a parcel arrived at our front door, my name etched on the front. Mystified, I opened it. Then, surrounded by my family's astonished gasps, I unwrapped, one by one, a collection of angel ornaments. From bears with wings and halos to gilded crystal angels holding trumpets, I hung a choir of heavenly hosts on my tree. Finally, I sank into the sofa as my children examined the decorations, oohing and aahing.

SUSAN MAY WARREN is the award-winning author of seventeen novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill, and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After, won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep's Clothing, a thriller set in Russia, was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader's Choice award. A former missionary to Russia, Susan May Warren now writes suspense/romance and chick lit full-time from her home in northern Minnesota.

"Who's it from?" my husband asked. I retrieved the box, dug through the tissue, and unearthed a small card. Merry Christmas—Love, Mom was scrawled out in my mother-in-law's script. Tears burned my eyes and, as I let them free, my icy tomb of anger began to melt. My mother-in-law was not able to retrieve the past she had so carelessly discarded, but she was hoping to build a future, our future. And it would start with these angels, proclaiming the love and forgiveness that entered our world. If God could forgive me, who stole His Son's life, certainly I could forgive my mother-in-law for stealing my ... stuff.

Easter arrived and with it forgiveness finally flowered in my heart. We descended upon the in-laws for a visit and I wrapped my husband's mother in a teary embrace. I had lost the little stuffed bunnies my grandmother had knit for me, but I had gained something better—the fragrance of forgiveness, and the everlasting hope that love can warm the coldest heart.




Jeremiah 20:9 (NIV): But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.


For the first time in my life, I felt like Cinderella.

But first let me back up, because the dirt of my sins was embedded in my heart. I'd made far too many mistakes as a single mom. Too numerous to list and too bad to confess even to my best girlfriend. Failed marriages and kids who needed a role model had been cast aside in favor of my own selfishness. Then God picked me up, healed my wounds, and took my hand. We began to walk together. I still slipped, but not to the gutter of despair where I'd come from. My friends commented on the change, and I didn't hesitate to tell them where my happiness and determination came from.

I understood hurt in a big way. I remember standing at my kitchen window, saying, "God, if You ever want a man in my life again, You'll have to put him at my front door wearing a T-shirt that says so." I was so reverent.

Life went on. Problems rose and fell like the tides, but with God walking beside me, I wasn't swept away, lost and alone.

My youngest son loved youth choir at church, and the piano accompanist took an interest in him. With my permission, he took my son to events and entertainment that I couldn't afford. Soon he was taking two of my other sons. My oldest son was on his own, or he'd have tagged along too. After a few months, the man began inviting me along on their excursions. At first I declined because I wanted my sons to have a relationship with just him. But he encouraged me, and I began to be a part of the group. Many nights he stopped over to help the boys with their homework, and on Sundays he picked us up for church. I enjoyed his company, and we were friends—sort of a brother/sister relationship.

One July evening, the doorbell rang. There he stood, wearing a T-shirt that said "God Listens." I felt the heat flame my neck and face. I couldn't speak. Couldn't breathe. Until that moment, I'd forgotten about the irreverent message I'd sent heavenward a few years before. "No, God. Not him. He's not the right one. Have You checked his age? He's twelve years younger than I am, and he's never been married."

Naturally, I didn't tell anyone, certain God had made a mistake.

He called on a Saturday afternoon in early September. I was stenciling the ceiling of my living room, and we chatted for a while when he cleared his throat and said, "Why don't we get married? Everyone is talking about us anyway."

I nearly fell off the ladder.

That's when I knew God hadn't made a mistake. This man wasn't the one I would have selected. We were best friends, not potential spouses. After all, I could have been his babysitter. The whole idea was ludicrous, but my own choices for husbands had failed miserably. Maybe it was time I tried God—the God of second and third and fourth and however many chances we need to get something right.

We were married in November of that year. However, the story is not over. On our wedding day, we were to be married at the church office. No fuss. No frills. Just he and I and our sons. Upon my arrival, the parking lot was full. Folks got wind of the wedding and decided to show up. At the designated time, I walked to the pastor's office where my sons waited, but the groom wasn't there. The pastor smiled and said the groom couldn't be there, but he had a letter for me.

I was devastated.

Dear God, do not let him read a "dear John" letter in front of all these people.

The letter made me cry. Every sweet word was full of how he'd come to love each one of my sons and now me. He was excited about our future and would meet me at the altar. In fact, he had a carriage ready to drive us there—wherever "there" was.

DIANN MILLS believes her readers should "Expect an Adventure." She is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed novels. Currently she has over forty books in print and has sold a million and a half copies. DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and a mentor for the Christian Writers Guild. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops. DiAnn and her husband live in Houston, Texas.

The carriage happened to be our church bus, and no one knew the destination but the pastor and the best man who videotaped my every move. When the "carriage" pulled up in front of a two-story brick house with a sign leaning against the tree that welcomed me to our new home, I wept. My soon-to-be-husband had purchased this as our new home.

For the first time in my life, I felt like Cinderella.

