Hi,

I’m excited about what is happening for teen girls. Focus on the Family is re-offering Brio, and I received an email from Jessica Lippe about her magazine for Christian girls. Jessica, the editor of Girlz 4 Christ, a free online magazine for teen girls, wanted me to let you know that they have a new website. You can subscribe at Girlz4Christ.org.

Nancy

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is We All Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. It is the second book in the series that began with I Get a Clue. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

 

From Nancy – We discovered, to our embarrassment, that the recipe for Easter cookies that Carol believed was included in The Legend of the Sand Dollar is not actually part of the book. The recipe was added by her book seller. We are so sorry. But we have some great bakers here at Books 4 Christian Kids and not wanting to disappoint you, we are happy to suggest a recipe for sugar cookies and one for icing for sugar cookies that might be just the thing for Easter baking.

Be sure to heed the warning about thoroughly softening the butter when making the sugar cookies. Also because you are making them with butter only, they will be “fluffier”  or so says one of our master bakers.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/9870/easy-sugar-cookies/

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/11587/sugar-cookie-icing/

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is We All Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. It is the second book in the series that began with I Get a Clue. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

Carol has discovered several Easter books that will tell the story and delight your children in the telling. — Nancy

 

Young children, ages 2 to 4, love learning their colors. They will be delighted with My Easter Basket: The True Story of Easter by Mary Manz Simon, illustrated by Angelika Scudamore and published by B&H Kids (2016). This board book uses the colors that could be found in an Easter basket to tell the Easter story. The author begins with green for the palm branches and follows with red, brown, blue, purple, orange and yellow. Dr. Simon ends with yellow, relating it to sunshine and Jesus, God’s son.

My Easter Basket: The True Story of Easter has a gentle rhyme which guides the reader from page to page and adds to the flow of the story. Watercolor illustrations with sparkles capture the joy of Easter in a unique way. My Easter Basket will help young children look at Easter and their Easter baskets with different eyes and understand the true story of Easter.

Another book for young children not to be missed is My Very First Easter Playtime by Lois Rock, illustrated by Alex Ayliffe and published by Lion Hudson (2014). For children ages 3 to 5, My Very First Easter Playtime is an activity and sticker book. Children will hurry to put each sticker in its right place.

The Legend of the Sand Dollar, written by Chris Auer, illustrated by Rick Johnson and published by Zonderkidz (2013) will enrich and bless older children, ages 4 to 8.

In this story children will discover more than the delights of nature. They will learn how nature tells of the wonders of God. It begins with Kerry and her older sister going to visit their cousin, Jack. On the beach they find a sand dollar. On one side Kerry sees the impression of an Easter lily. Jack tells her the legend of Jesus being alive. She wonders about the sand dollar’s five holes and he explains they are for the four nails and spear that pierced Jesus’ side. Jack continues to use the sand dollar to tell the story of God’s love.

Kerry begins to look at the sand dollar with different eyes, with eyes that see the true meaning of Easter. Who would have guessed that God would use the sand dollar to tell of His greatest gift, Jesus, God’s Son? The book ends with a poem, whose author is unknown, about the legend of the sand dollar.

With their soft look, Johnson’s excellent watercolors bring the story of the sand dollar to life.

(Zonderkidz reissued this lovely story by Chris Auer in 2017 with new illustrations by Richard Cowdrey.)

Carol Green, a graduate of Northwestern, is the mother of three adult children. Her five grandchildren affectionately call her “Grams cracker.” She is the published author of many poems for both adults and children; three coloring books: God Gave Me Five, ABC Fun Book, and Color God’s World Bright; and the picture book: My Mom Loves Me.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is We All Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. It is the second book in the series that began with I Get a Clue. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

Lent begins next week on March 1st and so we begin to think about Easter and new life. I looked up “lent” (words interest me) and it came from a word that meant the time of year when the days lengthened. It  also was their word for spring, since that is the time in the Northern Hemisphere when days lengthen. Patsy has discovered a wonderful book that will enrich your days no matter what the sun and the earth are doing. – Nancy

Deeper: Living in the Reality of God’s Love, by Debbie Alsdorf and published by Revell (2008), will certainly jump start your walk with the Lord. An uplifting read, it will challenge you to get closer to God and go deeper into His Word, to discover the treasure of wisdom He has for you. After hearing Debbie speak at a women’s retreat, I have felt a revival in my own relationship with Jesus. She speaks on timeless truths. In the beginning of the book, Debbie shares the words her mother kept repeating at the time of her death, “Live like it is real, because it is!”

