An Advent Idea for Long-Distance Grandparents

img_0208Like 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!

– Diane

Thanksgiving: A Day for Counting NATIONAL Blessings

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!

Early Thanksgiving, Banja Luka, Bosnia, 2003

Early Thanksgiving, Banja Luka, Bosnia, 2007

However, the American Thanksgiving holiday began (officially, anyway, pilgrims and native Americans having kicked things off a number of years earlier) as a day of thanks throughout our nation for national blessings.

Here’s President Washington’s 1789 proclamation, with a few lines highlighted in bold because they seem especially important right now, after the 2016 election and as we see so much division, disagreement, and disrespect all around?

Thanksgiving Proclamation

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.

Go. Washington

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?

*The original version of this post first appeared on November 23, 2015*

– Diane

Say & Pray Devotions Giveaway Winners

51xal4gqil-_sx361_bo1204203200_Congratulations, Ann Ray and Sue Hull, winners in last week’s giveaway to celebrate the launch of Say & Pray Devotions! You’ll each receive a copy of Say & Pray Bible, Say & Pray Devotions, plus a $20 Target gift card.

I’d like to thank everyone who entered the giveaway. Your comments encouraged me greatly!

Thanksgiving blessings!

 

– Diane

New Giveaway—Say & Pray Devotions!

The boy who inspired Say & Pray Bible and the new Say & Pray Devotions when he was younger turns four tomorrow, so let’s have a giveaway in his honor!

reed-pitches

As a toddler, grandson #3 inspired the Say & Pray books with his love of pointing to objects in the illustrations of his own books.

Pointing2I also wanted a truly age-appropriate Bible storybook and devotional book for the toddler age. That meant short story texts, verses, and prayers. Check!

Reed3(It turns out older preschoolers and beginning readers like the books too. They can easily read the labels in the illustrations.)

spdevos-4

Two winners (continental US and Canada only) will each receive a copy of each book plus a $20 Target gift card. (Could be a wonderful way to start off your Christmas gift-giving plans!)

To enter, just comment “I’d love to win” below this post. The giveaway starts now and ends Saturday, November 19, at 11:59 pm EST.

Say & Pray Bible is a best seller–appearing five times on the ECPA Christian Juvenile Bestsellers list since July 2015.

Say & Pray Devotions released October 11. It remained on the amazon.com Hot New Releases lists for Christian Children’s Devotional Books and Christian Children’s Prayer Books for the past month.

The book relates everyday toddler experiences with creation, God’s gifts, and God’s love. Sarah Ward’s colorful illustrations are ADORABLE. Click on the cover to see a sample of the interior.

51xal4gqil-_sx361_bo1204203200_Creating this book with Sarah and the Tommy Nelson team was a lot of fun, and we want to share it with little ones here, there, and everywhere!

Enter the giveaway now–it’s so easy!

Two winners (continental US only) will each receive a copy of each book plus a $20 Target gift card. (Could be a wonderful way to start off your Christmas gift giving plans!)

To enter, just comment “I’d love to win” below this post. The giveaway starts now and ends Saturday, November 19, at 11:59 pm EST.

Thank you! And if you haven’t already joined my email community–please do. There’s a fun and helpful freebie waiting for you when you sign up.

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– Diane

Hurricane Matthew, Haiti, My Family, and Me

Photo: Raycom Media

Photo: Raycom Media

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.

Haiti.

haiti2

Photo: Mission Aviation Fellowship

haiti

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:

International Disaster Relief Services

Heartline Ministries

I’m giving right now. I hope you will too.

And next time, let’s not wait.

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– Diane

Giveaway Winners—#babybabyboardbook Launch

baby-baby-cover-768x768As we all remember fifteen years ago and the horrific and heroic events of 9-11, I’m taking a moment to announce the winners in my #babybabyboardbook giveaway. Big thanks to everyone who participated!

Jessica Knauer* and Jenny Q.* will each receive two copies of Baby, Baby! plus a $20 Target gift card. Congratulations!

May I invite you to sign up for my newsletter if you’re not already receiving it? When you do, you’ll receive my free download “10 Simple Ways to Grow a Bible Reader (Without Being a Bible Scholar Yourself).”

Blessings as you love the little ones in your lives and teach them about the Lord who loves us all!

*Jessica and Jenny, I’ll be contacting you by email to get your mailing addresses.

– Diane

#babybabyboardbook Launch and Giveaway!

babybabygiveawayToday’s the day! My new board book, Baby, Baby! debuts from WorthyKids/Ideals, and I’m celebrating with a special giveaway.

To enter, just comment “I’d love to win” after this post. The giveaway starts now and ends at 11:59 PM on Saturday, September 10. I’ll select TWO winners and announce their names on Sunday, September 11. Each winner will receive two copies of Baby, Baby! plus a $20 Target gift card.

Baby, Baby! has received a seal of approval from babies (and toddlers) everywhere!

PicMonkey CollageBaby, Baby! is a sweet, short poem about what babies do and the fact that every baby is always loved by God. There’s a mirror at the back your baby can look in to answer the question, Who does God love?

Here’s an impromptu video of me reading the text (and showing the ADORABLE pictures by Ailie Busby).

Ready to enter the giveaway? Just comment “I’d love to win.” (Thanks! And I hope you do!)

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– Diane

The BEST Bible Storybook for New & Beginning Readers Is BACK!!

51GSFbxdJLL._SX422_BO1,204,203,200_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 (B&H Kids) is the best book you could possibly give that child!

(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 fabulous 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 have done a masterful job making it available again to a new generation of readers.

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– Diane

Give a Yearlong Gift This Season

small WomansGuideBibleMy 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 “new 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, 2012). It recently went into a third printing! There’s also a popular e-book version.

Three Chapters

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.

One Question

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?

One Focus

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 yearlong gift we can give our children and ourselves.

 

– Diane

What to Remember Every Day

“Dear God, it’s me, Reed,” said my young grandson as he began his mealtime prayer.

He didn’t doubt that God was listening, or knows him by name.

No fear, just friendship.

Sometimes do you need to remember (I know I do!) that God not only knows our names, He knows all about us?

The number of hairs on our heads.
Everywhere we go and everything we do.
The good, bad, and ugly in our hearts.
The words we say before we say them.
The contents of all our days before we are born.

AND that …

He loves us. Delights in us, even. Thinks about us all the time. (Go on, soak that in.)
Loved us long before we loved Him.
Planned to save us even before creation began.
Came to be with us to do for us what we could never do for ourselves.

“I have called you friends.”
“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
“Perfect love casts out fear.”

Dear God, it’s me, ___________ .

DianeOnBeach

Me at four years old

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– Diane

Freebie

You CAN Read the Bible in a Year … Here’s How!