Jesus, Halloween, and a Little Book I Wrote

LetsShineHDDo you find Halloween unsettling?

Scanning e-mail one morning a couple of years ago, I saw a link to a roundup of viewpoints about observing Halloween in Christian families. In one of the entries I found a reference to my little book Let’s Shine Jesus’ Light on Halloween.

Growing up, our family went from one extreme to the other on how we celebrated Halloween. With our own family to think about now, my husband and I have changed our opinions on a few things over the years, but the overall thought is the same – we want Christ to be the center of whatever we do. We participate in a fall festival at our church, but don’t go gather candy from neighbors. We do carve pumpkins, but we always do one that is based on the book Let’s Shine Jesus’ Light on Halloween and The Pumpkin Patch Parable, and focus on what the light of Jesus and what He has done for us. We can’t avoid all the decorations that we see in the weeks leading up to Halloween, but we can talk about the scary things together. As believers we can still share and be the light of Christ during a holiday that is focused on darkness.

–Jolanthe, blogger at homeschoolcreations.net

When I was growing up, Halloween festivities were, well, festive.

Actually, where I grew up—Anaheim, California—had the largest Halloween celebration in the country for a while. Schools closed, children painted downtown storefront windows and marched in costume in a morning parade, and that evening an even larger assembly of floats, marching bands, and drill teams paraded through town.

On Halloween night, dusk hushed the little orange-grove-turned-subdivision street we lived on, and then, as porch lights and jack-o-lanterns glimmered one by one, costumed children ventured down walkways and onto sidewalks. The entire neighborhood transformed for two hours. It was magical.

And at times a little scary.

But outwardly at least, Halloween wasn’t nearly as dark and violent as it can be today.

Still, some families want to give their children the fun of carving pumpkins and dressing up and going house to house at night (or store to store in the mall). They can’t prevent their children from seeing every one of the spookier outdoor displays (even our wonderful Cincinnati Zoo decorates on the scary side much more than I would like, especially for the littlest kids).

These families focus on the fun of appearing in wholesome costumes; they talk with their children about the reasons they don’t decorate with witches and ghosts.

They aren’t naive about the realities of the underside of Halloween and they avoid them, confident in the greater power of the One they belong to as Christians.

That’s the spirit of Let’s Shine Jesus Light on Halloween.

Halloween is jack-o-lanterns, costumes, and candy on a dark and spooky night, but Jesus is the light of the world! 

I love this little book, and I’m thankful to hear that my words and Rusty Fletcher’s art did and do make a difference!

The board book version is out of print, but the Happy Day version is still available from Tyndale House Publishers, who purchased the entire Happy Day line from Standard Publishing several years ago. You can also find the book on amazon.com.

An earlier version of this post appeared in 2013.
– Diane

Books by the Banks 2015

More than 150 authors signing books in one room. A kids’ zone packed with activities, performers, and readings. Panels with authors to enlighten and encourage writers and readers. Super helpful volunteers everywhere. And lots more.

Last weekend Cincinnati’s convention center hosted the 9th annual Books by the Banks festival, and I got to be a part of it!

Here I am with my tablemate, illustrator Christina Wald.

I’ve never seen so many book lovers in one place, at one time, for so long. The place bustled all day long, and the cash registers too. People bought armloads of books! Joseph-Beth Booksellers took care of all book ordering and selling.

BBB2BBB3BBB4Curious George took time out to say hello to several authors.

Books by the Banks is the first book festival I’ve attended as an author. I loved the opportunity to meet families and children in person and introduce them to my books. (One little guy said, “Look, Mom. A book about Jesus!”)

I’m hoping to go back!

You can learn more about Books by the Banks here.

 

 

– Diane

The Book I Bought for October: Duck Commander Devotions for Kids

61E1i9re4uLChildren’s books written by celebrities usually don’t impress me. But if your kids are familiar with the Duck Dynasty family (and even if they’re not), they will love Duck Commander Devotions for Kids.