Did I deserve any of this? Absolutely not. The blessings were far too numerous to count, and they continue. My point? God showed me true grace and mercy with my husband. My wedding day was a gift—a taste of heaven through the love of a godly man. I can only imagine eternity.

In November 2009, we will be married sixteen years. And the blessings continue.




Daniel 12:3 (NRSV): Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Pushing Back the Darkness

God invites us to step into the darkness to see how bright our lamp can shine through His power. A light is never brighter than when it is shining in the darkest of nights. Leaving our lamp on the table with all the other lamps will never be as satisfying as allowing our lamp to fulfill what it was created to do—shine!

My friends Trudy and Lia came to my office to tell me about a new ministry to women in the adult entertainment industry. They invited me to join them and others in going into the nightclubs in Birmingham to encourage and minister to the exotic dancers there.

My first thoughts of this new venture of bringing Christ's light into a dark place were of the moral and social issues, what my husband might think, what my mother would say, whether my pastor would understand, how my church would respond. Yet, I could not let go of the voice within that prompted me, If you don't go, who will? If you shouldn't go, who should?

Although I had some reservations, I knew I had to go. I enlisted three prayer warriors who committed to pray that day, and on a Tuesday afternoon I met Trudy and Lia at a church near the club we intended to visit. We prayed intensely and then went into the club.

The bouncer met us at the door. Trudy and Lia had been to the club a few times before, so they introduced me, and the three of us went in. The music was playing as the bouncer walked us to a table away from where most of the people gathered. At first I couldn't see much of anything. My eyes focused slowly and my gaze turned toward the only spots of light in the room.

There I first saw the reason I had come: beautiful women dancing, removing the few pieces of clothing they wore in response to the tips placed in their g-strings.

Spiritual gloom sought to strangle my resolve. The darkness closed in and I had thoughts of fleeing. But that morning a dear friend had held my hands and prayed, "Lord, give her a holy cool." As I remembered her prayer, I realized that the light—the light of the world, Christ Himself—was yet available in this dark place and ready for someone through whom He could shine.

Now, nearly ten years later, this same bouncer knows us well. The darkness is as formidable as it had been at the beginning, and still tries to blind me to the light. The darkness growls, These women don't care that you come ... You don't have their attention when you're here ... You can't break the cycle ... You don't have anything to offer them ... Remember the drugs, the alcohol, the lack of modesty, the language ... You can't help ... Nobody cares ...

Yet someone did; it was Heather who cared most recently. "I know I'm better than this," she said as I stood beside her in the dressing room. At first I was surprised to have this young woman I'd never met begin to speak as though we were longtime friends. She reached into her bag and pulled out the photos of her children and the award she had received in her college class for the highest grade. She talked about her goals to finish school.

And then she said it. "I don't want to dance anymore."

I hadn't done anything in that dressing room, except stand there praying. I hadn't even been talking with anyone. But Christ was at work. He knew where I needed to be and just who it was who was reaching out to find Him. My presence was evidence to Heather that the light of the world was a breath away. She was seeking the One who is the light that "shines in the darkness" (John 1:5). What Heather didn't know was the struggle I was going through that evening, trying to decide whether or not to keep coming. The darkness seemed so powerful that I wondered if my effort to hold out the light that is Christ was making any difference for these women. I had planned that this was going to be my last night.

Then Heather spoke. "I know I'm better than this." He was shining in the darkness. His light was pushing back the darkness. He was doing what only His light can do, and all I had to do was show up.

I would never have seen what the light who is Christ can do in the darkest of places if I had refused to go where His light shines the brightest. I've seen His light shining with hues I hadn't known were possible, breaking into lives with eternal transformation. All He asked was for someone to be there when a young woman cried out, "I know I'm better than this."

Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever (Daniel 12:3).

ANDREA JONES MULLINS has been publisher/director of New Hope Publishers since July 2004. She has led mission teams throughout the world, recently completed her doctor of ministry at Bakke Graduate University, and continues to minister to women who dance in the Birmingham nightclubs. She and her husband, Mike, live in Birmingham, Alabama. They have one daughter and three grandchildren.


