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Merry Christmas to you all! God bless these days and all your days to come.

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I love Christmas. Don’t get me wrong. But sometimes the pressure of gift-getting and food-planning and activity-attending overwhelm me. I need a break. Maybe you do too.

Some years ago in midst of everything I suddenly realized with a start that Christmas would come whether I did something or whether I did nothing. Christmas was not about what I did. Christmas was the gift that God had given and was giving to the world and to me.

Of course, I have to revisit that truth again and again. Today is one of those “again” times. This song, Love Has Come, sung by Amy Grant helps me. Maybe it will help you. So take a breath, get a cup of cocoa and a cookie, listen to the song and be of good cheer. – Nancy

 

I have waited until the dust settled (Black Friday, Cyber Monday) to post this column. I dislike, really dislike, all the hype and I did not want to be part of it. That said, I do suspect that you are gift-hunting or getting ready to gift-hunt like we are at my house. If you are, let me suggest that for kids you consider gift subscriptions to magazines.

There are some terrific magazines available for Christian kids. Focus on the Family currently produces two magazines for kids and one magazine for teen girls. Clubhouse Jr. is targeted for children 4- to-8 years of age, Clubhouse is written for 8- to 12-year-olds and Brio is for teen girls. The Upper Room produces Pockets for kids 6 to 12. Nature Friend is a special interest magazine for kids 8 to 16.

These magazines with their articles, short stories and games will bless a child or young person all year long. They are written with kids in mind and they present topics that interest kids. When the stories or articles wrestle with a life difficulty, the subject is handled in a way that kids can relate to and is appropriate for a child. Oh, and did I forget to mention that the mags are fun?

The websites below will give you more info.

Clubhouse Jr.http://www.clubhousejr.com/

Clubhousehttp://www.clubhousemagazine.com/

Pockets http://pockets.upperroom.org/

Nature Friendhttp://www.naturefriendmagazine. com

Briohttps://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/promos/brio-parents

Shopping savvy: I spoke with Focus on the Family’s subscription line and the agent said that a postcard will be sent to the gift’s recipient  and should arrive at about two weeks after you place the order. (So you still have time.) She also said it would be better to place an order by phone and she gave this number: 1-800-A FAMILY (1-800-232-6459). I looked at the website for Pockets and it looks quite good for ordering online.

If you are going to give a gift subscription to your child, you might also consider giving a gift subscription to the same magazine to  one of your child’s grandparents or a beloved aunt or uncle. This could give that adult and your child some good conversation starters. And if you are the beloved grandparent or aunt or uncle and give a subscription to your special child, why not get a subscription for yourself? The magazines are fun, informative  and interesting even if you grew up a while ago. — Nancy

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest works for children are I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue, mystery novels for girls 10-13. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

I didn’t forget about you. Honest! I was using my laptop and I guess something glitched and my post didn’t publish. I didn’t discover it until today. (I wonder what else glitched that day.)

Oh, well, I hope your day was lovely. And if not, I hope today is and tomorrow and all the tomorrows after that. God has a good plan for our lives.

Here is the missing post. So go and heat up a bowl of turkey soup and come back and enjoy.

Happy Thanksgiving! The songs are old and traditional, but I enjoy hearing and singing them. I feel like I am in the company of believers from ages past. God was faithful to them and He is faithful to us. (There are a couple of words that are misspelled in the screen text. I’m overlooking these imperfections. I hope you can too. The music and lyrics are such a blessing and I want to share them with you.)

Thanksgiving Medley

 

Happy Easter to You!

He is risen and now we know that we and our lives are made new.

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.

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.

 

May your day be blessed with the warmth of God’s heart whatever the weather is outside.

Book Reviews

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