And you will too.

The 100+ devotions are a good mix of focusing on God (who he is and what he does) and on our response to him (the actions that he says are right). Mother-and-daughter writing team Chrys Howard and Korie Robertson explain difficult concepts on a child’s level with great clarity.

Each devotion provides a Scripture, a humorous story or about someone in the Robertson family, a well-worded prayer, and a “Duck Commander in Action” section with additional application or activities.

The book’s design has lots of kid appeal, and Holly Conger’s illustrations–from the alligator end papers to the colorful, contemporary childhood scenes on every page–are just wonderful.

I passed up purchasing this one several times this year, but I’m REALLY glad I bought it and can recommend it to you now. (If you visit the book’s page on amazon.com, you can see some of the devotions and listen to a sample of the audio book too!)

Each month I buy a book to support retailers and other authors and to recommend to my readers. You can find this year’s picks for JanuaryFebruary, March,  April , May, June, July, August, and September at those links and find a roundup of the books I bought for 2014 here.

– Diane

Sweet!

Sweet. It’s how we describe a great deal, an exciting adventure, or a plan that comes together. It’s what we crave sometimes … sugary, gooey goodness. It makes me think of newborn babies, toddlers exploring the world, and cuddly baby animals too.

220px-Sweetest_Day_Editorial_(1922)Sweet also has its own day … Sweetest Day, the third Saturday in October, an unofficial national holiday originated in 1921 by twelve Cleveland, OH, candymakers. The Cleveland Plain Dealer announced the date for 1922 and recounted the first event. More than 20,000 boxes of candy were distributed to “newsboys, orphans, old folks, and the poor.”

Somewhere along the years, the greeting card companies wanted in. Now Sweetest Day is kind of like Valentine’s Day in the fall, with 80 percent of all Sweetest Day cards having a romantic theme.

But I like this description of Sweetest Day:

“An occasion which offers all of us an opportunity to remember the sick, aged and orphaned, but also friends, relatives and associates whose helpfulness and kindness we have enjoyed.”

This year’s Sweetest Day is Saturday, October 17. And if you’re wondering what gift you might give to someone, especially a child, here’s an idea to consider.

smallSweetestToddlerThe Sweetest Story Bible for Toddlers is a 32-page board book with a padded cover. The pages and the cover have rounded corners–no danger of little ones getting poked in the eye! And, of course, it’s very pink!

small SSB(Just like the original, The Sweetest Story Bible: Sweet Thoughts and Sweet Words for Little Girls, is pink. There’s also a deluxe edition with Roma Downey reading the 40 stories on two CDs.)

The Sweetest Story Bible for Toddlers includes eight stories, condensed from the originals to keep up with the shorter attention spans of toddlers (let’s say ages 1-3, but the book makes a sweet baby gift too!). Illustrations by Sheila Bailey from the original book fill most of each page.

Stories are “A Perfect World,” “Safe in a Big Boat,” “Saving Baby Moses,” “Brave Queen Esther,” “Born in a Stable,” “Let the Children Come,” “The Saddest Day,” and “Alive Again!”

You can view a sampler and find purchasing options here.

October 17 is also the day I’ll be signing Words to Dream On at Books by the Banks in Cincinnati, along with an amazing lineup of nearly 100 other authors for children, adults, and teens. Pretty sweet!

– Diane

The Books I Bought for September: Get to Know King David and Get to Know Mary

For kids who enjoy biographies and other nonfiction, author Nancy I. Sanders and Zonderkidz have put together a four-book series about the lives of King David, Jesus, Mary (Jesus’ mother), and the apostle Paul.

David      Mary     Jesus     Paul

Nancy Sanders has written more than 80 books and has always delighted in making history come alive for young readers. She puts that gift to work in this full-color series recommended for ages 6-10.

Texts are written at a mid second-grade reading level, making some complex events more understandable for children (and more appropriate too, in some cases). Chapters are short, making it easy to read just a portion of the book at one sitting. Photos and easy-to-read maps add interest and aid understanding.

