Looking for Heroes

We all love a good story with a hero we can stand behind.

Our sons love heroes, too. That’s why my son has a fireman dress up suit and masks of Captain America, Ironman, and Spiderman.

Having a boy, I am always looking for real-life heroes to introduce him to- policemen, soldiers, first responders. I want him to see these men and women as the true heroes in our world. Yet, there are other heroes I want him to become familiar with. Those heroes are found in the pages of the Bible.

In our devotions he has “met” Moses, Samson, Elijah, and David. But there are so many more men and women in God’s Word that I want him to meet.

And I’m not the only parent who feels this way. Shannon Otwell is the father of a little boy named Nate. He also wanted to introduce his son to Bible heroes, so he wrote a book, The Treehouse Adventures of Nate-Nate & Maxie Dog: Gideon, making Nate and his dog Maxie characters in an imaginative story, taking them back in time to meet Gideon, one of Israel’s judges and a Bible hero.

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Nate-Nate and Maxie have a treehouse. Using their imagination, their treehouse becomes a pirate ship sailing them back in time. During their trip, they hear the amazing story of how God took Gideon’s 30,000 soldiers and sent home all but 300 of them. They participate in a reenactment of the breaking of the clay jars and blowing of the trumpets, and they get to meet Gideon.

This book is filled with bright, colorful, well-illustrated pages. Upon opening a page, one side contains a full page illustration and the other side contains the story. Each illustration perfectly represents the story being told. I loved that as we were reading the story and following along with the illustrations, one character would show up quite often. We enjoyed finding out that this particular character was Gideon.

The story is well told and attention grabbing. My son (5 years old) sat quietly, listening intently to the story and pointing out parts of the illustrations that matched what he was hearing. As a homeschooling mom, I like the fact that my son will have a book in his personal library that he will be able to read on his own in a couple of years that will help build his faith. (I think a 2nd grader would have no trouble reading this on their own.)

The Treehouse Adventures of Nate-Nate & Maxie Dog: Gideon is the first book in what the author hopes will become a well-loved series. I personally am looking forward to seeing which adventure will come next.

Publisher: HIS Publishing Group; ISBN: 978-0578187082; Age Range: 2-10 years old; Grade Level: Kindergarten- 4th grade. 

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the best christmas pageant ever

When You Get into a Christmas Rut

Have you thought about the Christmas Story?

I mean really thought about it.

When you have grown up going to church your whole life, hearing the Christmas account, and setting up your family’s Nativity scene, it can be so easy to glaze over the beauty, reality, and people involved in the account.

If you have found yourself in a Christmas rut and the Christmas account no longer moves your soul to awe, wonder or tears, I have found the story for you.

the best Christmas pageant ever

In The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, the most unlikely children help a church remember the beauty of the Christmas account.

The Herdman’s are possibly the worst children ever. Through a series of hilarious events, they become part of the church’s Christmas pageant. As these children are hearing the Christmas account for the first time, they ask questions. Good questions. Questions that make those of us who have known the account our whole lives actually think about the characters we have become so familiar with.

But it isn’t until the actual pageant that the true beauty of the story comes out. This story has a way of revealing the prideful, self-righteous attitudes in our own hearts and the beauty of a sincere heart hearing of Christ for the first time and coming to him with the only thing it has to offer. It reminds us that maybe, just maybe, the angel’s announcement of “Unto you a Child is born” was announced with joy and thrill.

the best Christmas pageant ever

I had a hard time reading the last two pages of the book as my voice cracked at the end of each sentence, and my son came to “console” me as I read the last line.

The tears were not from sadness… well maybe they were.

Maybe the tears came because I have gotten so comfortable with the Christmas account in Luke chapter 2 that I have forgotten to read it with the awe and wonder it deserves. Maybe they came because children have a way of seeing things more clearly than adults do, and the children in this story helped me see the Christmas account again for the first time.

This book took us two days to read through, but we could have easily finished it in one day. It’s a small book with seven chapters and is completely entertaining (if you are a Classical Conversations family, like we are, your children will have to read it in the Challenge years, so it’s a good story to get familiar with now). We laughed through chapters one through six, and then saw the beauty of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, Wise Men, and the angels in chapter seven.