Debbie describes her youth, her struggle to feel worthy and “good enough” for parents who were difficult to please. She felt their acceptance was based more on her performance than on unconditional love. At a young age she became a singer, hoping and anxious to gain the approval of others. When she became a Christian in her youth and when she later married a pastor, she felt her worth depended on being “Pretty, Perfect and Polished.” She tried to live up to how church members and family felt the perfect pastor’s wife should be.

One day her husband came home and stated that he didn’t love her, he never had, and he wanted a divorce. Debbie’s perfect world crumbled. She was heart-broken. Her mother moved in with her to help her raise her two young sons. Shortly after, her mother had a stroke. Debbie became the caregiver of everyone, trying desperately to survive her emotional traumas.

Over time and through counseling, Debbie realized that God never expects us to be perfect. Rather He loves us unconditionally. We are secure in our position as His cherished, adopted children. A wonderful quote from the back of the book says, “It is time to get honest with God and live like his love for you is real–because it is!

Deeper shows you how to live four core truths from Psalm 139– God knows me; He protects me; He made me, and He values me.  Debbie expounds on each one of these truths, helping others to view themselves as God does. She gives many examples of times in her life when God’s Word changed her thinking. She shares how He worked all things out for the very best in her family and helped her to start a ministry for other women.

Debbie founded Design4Living Ministries. She leads conferences and retreats that encourage women in their faith. I found her to be an excellent speaker and author. This amazing book is particularly helpful for women age eighteen and above.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”

 

 

What Once Was Lost, written by Kim Vogel Sawyer and published by WaterBrook Press (2013) will inspire you, and uplift your spirit.

It takes place in Brambleville, Kansas, in 1890, and introduces us to Christina Willems, a woman in her late twenties, who runs the Brambleville Asylum for the Poor. This small farm outside of town is home to twelve displaced individuals–children and adults. Under a mission board, the farm was previously managed by Christina’s parents who have passed away. Christina has lived at the asylum since she was a child, helping her parents with the ministry.

The novel opens with the residents gathered for a hearty meal. Christina is thinking about Hamilton Dresden, who used to live with them. He had been a good shot and provided them with game. But in other respects Dresden had been a ne’er-do-well and trouble. She had insisted he leave and she was glad of it.

In the middle of the night, fire breaks out in the kitchen . Tommy Kilgore, an eleven-year-old blind boy, accidentally comes upon the fire and wakens Christina and the residents, getting them out of the house. The damaged house cannot be lived in.

Christina sets about finding new homes for the residents and herself until she can get the mission board to provide funds for repairs. She and seventeen-year-old Cora move into Mrs. Beasley’s Boardinghouse. In exchange for room and board, they have to cook all the meals, along with putting up with a very cranky, demanding woman.

The last person to be placed is Tommy Kilgore. None of the town’s residents want him because of his blindness. Christina takes him to a recluse miner a few miles out of town named Levi Jonnson. Levi avoids others and shuns the faith in Jesus he held as a child, because people were unkind to his father when he was growing up. Initially, Levi also refuses to take Tommy in, but Christina finally persuades him. However, Levi insists she find another arrangement as soon as possible.

Christina meets with the director of the mission board, who seems reluctant to rebuild the kitchen at the asylum or even keep the home open at all. He feels it is too far from town and from other neighbors who could be of help. He talks of relocating it in another town. Also, Hamilton Dresden has complained to the board about Christina’s leadership. She tries to defend herself. The meeting ends unresolved–no concrete decision is made.

Christina is discouraged; the asylum is the only life she has ever known. Also, she has no money from her parents, as they always gave all they had to those in need. She does possess her father’s watch, which reminds her of him and his strong passion to help others. She clings to this watch, until she has to sell it so she can travel and check on two children who have been moved to an orphanage in another town.