Excerpted from Pearl Girls by Margaret McSweeney. Copyright © 2009 Margaret McSweeney. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Susan May Warren: Angels of Forgiveness
DiAnn Mills: Cinderella
Andrea Jones Mullins: Pushing Back the Darkness
Nicole Braddock Bromley: The Secret is Out!
Dianne Neal Matthews: The Ties that Hold
Rebecca Ondov: The Darkest Night
Brenda Neuhaus: Strength in Weakness
Michelle McKinney Hammond: Fruit for Thought
Jami Kirkbride: A Safe Embrace
Marcia Lathrop: Man's Refuse, God's Jewel
Lucinda Secrest McDowell: If We Are Willing, God is More than Able
Lisa Jefferson: A Life-Changing Phone Call
Mary M. Byers: The Miracle at the Post Office
Shannon Woodward: The Gift
Kendra Smiley: Half Empty/Half Full
Crystal Bowman: Little Ol' Me
Felicia Middlebrooks Hill: Saying Good-bye to My Friend Regina
Virelle Kidder: Running to the Finish Line
Heather Gemmen Wilson: A Secret Club
Nancy Sebastian Meyer: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Rita Canning: Rainbows: The Language of God
Jane Hampton Cook: My Weight Loss--A Heart Change
Bonnie St. John: Let God and Let Go
Lori Kasbeer: Finding God in the Waves of CHange and Brokenness
Jennifer Schuchmann: Getting Lost and Found
Cynthia K. Stiverson: "What Goes Around Comes Around"
Kimberley Woodhouse: As Seen on TV!
Karen Granger: Sacrificed Dreams
Pat Ennis: Abandonment to Hope
Kathi Macias: Learning to Set Up Chairs
Brittney Thomas: Learning to Dance
Kristin Billerbeck: I Just Don't Fit In
Deb Kalmbach: To God Be the Glory
Tricia Goyer: God's Plan...Not Mine
Meg Wilson: Hope After Betrayal
Shaunti Feldhahn: God's Generosity
Camy Tang: Good for Me
Carol Kesner Ruhter: Releasing the Rope
Debbie Macomber: From a Marriage on the Rocks to One Built on The Rock
Elizabeth Musser: The Treasure in Our Suffering
Rachael Phillips: Future Perfect--Who, Me?
Melanie Talbot Montgomery: God Stayed with Me
Robin Jones Gunn: My Capsized Life
Sharon Thompson Rhea: Marissa and the Bear
Nancy Moser: Waiting and Delighting
Stacie Ruth Stoelting: Pain Forms Pearls
Sarah Chapman McManus: Hope Lives
Michele Guinness: Finding My Father
Dawn Meehan: Time
Mary E. DeMuth: Spill Your Guths to God First
Melody Carlson: Perfect Delusions
Carolyn Rhea: Thy Will Be Done?
Maureen Lang: Proof of Strength... It's in the Genes
Jenny Tarter: No End in Sight
Trish Perry: Bigger than Fear
Patricia Crisafulli: As Tough as Pearls
Nanette Swick: "God Has Heard"
Marti Wibbels: A Season of Sorrows, A Season of Hope
Wendy Alsup: My Good and His Glory
Danielle E. Crowell: Miracles and Healing
Deborah Raney: Abba, Our Father
Anna G. Joujan: "On This Day"
Karla Porter: A Birth and a ReBirth
Julie Scudder Dearyan: Looking Backward for Forward Faith
Chris Shenk: Everyday Pearls

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer


    Margaret McSweeny says this about the book, "Perhaps you have heard the story of the oyster that unexpectedly gets a piece of sand stuck inside it's shell. Nacre coats this irritant and creates a pearl. Like the oyster, we encounter unexpected grit in our every day lives" illness, loss, disappointment, pain changes.and the list goes on. However God's nacre of love and grace covers our pain and transforms us into precious pearls. Pearl Girls!

    .As women, we are connected through our shared experiences. Together, we create an iridescent pearl necklace, with demands and stress of everyday life, many women become secluded and disconnected from one another and from God!...The ladies in this book and I connect to make a difference in the world. All proceeds from this book go to two charities."

    This is a very unique and special book that gathers authors I've seen on the book shelf at my job, interviewed or reviewed their book on my blog. It was very sobering to read many of these authors' stories. I'm so thankful to have received a review copy of this book. The stories in this book are honest, heartfelt and inspirational. More proof that we are all a work in progress. God does His best work in our lives in times of troubles in community and the body of Christ!

    Elizabeth Musser states in her story, "I truly believe that God never wastes the pain in our lives.Pain called me to God and made me completely dependent on Him. God gave me the strength to carry on!", author of The Swan House.

    Robin Jones Gunn author best know for the Sister Chicks series said, "Yes, my life capsized. But I was being carried along on the unforced rhythm of God's grace."

    Many of the authors in Pearl Girls share their struggles and some very personal situations they encountered. I loved how vulnerable and honest there stories were and how they acted or reacted in having to trust God completely in their crisis! God deals with us and loves us in a very personal way. He is involved in every detail of our lives, their stories show this in a real way.

    "God was a lifeline, He was holding my hand, I clung to God's hand like I'd never clung before. I knew that without Him, I would drown-simply to escape the pain." Melody Carlson.

    You'll be encouraged as you read these stories. I was.

    Nora St.Laurent - Finding Hope Through Fiction

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  • Posted September 21, 2009

    Stellar stories of growing through adversity

    Pearl Girls edited by Margaret McSweeney is an moving book filled with stories to encourage your heart. A pearl girl is any woman who has turned the grit of her life into something beautiful, and each one of the authors of the stories within this book is a true gem. The stories run the gamut from hilarious to heart-breaking to hopeful. It's not the kind of book you want to zip through in one reading, but to take time to savor each story and take in its full message. Stories of rape, abuse, and depression all offer hope to readers that there is beauty on the other side, beauty offered by God, friends, and family. Some stories will give readers perspective on their own lives, others offer comfort in the knowledge that we are not alone, but all will touch the heart. All proceeds will benefit a safe house in the Chicago suburbs and women and children with AIDS in Africa.

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