The Relief You’ve Always Wanted for Christmas by Ann Voskamp {GIVEAWAY}

The kids have Adore Him playing and they’re singing along and off key.

And the house wafts of sugar cookies and anticipation and names of neighbors to bless!

“You done drawing now, Mama?”

Kai’s leaning hard over my shoulder. “Can we just call it done?” And I’m thinking so, and we cut out this little hand drawn cookie envelope template. Shalom and Levi have angel and nativity cookie cutters all over the table.

And Kai cuts out these envelopes for each cookie. And Shalom slides in cookies shaped like angels and stars and a wee silhouette of that God-Baby Who came to the manger & the Cross & offers Himself as a Savior for the world — and who doesn’t need the gift of Him most, again and again?

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It’s written right there on the liner for every cookie envelope:

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son,

and they will call Him

Immanuel

which means “God with us”

Matt.1:23

God with us — is the only comfort for the wounds within us.

Kai looks up from his cutting out of the verse — “Mom? God really came, didn’t He?”

And I nod — He came.

He gave up the heavens who were not even large enough to contain Him and lets Himself be held in a hand.

He forsook the boundlessness of space and confined Himself to skin and He gave up the starfields and took on shape and wore the bones.

He gave up the River of the water of Life that flows from His Throne Room to float the nine months on the amniotic waters. And He who carved the edges of the Cosmos, He curved Himself into fetal ball in the dark, tethered Himself to the uterine wall of a virgin, and lets His cells divide, light all splitting white.

The mystery so large becomes the baby so small and infinite God becomes infant.

“Yeah, Kai,” I fold one of the cookie templates, “The story of Christmas is about a baby who came — for the greatest give-away ever. To be the Gift.”

This is what I tell the kids making up Christmas packages for the neighbors — He came, love come down.

Love that gave — but not to those who loved Him.

Love that gave — but not to those who could give back.

Love that gave — to those who were the poor, the bankrupt, the enemies.

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Love that gave even to the likes of us. “And I don’t know… ” I am telling the story again now to me.

Who will give away, and with their lives? Why is the world hungry when God’s people have bread? Are bread? What is there more to be in this life than to be bread for another man?

And Hope looks up from the oven. “Remember, Mama?” She turns off the timer. “We’re calling Christmas the Greatest Give-Aways — and Jesus is the Gift!”

That’s really all we have to get ready for Christmas – our hearts. We need to get our hearts ready to welcome Jesus into every part of our lives.

And guess how you best get your heart ready for Jesus? Come to Him just as you are.

God gives Himself as the greatest Gift, and He doesn’t keep any truly good thing from you. Because the greatest things aren’t ever things!

God never, ever withholds the greatest Gift from you – Jesus!

Jesus is all good, and He is all yours, and this is always your miracle – your greatest Gift.

Jesus is the Gift and we keep giving Him away, down the road and around the corner and the world — He is the best Christmas to give — because when we share Christ, we most have Him.

And on the backside of that little verse liner, we write a Christmas note to our neighbors and tape up the back of the little cookie envelope — and tuck The Greatest Gift cookie envelope in with a little love-something for the neighbors — a hot chocolate mix, a bag of coffee, a good book, a little candle, a loaf of bread.

“Look at how many cookies we have got done now!” Kai grins from the table.

And Shalom, she counts a bit giddy, this giving away that gives the Great Gift...

 

 

 

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Weary mamas? Wound-up kids? This December? Could be The Greatest Christmas! This is the relief you’ve always wanted for your Christmas.

Open this book & your Christmas will begin where you never expected — and it will end where you only dreamed.

A book that is like your own larger-than-life Advent Calendar, opening up to 25 wondrous stories that tell the family tree of Jesus, from Creation to His Coming.

Because if we want our Christmas tree to really stand full of wonder & real meaning? The tree we need to understand & be astonished by —- is the wonder of the family tree of Jesus! Because this is your family’s real family tree, your real story.

Each day’s story has its very own ornament, one for each day of Advent — all unwrapping a bit more of a story that’s far better than the greatest fairy tale you’ve ever read —- because this story is all true. So come Christmas day — your kids, and your Christmas tree with all 25 ornaments, will be telling the full love story of Jesus’ coming, right from the very beginning!

Full colour, vibrant 2 page spreads. Romping, shimmering words — for every kid from ages 4- 94.

Known through the ages as the Advent tradition of the Jesse Tree, named after Jesus’ ancestor, Jesse, the father of King David, this is one Christmas experience your family will never forget — that they will be passing down from your Christmases to their Christmases — because this is the gift we all want.