During this time, Christina seeks the Lord, asking for His guidance, yet she still views the ministry as hers, and struggles with handing it back over to Him. Meanwhile, Levi Jonnson is also learning and growing, finding himself getting attached to Tommy. Since Levi is a also craftsman like his father, he teaches Tommy to cane chairs, .

Many other events happen and some very close calls. Christina is realizing that the entire ministry of the asylum belongs to the Lord and He will do with it as He sees fit. It is a heartbreaking time for her, as many of the residents of the asylum are finding other situations, places to live, and some of the children are adopted.

Seventeen-year-old Cora is pregnant and has not revealed it yet. She is sure she will be disowned when she does. The Lord is merciful and graciously opens up a home and job with the store owners in town. Mr. and Mrs. Creeger, a wonderful Christian couple, take her in. They show her the love of Christ and she becomes a follower of Jesus.

Levi is realizing that the way he is living, filled with bitterness towards God, is only making him miserable. He comes back to the Lord and begins to greatly admire Christina and her selfless heart. She realizes the ministry belongs to the Lord, and hands it back over to Him.

After some suspenseful events, all ends happily. God’s amazing plan for the Brambleville Asylum is revealed and you come away from this read believing once again that God’s ways are perfect. When we entrust our lives and futures to Him, He reveals his love and plans for our lives.

I think that anyone would enjoy reading this book, but particularly women eighteen and above. I found it to be delightful, suspenseful, and encouraging. It has inspired me to pray about more that I can do for those in need.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”

 

Awesome! I recently received an email from Focus on the Family full of good news. They are going to be publishing Brio again, a magazine for girls, ages 12 to 17.  It will be published 10 times a year.  The advert said they will do inspiring stories, profiles, practical helps, fashion, etc. The first issue will be out in May. Sadie Robertson of Duck Dynasty and Dancing With the Stars fame is on the cover. If you subscribe before March 31, you can get a year’s subscription for $10.

OK, I am being a little shameless in promoting this magazine, but I love Christian magazines for kids. And I think Focus on the Family does a terrific job with the ones they produce.

Magazines for kids are, I think, good value for  your money. The stories and articles are short, timely and age-appropriate. They appeal to kids, even those kids who struggle with reading.

While I’m on the subject of magazines for teens, I want to remind you about  Girlz 4 Christ.  Several of us at Books 4 Christian Kids looked at it last year and liked it. You can find out more about this quarterly online magazine at http://www.girlz4christmagazine.org

Teen girls today are bombarded with voices that promote destructive values. The stories and articles in Christian teen magazines point girls toward godly values, helping them to grow  into God’s women. So I’m celebrating that Focus on the Family is again going to be publishing a magazine for teens. It’s great news.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is We All Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. It is the second book in the series that began with I Get a Clue. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

A Love Like Ours, written by Becky Wade, and published by Bethany House Publishers (2015) will educate and inspire you. I learned so much by reading it and enjoyed its depth and humor.

This book in the Porter Family Novels series centers around Lyndie and Jake, both in their early thirties, who were the best of childhood friends. When Jake was twelve and Lyndie was ten, they spent much of their waking hours together, enjoying animals and having outdoor adventures.

About that time, Lyndie’s father obtained a job that would take him and his family away from Holley, Texas, to Altadena, California. The family particularly needed him to accept this job because Lyndie’s younger sister had severe cerebral palsy, was blind and non-verbal, and required many medical treatments for lung problems. Lyndie was a wonderful, caring, helpful big sister.

Twenty years pass and Lyndie’s father is transfered back to Texas. The family settles in the same area as before. Lyndie’s and Jake’s mothers waste no time getting the families together for dinners. However, Jake does not attend the dinners and Lyndie is concerned.

She learns that eight years before while Jake was a Marine, three of his friends died under his watch. His Humvee hit a hidden Improvised Explosive Device. Jake now suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, leaving him with anxiety and frightening flashbacks. He finds comfort in training horses at Whispering Creek Ranch, his family’s Thoroughbred horse farm.

Jake’s brother knows that Lyndie is skilled as a horse trainer and urges her to apply for a position with Jake. Lyndie gets the job, but  Jake’s brooding disposition concerns her. She begins praying for him. He had been close to the Lord once, but he has wandered away, feeling the Lord has abandoned him.

