Like all children do, our grandboys are growing fast. This year we won’t be seeing the Berg boys (ages 9, 4, and nearly 2) during the holidays, but I came up with a fun way to stay connected anyway!
Tomorrow I’ll mail off the first of 25 envelopes for them to open each day. Inside they’ll find activity pages, decorations and simple crafts, small gifts and treats, and even some dollar bills.
To get them thinking about others, there are also Christmas note cards they can draw or write in and then send! (I’ve included Christmas stamps too.)
I’ve included both Christian and general aspects of the holiday in my selections, as well as taking into account the boys’ ages, interests, and abilities. Most days there’s something for each one individually, but some days they’ll need to work together.
I don’t know where this idea came from, but I’ve had fun with it so far, and I hope the boys have fun with it too. I’ll let you know. And maybe it’s an idea you can use or adapt, to stay in touch with your faraway family. If you try it, I’d love to hear from you!
First grandson’s first Thanksgiving celebration, 2007
Scroll through social media in November and you’ll find an abundance of thankfulness posts. So appropriate, you might think, since we’re gearing up to celebrate Thanksgiving Day here in America.
But I wonder.
Most of these posts express gratitude for personal blessings. Mine have too. Here’s one of my favorite Thanksgiving photos. Since 2007, I’ve been especially grateful for my grandboys!
However, the American Thanksgiving holiday began as a day of thanks throughout our nation for national blessings. (Officially, anyway. The Pilgrims and native Americans had kicked things off a number of years earlier.)
Here’s President Washington’s 1789 proclamation, with a few lines highlighted in bold because they seem especially important in these times of division, disagreement, and disrespect.
Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress,
on October 3, 1789
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
You can find President Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation here and President Roosevelt’s, in 1938, here.
Thanking God for His goodness to us personally is always appropriate. Hearing our children thank Him is always wonderful.
But this year, this Thanksgiving, could we all thank God for his blessings on America, and pray that we, our nation, and our leaders will turn to Him and live each day aware of the responsibilities and actions our national blessings require?
I kept the TV on and my phone close last Friday. Hurricane Matthew was moving up the Florida coast and aiming at Savannah, Georgia, where my oldest daughter, her husband, and their three young children live.
They’ve been in their house—their very first house—less than a year. With tall oaks all around—the type with wide but shallow roots—and a river just streets away.
One tree fell when Hermine visited in September. Aware of the danger, they had already moved in with friends in another town.
For Matthew, Savannah and Chatham County evacuated.
On Thursday, my daughter and her husband tied down the trampoline in the backyard. They rolled up rugs and got as much furniture as they could off the floors and the flat TV off the wall. Then they packed food and clothes, locked the doors, and drove away, and moved in with their friends again.
Matthew kept coming. Warnings got louder. No one felt safe, and with their friends my daughter and her husband decided to move further inland on Friday. God provided a place three hours outside Savannah, where everyone arrived late Friday afternoon.
They would be OK. But the house? Their friends’ house? No one knew.
I went to bed Friday night at 11:30 and set an alarm for 1:30 a.m. High tide and Hurricane Matthew would hit Savannah at the same time, around 2. The Weather Channel kept me company as I waited.
It was bad. Everyone knew it would be. But how bad? That would have to wait until morning.
A neighbor who didn’t evacuate sent word to my daughter: No flooding on their street! Then, pictures. A giant water oak had smashed the trampoline and missed the house by inches. Later in the day, video. Savannah was battered and shaken, but still a beautiful city.
Glad and grateful our family was OK and their house hadn’t flooded, I still felt uneasy. And I knew why.
Photo: Mission Aviation Fellowship
Photo: Global Empowerment Mission
Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti earlier in the week. No place to escape. Thousands of homes and nearly a thousand lives gone. Crops and livestock devastated and dead. No big media and complex to document moment by moment happenings and get warnings out. Not much news at all, really, about the horrible, extreme need.
And other than a few quick prayers, I hadn’t done a thing to help,
Life seems so unfair. It is unfair. I don’t understand it. But I can help. We can help.
Here are links to two ministries I know you can trust to handle the resources you share responsibly and well:
Do you have a new or beginning reader at your house? Do you know a child who wants to “read it myself” but isn’t ready to tackle the amount of text in the Bible storybooks you’ve been reading to him or her?