Four simple icons—for Bible Hero, Eyewitness Account, Did You Know?, and Word Bank—alert readers to additional explanations and information throughout. And each book features an illustrated time line, glossary, and Scripture references plus other sources of information.

I chose and purchased the books about Mary and King David, but all four books in this series would be good choices for a home or church library.

Each month I buy a book to support retailers and other authors and to recommend to my readers. You can find this year’s picks for JanuaryFebruary, March,  April , May, June, July, and August at those links and find a roundup of the books I bought for 2014 here.

– Diane

My Birthday Giveaway Winners!

Thank you so much to everyone who entered my giveaway last week!

Prize2Receiving the prize package is Maryann! She’ll be getting two signed copies of Say & Pray Bible, a $25 Target gift card, and a Melissa and Doug animal sounds puzzle.

Diana M. and Terri will each receive a signed copy of Say & Pray Bible.

I’ll be contacting these winners by email for their mailing addresses.

Congratulations!

And as promised, for each new subscriber to my newsletter during the giveaway, I’ll also be making a donation to Compassion International’s Rescue Mothers and Babies fund. Together, we’re doing a little something to help moms and babies in need!

– Diane

A Birthday Giveaway That Helps Little Ones in Need

Prize2Today is my birthday, and well, … it’s one of the big ones! So to celebrate, I’m giving the gifts!

Gift #1, a special giveaway for newsletter subscribers. (If you haven’t subscribed yet, it’s easy. Just use the box at the left.)

One winner chosen at random will receive a $25 Target gift card plus a Melissa & Doug sound puzzle and two autographed copies of Say & Pray Bible: First Words, Stories, and Prayers, my new Bible storybook written and designed especially for babies, toddlers, and young preschoolers.

Two additional winners will each receive a signed copy of the book!

DavidSings

If you’re already part of my newsletter list, just tell me “I’d love to win” in a comment below to enter the giveaway.

Or use the box at the left to join and then leave a comment below to enter the giveaway.

But wait, there’s more!

Gift #2. For every new subscriber during the giveaway, I’ll donate $1 to Compassion International’s Rescue Babies and Mothers fund, up to $100. This special Compassion fund assists mothers and babies in developing countries, where children are 10 times more likely to die before age 5 than children born in modern nations. So joining my newsletter list during the giveaway is also joining with me to make a gift to little ones in need!

The giveaway opens with this post and closes at 11:59 pm EDT on September 19. Open to residents of the US only. I’ll announce the winner in a post on September 21.

And thank you for helping me celebrate my birthday and helping babies and mothers in need!

– Diane

Praying for Our Grandchildren

DSCN4658Grandparents’ Day of Prayer is coming up September 13. It’s a good day to remember the impact of faithful prayer for grandchildren and to join with others to actually pray. You can learn more at the Grandparenting with a Purpose website.

Grandparenting with a Purpose is a book and ministry of Lilllian Penner, and her site offers lots of prayer tips for grandparents.

You also can keep up with Lillian on her Facebook page,
https://www.facebook.com/GrandparentingWithAPurpose

Throughout each year, I try to pray often for my grandchildren, something like this:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for my grandchildren! May they know and walk in your Word, and may it prepare them to choose Jesus early in their lives. May they follow him all the days of their lives.

Give them discernment as they grow, and spare them experimentation that would pull them away from you. Help them stand. But when they do fall, as they will, may they quickly and gladly receive your forgiveness and mercy and go forward again.

May they always shine brightly for you. Give them large, loving hearts. Guide them as they develop and use the abilities and talents you’ve placed in them for the good of the world. May they love your church and learn to use their spiritual gifts for the good of the Body.

Keep them healthy and strong. Protect them every day by your power and by the wisdom of your Word.

Guide their marriage and career decisions. Bless their future spouses.

Bless their parents with your wisdom and mercy too. May they always look to you to know how to live and how to love and raise these precious ones! Amen.