After reading through the book, we watched the movie on Youtube (I’m a firm believer of reading the book first and then watching the movie). The movie follows the book very closely with very little creative license taken. (NOTE: In the movie one child says, “They talk about sexy things,” which isn’t true, in her efforts to get the Herdman children kicked out of the pageant because one of them got the part she wanted.)

The best Christmas pageant ever

This book is also available in a condensed version as a picture book for younger children and has the same effect in reminding us of the awe and wonder of the Christmas account.

If you find yourself getting into a rut, if you can’t see the wonder and awe of Jesus coming as a baby to the world because of all of the “grown up” stuff that gets in our way, then maybe you need to take a small break in the busyness of the season and look at Christmas from the perspective of a child.

when you get into a Christmas rut

must have Christmas book

Your Must-Have Christmas Book

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Every holiday has one iconic book that traditionally gets pulled out year after year. For our family at Christmas, this will become that book.

Christmas Love Letters From God by Glenys Nellist is the third in her “Love Letters” series. These beautifully written and illustrated books have one purpose- to remind children that God loves them and has a great purpose for their lives.

must have Christmas book

From the moment I looked through Christmas Love Letters from God, I was in love. The colors, the illustrations, the story-telling, the poetry, the “God’s promise” verse, and, of course, the letter all blended together to make a perfect Christmas experience on paper.

The Illustrations

Choosing where to begin was a hard decision. With each turn of the page, I always let my eyes settle on the illustrations. Rachel Clowes has followed the style of illustrations found in Love Letters from God and Little Letters from God and has done a brilliant job. From the main focus illustration to the little accents scattered around the page, the eyes of your little ones will always have someplace to look as you read the story aloud. The illustrations tell the story for little ones who cannot yet read.

Colors definitely set the tone of this book, yet instead of being harsh, the muted shades of red, green, and blue bring the feel of Christmas without harshness, and draw you in. I couldn’t help but grab a cup of coffee, sit in the living room with the fireplace on, and just look through each and every page, soaking in the illustrations and colors, before I even read the words.

must have Christmas book

The Story-Telling and Poetry

I have yet to meet or talk to author Glenys Nellist in person, but I imagine her having the gentlest, softest, most peaceful voice based on her style of writing. She chooses words that are quiet, effective, and beautiful. She tells the story concisely with enough words to keep the attention of little ones, but in a way where nothing is lost.

I love how Glenys began her book with the Prophet Isaiah. A surprising way to begin a Christmas book, yet a very appropriate way. Isaiah’s prophecy is featured in Handel’s Messiah, yet so many Christmas accounts overlook him. It makes for a great conversation starter in sharing how long God’s people had been waiting for their Messiah.

In the midst of the narrative story-telling, Glenys does what she does best. She takes a quick detour and tells part of the story through poetry. I am always amazed at how she is able to find the right words to tell the story with rhythm and rhyme.

must have Christmas book

God’s Perfect Promise

When you turn the page, you will find the story for the evening finishing up, and “God’s Perfect Promise”- a quick Bible verse promise that wraps up the part of the account just read printed on an illustrated tag. The verse is paraphrased so it is easy for little ones to understand and even memorize.

The Letter

Our favorite part is the “letter from God”, which is where the book gets its name. Each letter is a lift-the-flap attachment on the page. Paraphrasing Scripture and making it personally applicable, she begins each letter with “Dear ____________”. The rest of the letter is God’s promises personalized and related to the account just read. After reading the account of Jospeh, children are reminded in the letter that when God asks them to do something, He will also give them the grace to accomplish it.

A beautiful addition to this book which is different from the previous letter books is life-the-flap letter from the child to God. When my daughter saw it, she was so excited! After reading and hearing all of the letters from God to her, she was going to be able to write one to him!

Christmas Love Letters from God has already become my favorite Christmas book. I look forward to reading it with my children again and again over the next two months. Whether you choose to read a chapter each night or use it over the course of Advent (which could most definitely be a use for this book), it is a definite must for any home’s library.

must have Christmas book

star of persia

To Be a Star

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We are Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans. Brian is the die-hard, the rest of us support him and the team. Go Bucs! Siege the Day! and so on.