The Young Reader’s Bible is the best book you could possibly give that child! (B&H Kids,6.8 x 1.3 x 7.8 inches, 448 pages)
Yes, I’m biased. I helped to develop this book nearly 25 years ago as an editor at Standard Publishing. Now the publishing rights belong to B&H Kids, and they just released the book in a new size with a new cover design.
I’m biased, but I’m also right. Why?
• True easy-reader format. Large type, serif font, and short lines. Each line is a complete unit of thought.
• Simple yet artful story texts. The 70 stories, which move from Genesis through Revelation, capture the important basic essence of each biblical account. They read aloud well; you won’t tire of hearing these stories.
Writing easy-reader stories (remember the Frog & Toad books?) is a special skill. Authors Carol Reinsma and Bonnie Bruno were pioneers as they wrote these easy-reader-style Bible stories, and they did a masterful job.
• Special features like those found in school textbooks (and grownup Bibles): introductions to the Old and New Testaments, maps, timelines, a glossary, and an article, “How Did We Get the Bible?”
• Expressive, noncartoony illustrations by Jenifer Schneider.
I’m so thankful for all the talents poured into this book when it was first developed, and just as thankful to those who grasped its value and made it available again to a new generation of readers.
My oldest grandson started fourth grade today. I guess the back-to-school season is more than officially here, and that means fall is just around the corner.
The fall season has always signaled anew start for me, a time for new routines. For you too?
Maybe you’ll be joining a new Bible study group as fall begins where you live, or starting a brand-new group. Maybe you’re looking for a new study guide for yourself or your small group. May I make a recommendation?
I was blessed in 2000 to join a women’s Bible study group formed to read through the Bible in a year. Although I’d been a Christian for many years and had read many parts of the Bible and used the Bible in my work as an editor, I had never actually read the entire Bible. I joined the group, and it changed my life in so many ways.
Out of that read-through-the-Bible experience, which I’ve repeated in various forms most years since then, I wrote A Woman’s Guide to Reading the Bible in a Year: A Life-Changing Journey into the Heart of God (Bethany House). There’s also a popular e-book version.
The reading plan in the book—just three chapters a day—alternates Old Testament and New Testament books. With this reading plan, you’ll never feel “stuck” in the Old Testament, and you’ll make Old Testament and New Testament connections more quickly than if you read straight through from Genesis to Revelation.
With each week’s readings, you’ll find just a few short paragraphs of background information and one question to answer each week: How did you experience God’s heart in this week’s reading?
The focus all year is simply on getting to know God better though His Word. You can start at any time of year and use any Bible version.
Use the book on your own, or join with some others to read and get together to talk about what you’ve read. We can’t lead our children into a relationship with God that we don’t have. But getting to know God through His wonderful Word is a forever gift we can give our children and ourselves.
With my grandchildren in two states, 750 miles apart, I don’t get to enjoy them together more than once or twice a year. But whenever they are together—even if I’m not present—the order of the day is “Get a picture of all four boys!”
Well, at first there were only three.
Then there were four. Here they are last summer, all recovering from a stomach bug at the beach.
And recently the cousins wowed Savannah—they were even color coordinated!
Yes, I love being a grandmother! [UPDATE: Now there are FIVE grandboys!!! Quite an adventure for this mom of two girls!]
Each Sunday afternoon I make certain I’ve got enticing lunch choices and “special treats” for the Reed, who comes here on Mondays. And in between trips to Savannah, I stash surprises to mail the other three.
We’ve got a stockpile of toys and books in several places around the house, and a little chest of drawers and a toddler bed in the back room.
And a trampoline in the backyard.
And a sandbox. And a water table.
And a climbing/sliding playset with a swing.
And yesterday we picked up a second-hand train table.
I could go on.
But here’s the thing: the best part of being a grandmother is the opportunity to leave a legacy. A faith legacy. An example of hope and trust in Jesus, set among a thousand memories of unconditional love.
It’s the parents’ responsibility and privilege to nurture faith in their children first, of course. But how wonderful of God to allow grandparents to have our children’s backs, to support and pray and love our children’s children! It’s an opportunity for our faith to grow and we help to grow faith in our grandchildren.