Lyndie had also trained as a jockey, and she is very interested in helping Jake’s horse, Silver Leaf, learn to race. The horse seems talented, but won’t run when out on the track. Lyndie begins building a relationship with the horse and his owner.

Jake falls in love with Lyndie, but he is experiencing disturbing nightmares. As a child, he had always wanted to protect Lyndie, and when it is decided that Silver Leaf would race again with Lyndie as his jockey, Jake is filled with anxiety for her safety. The horse races, and Silver Leaf and Lyndie come in first place.

Lyndie as well, is falling for Jake. She knows to be cautious, because he isn’t yet on track with the Lord, and he is still struggling with a lot of anxiety. The plot thickens, and some difficult things happen. God begins to transform all the characters in the story and bring them into alignment with His will.

A Love Like Ours ends quite happily with Jake transformed by God’s peace and healing power. This is a great story for readers eighteen and above.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”

 

Nancy — Patsy, as you will read, really appreciates this non-fiction book.  And while it is not written for children, (though its principles can certainly be used to help children), I thought it appropriate for a new year and perhaps our common longing for a new beginning. Lord, I Feel So Small might be just what you need for your journey.

 

Lord, I Feel So Small, written by Jon Drury and published by Wine Press Publishing (2010), will speak to anyone who has ever felt unworthy, small and insignificant. Pastor and writer Jon Drury shares candidly about times in his life when he struggled to feel accepted and worthy.

Drury tells much of his life story, explaining how he has struggled with fear and rejection. Even though he became a Christian at a young age, his parents often fought and it would frighten him. But as the Lord continued to pour His unconditional love and healing over Jon, things improved. He learned to resist listening to any voice but God’s. God’s voice brings peace and encourages us. On the other hand, Satan will use our unworthiness to slander and discourage us. He will also use our failures.

The book explores twenty battlegrounds of significance. Sharing his own experiences and those of others, Jon exposes the world’s false yardsticks that demean us. He also looks at Biblical characters who overcame great weaknesses. Drury directs his readers to many scriptures and points of action to help them resist the voice of The Enemy.

Some of the chapter titles include, Feelings that Immobilize Us, The Flesh that Hinders Us, Externals that Frustrate Us, and Experiences that Hamper Us. Drury states that God releases the oppressed, and that the Cross is the basis for victory. Near the end of the book, there is a chapter on “Exchanging Daily Misery for Joy.”

One of my favorite parts of the book is when Jon says, “The most potent antidote for rejection is acceptance by God. When we come to faith in Him, we are embraced by the Lord God Himself.  ‘Ephesians 1:6, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.'”

Everyone can learn something from this book  It is extremely helpful and practical. I was inspired and uplifted by it, and I know you will be as well.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is We All Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. It is the second book in the series that began with I Get a Clue. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

 

Nancy– I’m re-running Donna’s post on helping your teen smile. Maybe–I sure hope so–your teen has a little down time from school work and other demands. Donna has some suggestions for R & R. (Don’t forget about your college student home on break. I bet he/she could use a smile.) Donna’s suggestions are helpful for when your teen goes back to school.

Donna– I love teenagers. I write for them. They are living through a transformative phase in their lives where they move from cute child to responsible adult. It is much like the growth of a monarch from fuzzy caterpillar to graceful butterfly. But in between, the butterfly must build a chrysalis and writhe out of it before emerging to spread its wings toward the sun. For both butterflies and people, it is a time of rapid change and immense struggle. To support a teen through such a time is fascinating. Although small children require our help in obvious ways, the needs of a teen are more subtle and varied.

There has been some debate in the news lately about how much homework is good or bad for high school students. My personal opinion is that they are overworked. They have so much formative growth going on inside and socially that they need more time to recuperate between due dates for assignments. Schools vary in rigor and philosophy on this, and once your teen is registered at a school, he or she must work within that system.

So what can a parent, aunt or uncle, family friend or grandparent do? I think we are all in a position to boost morale. Take a teen out for a bite to eat. Listen to them talk about what’s happening in their life. Share some uplifting music in their favorite style (I know teens who like rap, classical, pop, jazz and more). Go on a fun outing together.