On Monday night the Bucs played against the Carolina Panthers. The game was tied with seconds to go. It was going to be left up to the “foot” of our kicker, Roberto Aguayo. Our quarterback, Jameis Winston approached Aguayo and said,

“…big-time players make big-time plays in big-time moments.” (source)

When I heard that, I couldn’t help but think of Esther, the beautiful young heroine in the Bible and book I was finishing up, Star of Persia by Marion Dawson Gunderson.

star of persia

The book of Esther is an amazing story of courage. Although His name is never mentioned in the book of Esther, God’s fingerprints is all over her life and story. In an amazing turn of events, God uses Esther to save the Hebrew nation.

The Star of Persia takes the story of Esther and puts it into a story for young girls ages 7-15. Esther starts out life as a young girl living a simple life until a twist in circumstances changes her life forever. After becoming the queen of all Persia (a big-time player), she goes to the King without being summoned, a decision which could have led to her death (a big-time play). Because of her bravery, the Jewish nation was saved and their enemy executed (a big-time moment).

star of persia

In a world where a distorted and unrealistic view of true beauty is elevated, Star of Persia does a beautiful job of emphasizing the qualities and characteristics of a truly beautiful woman. Her kindness, wisdom, humility, and discreetness are portrayed in a way that reminds girls that their value is not in their appearance but in the character qualities that they carry with them wherever they go.

As you and/or your daughter read this book, keep in mind that creative license has been taken, especially in the last chapter concerning many of the major events mentioned in the Bible. I think it is important to make sure your daughter knows the actual account before she reads this version. Giving her an explanation of creative license will help her understand going into this book that it will not be an exact retelling of the Bible’s account of the life of Esther.

star of persia

Our daughters need to read about women they can admire and emulate. They need to read about women of character whose footsteps they can follow in. They need to see how real women handled life threatening situations and came out on the other side. Star of Persia is a great place to start.

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When Your Child Is Having a “Super-Bad Terrible Day”!

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We all have those days.

Those days when right from the start it feels like one thing after another goes terribly wrong.

As adults, we understand that throwing tantrums, plopping down on the floor, and crying are not options for us. We have learned the fine art of hiding our feelings, of smiling through the hurt, of putting bandaids on the wounds and moving on.

Children have not.

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Children don’t always understand why bad things happen. They don’t know how to hide their feelings. They cry when they get hurt emotionally or physically. They wear their feelings on their sleeve.

And while that is not always a bad thing, as a parent it is always nice to have a resource we can reach for when our children are not sure how to respond or react in a given situation.

Virginia Finnie, author of two fantastic Christian children’s books, Hey, Warrior Kids! Grab Your Sling Shot! and Hey, Warrior Kids! Put On Your Armor!has written another book entitled, It’s a Super-Bad Terrible Day. 

Virginia wrote this book for her own grandson to help him not only understand that these days will happen, but how to respond when they do.

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I read this book to both of my children (8 and 4 years old) and they both enjoyed it. I personally liked that the main character was not named, and the story was told using the pronoun “you.” Reading this story to both kids simultaneously, I felt that the story was very personal to each of them because it was written in such a way that they felt they were the main character of the story.

From the moment the child in the story wakes up, something happens that could turn his day into a disaster. He wakes up to a messy room and hurts his foot, two embarrassing moments happen at school, a situation happens at recess, and a little brother incident at home all make for what could be the worst day ever in the life of a kid. Yet, with each situation, a practical way to respond is given that helps the child see that the circumstances are not as bad as they seem and there is a way to salvage the moment and the day.

Although in this particular book Scripture is not used, there are so many ways we as parents can pull Biblical lessons out of this book. These are some of the verses that we discussed as we read each situation in the story, ending with Lamentations 3:21-23 because God’s mercies are new every morning and we have a fresh start to each new day.

Ephesians 4:26- Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.

Proverbs 29:23- A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.

Ephesians 4:32- Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Psalm 133:1- Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!

Lamentations 3:21-23- This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

When our children are having a “Super-Bad Terrible Day!” it is always important to remind them that God is still in control and that His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness!

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform Year: 2016 Pages: 32 ISBN: 978-1523978977 Retail Price: $9.99

You can read more about Virginia Finnie at her website Hey, Warrior Kids!

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