What better gift to give the whole family this Christmas — than the wonder of the full love story of Jesus?

Check out all the Free Resources available, free ornaments, free cookie envelopes for the kids, free Jesse Tree ornaments for the kids, all over at www.TheGreatestChristmas.com

Ann Voskamp is a farmer’s wife and homeschooling mother to 6 children. She is the author of the New York Times bestselling book One Thousand Gifts.
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Want to win a copy of Ann’s new book for Advent, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift? Enter using the Rafflecopter below. (Subscribers may need to click through.)

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Why Making a Mess Can Help Your Whole Family Learn God’s Word {GIVEAWAY}

Kids are the ultimate doers.

They come home from school with a backpack full of papers they’ve colored, figures they’ve drawn, and crafts they’ve made. Before their bags have even had time to make an impression on the couch, they’ve raced to the backyard or to the park with their friends where hours pass as they build castles out of sand, rainforests out of monkey bars, and as-yet-unseen worlds seen only with the eyes of their imagination.

When we grow up, it’s easy to look back at all of this activity and dismiss it as childish play—fun, certainly, but not educational. By middle school, we come to believe that real learning comes from sticking our nose into a book until knowledge mysteriously transfers from the ink-splattered pages into the recesses of our brain. The problem is that this simply isn’t true.

Don’t misunderstand: book-learning is good and necessary for a well-rounded education. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise to Christians that learning through doing is equally as important for adults as it is for kids. After all, Jesus taught with hands-on lessons and illustrations.

Of course, the Gospels tell us that Jesus was a stand-out student of the Hebrew Scriptures, and He would frequently quote or paraphrase those Scriptures to His followers in order to reinforce or remind them of what God has said. But just as often, Jesus chose to teach those around Him by doing.

He walked on the water. He broke bread and fish into thousands of pieces. He raised Lazarus from the dead. He cleared the Temple. He died and rose again.

Even when Jesus taught with His words, He often used parables, metaphors, and illustrations instead of simple statements of fact. He created mental playgrounds for His followers where they could feel the surroundings and circumstances of the characters. They could feel the outrage of the older, faithful brother when their father welcomed his repentant brother home and celebrated with a feast.

It will always be important to read Scripture. But as Jesus demonstrated by His own teachings, it is equally important for kids and adults alike to do Scripture.

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That’s what makes the Hands-On Bible so special. The Hands-On Bible uses this same type of experience-based learning to communicate God’s Word in an active, understandable way.

With hundreds of fun, memorable activities, the Hands-On Bible is packed with activities and experiences that invite kids (and maybe even their parents!) to crawl inside the Scriptures and do God’s Word! There are over 102 Hands-On Bible Experiences, 52 Key Verse Activities, and 16 Bible Bonanza Experiences that serve as jumping off points to learning God’s Word by doing.

Whether you use it for family devotions or for your kids’ not-so-quiet time, the Hands-On Bible is the only children’s Bible that teaches and reinforces the lessons of the Bible in the same way Jesus taught—by seeing, experiencing, and doing. As James says, “Don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says,” (James 1:22, NLT).

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Want to win a copy of the Hands-On Bible, newly revised by our friends at Tyndale House? We have FIVE copies to give away. To enter, just follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter below.

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The Value of Devotions by Karen Whiting {GIVEAWAY}

pic_full_Whiting_Karen

Devotions with little ones formed the framework of my mothering years. I am still seeing the benefits of taking time in God’s Word with my five little ones who are now grown. For that reason I am passionate about devotions for children, especially preschoolers.

The devotions gave us a sense of purpose, and I made sure days revolved around what we read and also made sure we’d do one each day. If we didn’t get a devotion done before bed, then we skipped desert, as I’d say, “If we don’t have time for the sweet Word of God, we don’t have time for other sweets.” That really helped my children remind me to have some of God’s sweet words!

Benefits

Let’s mention some benefits. It’s easy to realize it helps children get into a habit of reading the Bible and communicating with God to nurture their spirit. However it surprised my husband and me to realize how it also gave them a jump-start on learning. Listening and talking about a Scripture increases a child’s listening comprehension, and that promotes great reading comprehension. We also noticed they could talk with us about any topic through the years because the devotions touched on all aspects of life. They more easily conversed with adults. The Scriptures also increased their vocabulary. Thus, devotions promote cognitive skills.

In activity-oriented devotions like My Princess Devotions, the themes cultivate character development and promote motor development. I placed hospitality in May as part of a theme of tea parties. Planning and hosting teas help little girls learn to greet people, be gracious hosts, and serve others and also helps foster good manners. Other months include generosity, compassion, trust, honesty, and cheerfulness.