That’s why Mary Manz Simon’s new book appealed to me as soon as I saw it.Faith Footprints with My Grandchild: 52 Devotions, Activities, and Reflections would make a great Mother’s Day gift for any grandmother who wants to leave a faith legacy. It’s a year of short weekly messages based on Scripture and Mary’s own grandmothering experiences, faith-building activities to do with your grandchild (even faraway ones), and prayers.
There’s also generous space for journaling to respond to prompts like “When I think about my grandchild’s future, I . . .” and “Knowing that my grandchild is a gift from God to our family means . . . .”
Grandmothering can be challenging at times. Mary acknowledges rocky family relationships, resistant grandkids, and every grandmother’s own personal imperfections, and she encourages us all to persevere with faith and grace.
A grandchild is a gift from God, and the time we give a grandchild is a gift we give ourselves, Mary says. God gives us another opportunity to view life through the eyes of a child, and each day becomes new again. We move further along our own faith journey with Jesus as we seek to leave a legacy of faith for our grandchildren.
Faith Footprints with My Grandchild
Broadstreet Publishing 5 x 0.4 x 7 inches, 160 pages
Dr. Mary Manz Simon is a speaker, parenting specialist, educator, and an award-winning author with more than three million books sold. Mary and her husband have been married more than forty years and have three adult children and five grandsons. Visit her at www.marymanzsimon.com.
Carol McAdams Moore loves Jesus, books, and kids—and connecting kids to Jesus through the books she writes.
Her innovative preteen devotional for boys, Dare U to Open This Book, won the 2015 Selah Award for Children’s Literature. There’s an equally engaging girls’ devotional too, titled Just Sayin’.
Carol’s a wife, mom, and soon-to-be grandma! She’s a teacher and a thinker.
I’m happy to have this talented author here today!
Carol, how long have you been writing, and how did you get started?
In the Christian and education markets for about 12 years, but I started writing for my students long before that. Originally, I was a teacher of the hearing impaired. At that time, it was difficult to find books and articles that were a good match for my elementary students’ interests and their reading level. The college program I attended at Illinois State University had taught me to rewrite things already in print, and I got lots of on-the-job training in writing and rewriting.
What impact has teaching had on your writing?
I am surrounded by preteen readers all day. I see the kinds of books they read and the books they toss back on the shelf. I also have the awesome opportunity to see the things that are huge to kids —what things excite them, worry them, and challenge them.
Why did you decide to write about your faith?
My faith has always been huge in my life. In fact, I was called to exercise my faith as a college freshman. It is a long story, but I wanted with all my heart to teach children with hearing impairments. I almost missed that opportunity because of some well-intended advice. I had to wait two years to see if I would be accepted into the program I wanted. THAT was a time of much prayer, soul-searching, and waiting faith.
Now I think that God actually used the well-intended advice to test my heart for sincerity in serving Him and for me to grow in my faith. I want young readers to grow in their faith, too. I pray that my writing will influence them to do that.
Where did you get the idea for your devotional books?
One day my students were returning from a Scholastic Book Fair. I noticed that they all had a similar style of book, something that allowed them to write or doodle their responses to questions. They were so engaged with the books, we actually cancelled reading class that day so they could spend more time reading for fun.
I wondered why we didn’t have devotional books that engaged preteens in the same way and decided I wanted to write devotionals in the same format. Zonderkidz agreed with me, and in the fall of 2014, the books came out.
What do you most enjoy about writing for young people?
I love to see young readers explore ideas for themselves through reading. When kids are 10 to 12, they start to be challenged by their peers to follow the group instead of what they have been taught at home and at church. I love writing things that early readers, preteens, or teens can read on their own and be encouraged to grow in their faith and stand strong when they are challenged.
What do you hope to be doing in five years?
I hope to write more books for children and teens. Besides devotionals, I’d like to try my hand at writing fiction. In fact, I have some titles in both those genres that are in the works right now.
That’s fabulous! When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
I love to spend time with my family. We have a very shy cat named Luna and a happy, energetic dog named Bear. I also love growing mammoth sunflowers that peek over our fence to tell the neighbors hi.
Sounds wonderful. I’d love to pay a visit and see those sunflowers!