This year we’ll have all four of our grandboys (and their moms and dads and one big dog) here in town and at our house with us on this special day.

Which ALSO is the day we’re celebrating my next big birthday. (I will let you guess which one!)

PS. Grandchildren can be big fans of their grandparents too!SolAsherSAP

– Diane

The Book I Bought for August: Lots of Jokes for Kids

ZJokesCoverSummer’s nearly gone.

A new school year’s beginning—a happy but often challenging time for families.

Sometimes you just need to laugh.

And the grand-boys are coming! Many days in September we’ll have all four running around our house. The eight-year-old especially enjoys jokes—hearing them, reading them, telling them.

So I had to pick up this bright new collection of jokes from Zonderkidz!

The cover says 250 jokes, but the title page says 500. I did a little counting, and I think 500 is the right number.

You’ll find Q&A jokes, knock-knock jokes, and tongue twisters here, and funny word play—lots and lots of word play (which is actually educational, right?)

What do you get when you cross a parrot and a centipede?
A walkie-talkie

What kind of light did Noah install on the ark?
Floodlights

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
A little old lady.
A little old lady who?
I didn’t know you could yodel.

Six slippery snails slowly slid seaward.

There’s an entire chapter full of animal jokes, plus a bonus section that includes riddles, with the answers upside down at the bottom of the page.

I’m tall when I’m young and short when I’m old. What am I?
A candle

I’m looking forward to having fun with grandson #1 and this little book!

Each month I buy a book to support retailers and other authors and to recommend to my readers. You can find this year’s picks for JanuaryFebruary, March,  April , May, June, and July at those links and find a roundup of the books I bought for 2014 here.

– Diane

The Right Way to Praise Children

Sol2We speak thousands of words in a day. With many of them, we try to encourage a positive self-image in our children or grandchildren:

“Good job, buddy” when he successfully builds a tower with blocks.

“You did great!” when she adds the final puzzle piece.

“You’re so strong” when he makes it across the crossing bars.

“You’re a good helper” when he hands you clean flatware from the dishwasher.

But what if our praises have an effect exactly opposite to what we want to accomplish? What if we’re not helping children feel good about themselves at all?

Researchers, parenting experts, and educators all suggest there are perils in too much praise and the wrong kind of praise.

We give children too much praise when we do it almost without thinking and when we give it whether anything praiseworthy has actually happened.

Are participation trophies given with loud cheers to every kid on the team truly deserved praise? NFL linebacker James Harrison didn’t think so, and sent his 6- and 8-year-olds’ participation trophies back.

“While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy,” Harrison said in a post on Instagram. “I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best.”

Children begin to tune out praise when it is insincere—and much frequent, offhand praise is just that. The painting really isn’t amazing and beautiful, and the child knows it. At the same time, children can become “praise junkies,” needing their parents’ constant approval rather than valuing their own accomplishments and depending on their own judgments. The result is a child who believes worth is tied to performance and who fears failure—and becomes reluctant to try new things or face challenges.

Children DO need encouragement and praise—but let’s make it the right kind. Experts say to praise the process, not the person.

Person praise focuses on the child’s traits, like intelligence or musical ability—“You’re a good boy”; “You’re so smart”; “You’re really good at this.”

Process praise focuses on the child’s effort and output and doesn’t make a judgment. It gives the child feedback with specific information—“You used a lot of colors in your drawing”; “I can see you are working hard to build your sandcastle”; “You helped your sister up when she fell. That was kind.”

Person praise reduces motivation; children begin to feel that their abilities are fixed and there is no reason to try to go beyond them. The Bible is right when it says, “A flattering mouth causes ruin” (Proverbs 2:28)!

Process praise encourages children to take on challenges, confront weaknesses, and grow. It also communicates family values.

I’ve never counted the number of times I say “Good job, buddy” when I’m with one of my grandsons, but I know it’s a lot. Changing this habit is going to take some work!

– Diane

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