The gross motor development comes with activities such as praise walks, dancing, and exercises that are part of various daily devotions. I planned to emphasize using a different body part each month (i.e. feet in October, hands in February). Small motor development is promoted with craft and cooking activities in other devotions. A variety of activities help children realize God cares about all aspects of their lives and helps develop various learning styles.

Tips on doing devotions

  1. Be open-minded. Open hearts to God’s guidance and children’s thoughts. If children stray from the meaning, reread God’s Word or look at another passage on the same topic to enlighten them!
  2. Be consistent by setting up a routine and time for devotions. Choose the best time: early in the morning, after school, or in the evening.
  3. Be enthusiastic. It’s catchy! Praise your child for participating.
  4. Avoid distractions. No eating, no phone calls or TV during devotions.
  5. Plan a reasonable time limit. Ten minutes is good for growing children. When the time is too short to cover the lesson, carry it over to next time!
  6. Don’t be afraid of silence as you wait for your child to respond to a question you ask.
  7. Make Dad a part of the devotions. Choose a time Dad can participate in person or by phone/ internet call.
  8. If Dad travels often or is deployed in the military consider buying a digital copy for him to read along.

Devotions and Your Child’s Personality

Children are different and respond according to their temperaments. An outgoing child likes to act out Bible scenes and share what they learn. A shy child may prefer to do devotions in an intimate setting and will like to journal or draw but may not want to share verbally as much.

Set the stage for success by responding to your child’s personality. For the outgoing child, make it a fun time that can include visiting friends. For a child who is a natural born leader and likes to take charge, let your little one help choose the place and time to do them and also let your child have extra time to discuss the topic. For a little one who is more relaxed and would rather sit and not do things use some encouragement and follow devotions with a snack or reading another book. For the shy child, make it a special parent-child time alone and be patient to wait for the child to think and answer questions.

If you want to do devotions as a family, make sure to include everyone in discussions. A talking stick might help where you pass the stick around for each person to have a time to talk.

Results

I believe that making God part of daily life fosters a sense of purpose and helps children mature. It may not change their IQ, but I thank the Lord that my children are kind, considerate, and serve others. They have remained close to one another and to the Lord. That’s what we want the most as parents.

We can still talk about anything. I am also thankful that one son who experienced twelve years of a 24/7 migraine was able to cling to Scriptures with hope. The Lord healed him last November so we are also thankful for that.

My Princess Devo _ cover

GIVEAWAY

We have five copies of Karen Whiting’s book The One Year My Princess Devotions to give away here at ParentLife Online. Enter using Rafflecopter below.

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Giveaway: Bringing Up Girls by Dr. James Dobson

photo_BUG_softcover“Although our daughters are doing rather well academically and on some measures of social and personal health,” said Dr. James Dobson, best-selling author and parenting expert, “In many ways, I am even more concerned about girls than boys. So much has changed for the worse in recent years. They are under enormous pressures rarely experienced by their mothers, grandmothers and previous generations. Today’s little girls are being enticed to grow up too fast and are encountering challenges for which they are totally unprepared. This is a generalization with many exceptions, of course, but far too many females are in trouble.”

In Bringing Up Girls, Dr. Dobson gives parents, grandparents, and teachers deeper insight into why girls are who they are. He speaks to both fathers and mothers about their unique roles in a daughter’s life and offers encouragement on how to raise healthy girls in a in a shockwave world. Bringing Up Girls draws on extensive research and is written in Dr. Dobson’s trademark down-to-earth approach. It will equip parents to handle many of today’s most pressing issues affecting girls, including: female physiology, relationships with mother and father, cultural influences, bullies, buddies and best friends, and spiritual development

To support some of his points, Dr. Dobson brings in conversations with experts about the influence of culture on youth, and shares interviews he had with young women, giving an eye-opening look into what girls want in their relationships and their views of the world.

The book includes commonly asked questions, as well as accompanying answers, parents have about their daughters regarding issues related to puberty and adolescence and the differences in behavior between boys and girls.

ParentLife has five copies to give away to our readers. Enter through the form below! (Only open to those living in the U.S.)

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Closed: Interview with Larry the Cucumber & WIN an Amazing VeggieTales Prize Package!

Congratulations Diane L.! You won the VeggieTales Prize Package. Check your inbox for an email from us!

 

You aren’t going to want to miss this post! ParentLife was recently able to grab a minute with the infamous Veggie himself, Larry the Cucumber, and conduct a little interview. He’s very busy with all the movies, CDs, radio tour, and live show … so we’re super grateful to Larry for his time. Read the interview, and don’t miss the giveaway at the end!