Find my 5-star review of Carol’s devotionals here.
A quick trip to visit the out-of-town grandboys = time to use the I AM: 40 Reasons to Trust God free printables!
The coloring pages occupied Asher while Solomon and I organized the I AM matching game.
Sol cut out the squares with the meanings of all forty names in the book.
Then he chose a square, read the meaning, and hunted for the name matching that description on the printable charts. I explained that one chart is Old Testament names and one is New Testament.
It took some thought …
When we made a match, we put the cutout square on top of the name on the chart.
We talked about why I AM is a name for God and for Jesus, looked up some of the stories in the book for clues, learned some things, and had fun! We only got halfway through the names before supper, so we’ll have to get in another session before it’s time for G and Bopba to return home!
Allia Zobel Nolan is an internationally published author of 200 children’s and adult trade titles. Her books reflect her two main passions, God and cats.
Allia is one of my favorite people! Her books include such varied titles as Whatever Is Lovely; Thank You, God, from Kids Around the World; Hugs & Kisses, God, from Kids Around the World; The Beauty of Believing; Cat Confessions: A Kitty-Come-Clean Tell-All Book; The Ten Commandments for Little Ones; Women Who Still Love Cats Too Much; The Joy of Being Fifty (illustrated by Roz Chast), and The Worrywart’s Prayer Book.
One of Allia’s children’s books is Angels in the Bible Storybook.
Allia lives in Connecticut with her husband, Desmond Finbarr Nolan, and their feline children, Sineady Cat, the Fraidy Cat, and Nolan Nolan.
How long have you been writing for children, Allia, and how did you get started?
God, as He is so often wont to do, made lemonade out of lemons, which is how I got started writing for children. I was a journalist and an author of humorous cat books, when out of the blue, my retina detached.
I almost went blind. That’s the lemon part. Though God had a purpose for my going through this, it was a pretty scary time for me. Anyway, while I was recuperating, I went through a lot of my savings. So when I could see again, I answered an ad for an editor’s position at Reader’s Digest Children’s Books. I had been an editor for several kids’ magazines/newsletters. But I had never written a children’s book. Still, I applied, and got the job. It was only supposed to be until I got back on my feet. However, again, God had other ideas.
And that’s the lemonade part: I was so fascinated by the whole process of putting a children’s book together—and especially a Bible book for kids—that I got hooked. I loved the whole process—coming up with the idea, researching, writing the book, working with Scripture, collaborating with the designers on illustrations, watching the final art come in—it was the most marvelous thing I had ever experienced.
That when I realized this was what I was meant to do. This was what my whole life was leading up to. That was about 15-plus years ago. Though I left Reader’s Digest to be on my own again, I never stopped creating children’s books and loving it … though I do vacillate from the divine to the feline and write cat books as well.
Can you tell us something about your writing process?
I really don’t have a process per se. I have a deadline and I write what I need to. I’m not one to spend a lot of time on outlines, though. I do have one writing tool I use when I’m blocked, which my husband suggested. And it works.
If I’m writing a long book and I get stuck, I don’t push it. Instead of staring at the computer, or going around in circles, I write the chapter title on top of the page, then write whatever comes into my head, nonstop, free flow, in no special order, complete with typos and format mistakes. Then I print out these notes, put them in a folder, and move on to the next chapter. Writing nonstop saves me from wasting time, and the freedom to put down anything and everything unblocks me. Some of what I’ve written eventually makes it into the chapter, and some doesn’t. But at least I have something to show for my day.
Why did you decide to write about your faith?
I think my decision was already made for me. I was led.
What gives you joy about writing?
I love to make people laugh, or failing that, at least make them smile. I love to leave them with a sense of hope and enthusiasm about God and the world. I love to remind them—and especially young children—that they are loved no matter what. And then of course, if I reach someone with my writing, I can’t ask for more.
One Amazon reader posted that his son was in the ICU and that he had a 10 percent chance of making it. His wife got a copy of my book I Love You the World, and the father wrote that he read the book to his boy every day. He ended his review with “I really believe that part of Jackson living came from us reading this book to him on a daily basis. I am grateful for this book, eternally grateful.” Now that gives me joy!
Did you read a lot as a child? What were your favorite books?