Or—of course—give them a book. Much of the reading they are doing at this point is heavy. They are examining the foibles of human nature and the mistakes of world governments. They are doing presentations, writing essays and taking exams on this material. They are learning complex math, science and language. Some teens are competing really hard for top grades. Others are struggling to pass. Kids in both positions can feel overwhelmed. So what kind of book can reverse that feeling and not just give them more work to do?

Find a picture-loaded book that is light on text, featuring one of their hobbies or interests, for example: horses, robotics, airplanes, cats, dogs, seashells, friendship bracelets, outer space, cooking, rocks & minerals, drawing, gardening, photography—you know (or can learn) what transports them from a stress-loaded environment to the world of hope and imagination.

Bring a smile to a teen’s face. Put a dreamy look in those eyes. Help this person you love disconnect from what’s weighing them down. Buy a teen a book!

Nancy again– Check out this post for more YA book suggestions or use the drop down menu on the left and search the YA category. If you are new to us, you might not know that we also recommend books for the college/working person. You may locate those recommendations using the drop down menu on the left.

Donna Fujimoto’s children love to read. She is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. Her collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge  is available as an e-book at Amazon.  The Shining Orb of Volney, a science-fiction novel, is her latest title. 

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is We All Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. It is the second book in the series that began with I Get a Clue. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

 

 

The Christmas I was twelve was not turning out to be a thrill. Gone was my usual excitement. Vanished was my sense of wonder. And their absence troubled me a lot. I’m not talking about being sad that I no longer believed in Santa. I had figured that out a couple of years before and I was fine with it. No, I’m talking about awe–an expectancy that anything could happen, that miracles still walked the earth.

“God,” I prayed the week before Christmas, “do something. You don’t have to do anything big. I’ll settle for something small. Just make it special so that I believe again that you’re still here.”

All that week I watched. But nothing special happened–no rushing sound of angel wings, no brighter than usual star in the sky, no baby crying in a manager. Nothing. (OK, I agree. The twelve-year-old me had a totally strange sense of small.)

Then Christmas Eve came and I was in a funk. I had given up expecting anything. God was only for the long ago and faraway. My life was unimportant, ordinary–too ordinary to attract His interest or attention. I flopped into the big chair in our living room and sulked.

This wallowing must have really disturbed my mother because before I could mount a good argument for staying home, I was out the door into the cold, dark night and taking my kid brother to Christmas Eve services at our neighborhood church.

My brother didn’t seem to mind my less-than-cheerful spirit. All day he had been talking about going to the candlelight service and he was just happy that he was. It made me feel a little guilty. I decided I should try to make the best of it.

But when we arrived at church, it was packed. Now, I was annoyed, really annoyed—my brother and I would have to sit together. That wasn’t the usual. Most Sundays he sat two rows ahead of me with other little kids while I sat with my friends two rows behind. But that night those rows were already filled with families. Grumpily, I took the two small candles the usher offered me, handed one to my brother, and headed for two seats together. Scooting into the row, I noticed something else—only one of the chairs had a hymnal on it. My brother and I would have to share. Life was definitely hard.

The organ began. My brother handed me the hymnal–which had been on his chair–and together we rose with everyone else to sing “O Come All Ye Faithful.” I knew all the words, but I wasn’t sure my brother did. Ignoring the thought that he probably couldn’t read them, I quickly paged through the hymnal until I found the song. As I held the hymnal so he could see it, he smiled up at me. I noticed his pudgy hand holding one side of the hymnal and my slim­mer hand holding the other, and something began to happen in me. It was only a quiet feeling, but warm and satisfying.

I enjoyed that service. My brother and I sang the old carols at the top of our lungs and giggled as we flipped pages searching for the next song. As he carefully lit my candle, I realized God had answered my prayer. Something special had happened.

Walking home in the icy December air, my brother and I watched our breath before us, sang snatches of the carols again, and wondered out loud about our presents. That night we didn’t tease or squabble or try to outrun each other. There was no bossy older sister and no pesky younger brother. There were only two kids enjoying themselves and each other.

I don’t remember what presents I received that year. I’m sure they were great and I enjoyed them, but I don’t remember them. I only remember being with my brother. And that God answered my prayer. He still does answer prayers. May we have the eyes this Christmas to see that He has come and that He is still here.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is We All Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. It is the second book in the series that began with I Get a Clue. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

 

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