Hi Larry! So, do you ever get a chance to read ParentLife magazine?  
ParentLife is awesome!   Even though I don’t have any little cucumbers myself, I know that parents of kids that watch VeggieTales love it!

What’s your favorite silly song? 
“The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything” – ‘Cause I get to be on a boat with my all my friends and not do anything!

How do you find time for devotions and studying the Word with your overflowing schedule?
Between all the silliness and fun of making VeggieTales shows, you’ve got to find time to give thanks back to God.  A happy heart is a thankful heart!

Where do you get your inspiration for new characters for the show? 
As you might imagine, it’s not easy to find talking, singing vegetables who can act, too! We handpick characters we think that kids will love!

What is the most important message you want to get to our kids? 
We always try to show kids in each of our shows that they are made special by God and He loves them very much!

 

And now … here is the super awesome prize pack we’re giving away today to celebrate the release of the newest VT DVD, The League of Incredible Vegetables. {How much do I wish I could enter, too??!!}

Just use the Rafflecopter below to enter. If you’re a subscriber, you’ll need to click through. You have until Monday to win this one!

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June Giveaway: Ronnie Wilson’s Gift by Francis Chan

How do you give a gift to God?

That is the question addressed in Ronnie Wilson’s Gift, the third children’s book in Francis Chan’s parable series. Chan expounds on Christ’s words in Matthew 25:40, "And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ "

The illustrations by Jim Madsen are expressive, colorful, and interesting; the picture of Ronnie shaking money out of his piggy bank to buy a homeless man a hot dog made me grin.

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Francis Chan is the author of the highly acclaimed book Crazy Love, which has sold more than 1.3 million copies since its release in 2008.

We have five copies of Ronnie Wilson’s Gift to give away this month, thanks to publisher David C. Cook.

To enter, answer this question in the comments:

If you had to choose one thing in your house to give to God, what would it be? (Let’s bypass "our kids" answers, OK? I will say Libbie’s copy of Jesus Hears Me  … because I think Jesus would laugh at the illustration of Himself that is truly absurd.) — Jessie

Winners will be picked June 30, 2011. One comment person person, please. USA only. LifeWay employees are not eligible to win.

 

May Giveaway: Books from Andrew Peterson!

In the June 2011 issue of ParentLife, we’re featuring Andrew Peterson, a Christian recording artist and author. (He wrote one of my favorite Christmas songs, "Labor of Love," which is on the album The Nativity Story: Sacred Songs. — Jessie)

andrewpeterson.jpgPeterson’s third book in his Wingfeather Saga, The Monster in the Hollows, releases May 24. These books are young-adult fantasy, following the royal family of Janner Wingfeather. The first book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, was released in 2008 and accoladed as funny, imaginative, and clever. The second, North! Or Be Eaten, won a Christy Award in 2010 for the Best Young Adult Fiction.

The Monster in the Hollows will continue to lead readers down curious trails with mystery, humor, and action. Check out this description:

Janner Wingfeather’s father was the High King of Anniera. But his father is gone. The kingdom has fallen. The royal family is on the run, and the Fang armies of Gnag the Nameless are close behind. Janner and his family hope to find refuge in the last safe place in the world: the Green Hollows—a land of warriors feared even by the Fangs of Dang. But there’s a big problem. Janner’s little brother—heir to the throne of Anniera—has grown a tail. And gray fur. Not to mention two pointed ears and long, dangerous fangs. To the suspicious folk of the Green Hollows he looks like a monster. But Janner knows better. His brother isn’t as scary as he looks. He’s perfectly harmless.

Or is he?

 

Lucky for you, we have five copies of The Monster in the Hollows to give away to ParentLife Online readers!

To enter, answer this question in the comments: What is your favorite fantasy book?

Julie Andrews Edwards’ book The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles holds a special place in my heart from childhood! — Jessie

Winners will be chosen on June 1. LifeWay employees are not eligible to enter. One comment per person, please. USA only.

Be Different by Sheila Walsh (with giveaway!)

SheilaWalshAs Christians, we are called to be in this world, but not of this world. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God." God’s direction here seems very clear to me. He never specified any exceptions or exclusions. Black and white. Small and tall. Old and young. Yesterday and today. We are ALL called to be different.

However, today’s society is becoming increasingly separated from God. Moral standards are being stretched and manipulated. Blatantly sinful behavior is accepted as status quo. Unethical actions are being praised in the name of political correctness. Humans are becoming desensitized by the shocking content of television, movies, and radio. At times I am tempted to ask, What is going on here?! Does God see what is happening to our nation, and does His heart break too as our world is turning into such a modern Sodom and Gomorrah?