I read everything and anything. My mother used to tell me to get my head out of a book and go get a job. I was twenty-three at the time. Actually, I read lots of poetry and fairy tales and novels; my father read us the Bible on Sundays. I loved Eloise at the Plaza and Matilda. My favorite book was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
You have a special love for cats … and dogs too. Tell us about your animal family members.
Where to begin? Well, I absolutely love cats and I’ve written nine humor books about them. Recently, though, I lost two of my cats within six months of each other. As you might imagine, I was devastated. But the most amazing thing happened. I went to a rescue I don’t normally go to because I saw a cat on its website. The cat in question was not a good fit for my family, as I still have an older, timid cat. On my way out, I spied a tiny black kitten peeking out of his cage. (I wanted a black cat.) I asked the adoption lady about him. “Oh,” she said, “you mean Nolan?” Talk about a gift from God. I didn’t want a kitten (Nolan was five months at the time). But how could I not adopt a cat who already had our name. We call him Nolan Nolan, and he’s a dream!
Angels in the Bible Storybook includes fun facts about angels. What fascinated or amazed you most as you were researching and writing this book?
Two things threw me for a loop: the misinformation out there about angels (for instance, some people turn into angels when they die…NOT!) and the dearth of books focusing on the role God gave the angels in his overall plans. That’s why I was thrilled when we decided to include real facts, as well as introduce some not-as-well-known stories—stories that are compelling and exciting but don’t receive as much attention as favorites like Noah and Moses. I was also intrigued to read some scholars feel that in the stories that mention the Angel of the Lord, this is really the preincarnate Jesus, and not just a “regular” angel!
Do you have new projects underway?
Right now, I am working on excavating my office, which is a “creative” mess. Sometimes, when I’m working on a big book, I let things slide. So I have to take some time to file and get things in order.
I am also working on a book about cats and heaven, a gift book, some children’s novelty book ideas, and a chapter book with a fat cat as its main character.
What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
I read a lot, and then I read some more, and watch Downton Abbey and anything on PBS TV. I teach chair aerobics on a volunteer basis to seniors at a convalescent home (two are 102 years young), I sing in the church choir, I am studying Spanish, and I keep in touch with friends I’ve had for ages … and I do mean ages. I also make earrings for fun. I am blessed, for sure.
Thanks, Allia! I hope you will keep writing for a very long time!
My 5-star review of Allia’s new Angels in the Bible Storybook is here.
To connect with Allia or learn more, visit
Tomorrow’s the official pub date for this new book. Isn’t the cover beautiful? I love how it sparkles.You can often guess someone’s age by considering their name. Diane, for example, was popular in the 1950s, so . . . that tells you something about me.
But God’s personal name? Well, it’s ageless. Just like him.
When Moses met God at the burning bush and received the task of leading the Israelites out of Egypt, he wasn’t exactly thrilled at first. He peppered God with questions, including, “When I tell the people that I met you here and you gave me this assignment, they’re going to want to know your name. What should I tell them?”
The Israelites had just about forgotten who the God of their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was.
But God hadn’t forgotten them. Not at all.
“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.” (Ex. 3:14)
I AM WHO I AM. I always have been. I will always be. I will never change.
When God revealed his name to Moses, he used the Hebrew YHWH (the Hebrew language has no vowels). Some English Bible translations use Yahweh wherever God’s name occurs, but most follow the tradition of replacing Yahweh with “the LORD” (using large and small caps).
Eventually the term Jehovah appeared. It’s found throughout the 1611 King James Version of the Bible, and today many of the descriptions added to God’s name in the Bible are popularly known using Jehovah (for example, Jehovah Jireh, “The LORD Will Provide” and Jehovah Rophe, “The LORD Who Heals”)—even though Yahweh is a much more likely accurate pronunciation.
But however I AM is written or pronounced, it IS the name God gave us to tell us about himself. And it is the name Jesus used for himself when he said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58)!
Choosing a book title is rarely easy. Choosing a title for this book about the names of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit took a long time. I couldn’t be more grateful to the Tommy Nelson Publishing team that developed and settled on the title I AM: 40 Reasons to Trust God.
As our children and families go through the book together, may we all grow mightily in our understanding of who God is and our relationship with him!