I don’t know about you, but as a mother of a 14-year-old boy, I feel that my mother-hen radar is running full force constantly! Thankfully, my sweet boy has surrounded himself with friends who are positive influences and godly young men and women. But my heart breaks over hearing the stories he shares of friends who are struggling. Babies are having babies, children are growing up way too fast, and they are emulating the "new normal" standards they are watching on TV every night. As parents, it’s our call to stand up for what is right and good and embrace biblical teachings and standards as the ruler with which we measure ourselves.

John 2:15-17 says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. For all that is in the world … is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away … but he that does the will of God abides for ever.”

As parents, entrusted by God to lead these precious lives towards a life of freedom in Him, we have to find a way to show our children the beauty in God’s standards. By rejoicing in His ways, living by his Word, and enjoying every minute of it, we can show our children how blessed the life of a child of the King can be!

The old saying stands, "If everyone else jumps off a bridge, will you jump too?" Just because the kid next door is ruining his reputation online or the kid down the street is wearing the latest ridiculously short shorts, doesn’t mean every child will or has to. Parental guidance is a strong force to be reckoned with! Armed with the truth that a life in the Light is a life filled with peace, grace, and adventure, let’s remind not only our children but also ourselves that God’s standards have not changed with the in’s and out’s of society’s fads. Even if staying on the winning side means being coined "different" or "strange" … God loves us deeply. Let’s honor that love by being in the world … not of it.

 Sheila Walsh, a successful speaker, is author of the award-winning Gigi, God’s Little Princess series, and other books such as The Shelter of God’s Promises and The Heartache No One Sees. Sheila lives in Frisco, Texas, with her husband, Barry, and son, Christian.

Want to win a copy of Sheila’s latest book, How to Be God’s Little Princess, for your little girl? We have FIVE copies of the book and TWO kits that include the book, tiara, bracelet-making kit, and princess cup.

How_to_Be_Gods_Little_PrincessBook description: What does it take to be a princess? Sheila Walsh has some important answers to share for every little girl. The book covers lots of how-to topics — how to make the best pink cookies, how to wear a tiara, how to earn money at home, how to care for a royal dog, how to be respectful, how to use good manners, how to help Mom, how to follow Jesus, how to act like a princess when things go terribly wrong, and many more.

To win, just tell us about the little princess(es) in your life who would benefit from the book!

For an extra entry, become a fan of our Facebook Fan Page and leave us another comment that you did.

We’ll choose winners on April 18. LifeWay employees are not eligible to win. One comment per person, please. USA only.

Article Help: Fathers and Children

Here’s your chance to contribute to a future ParentLife article. Just help us answer the question:

"From throwing a fastball to changing the oil, what are the things you think every father should teach his child?"

Anyone who comments here with a response will get an extra entry to the March giveaway (even if you’ve already commented on that post)! 

[Side note: if you’re looking for another chance to win a ParentLife subscription, visit The Inclusive Church!]

February Giveaway — I Will Carry You

It’s February already? That means my sweet baby boy is six weeks old, and I am back to ParentLife blogging!

This month we’re giving away several copies of the book I Will Carry You by Angie Smith, our new Mom’s Life columnist … starting in March 2011 with the fresh, new design!

I am privileged to know Angie "in real life," not just through her well-read blog. And even though I know her, I knew the story of the book, I attended her daughter’s funeral … I still bawled through the whole thing. If you don’t know the story of Audrey, here is the synopsis of the book:

 In 2008, Angie Smith and her husband Todd (lead singer of the group Selah) learned through ultrasound that their fourth daughter had conditions making her “incompatible with life.” Advised to terminate the pregnancy, the Smiths chose instead to carry this child and allow room for a miracle. That miracle came the day they met Audrey Caroline and got the chance to love her for the precious two-and-a-half hours she lived on earth.

Upon receiving the original diagnosis, Angie started a blog (Bring the Rain) to keep family and friends informed of their journey. Soon, the site exploded in popularity, connecting with thousands who were either experiencing their own heartbreaking situations or simply curious about how God could carry someone through something so tragic. I Will Carry You tells the powerful story of a parent losing her child, interwoven with the biblical story of Lazarus to help those who mourn to still have hope—to find grace and peace in the sacred dance of grief and joy.

  

To enter, just answer the following question in the comments section:

Who is someone you’d like to see us feature in ParentLife, and why?

It can be a singer, author, celebrity, or your neighbor down the street. I’m just interested to hear what you say! -Jessie, Resident ParentLife Blogger

Winners will be selected March 1, 2011. USA residents only. LifeWay employees are not eligible to win.