Building Holiday Traditions within Your Family by Linda MacKillop {GIVEAWAY}

Making Christmas Traditions

As the product of a broken home, building a sense of safety, security, and continuity in the lives of my four sons became a priority as they grew up. We wanted them to have a strong foundation filled with assurance that certain activities would happen on a regular basis, and ultimately showing them the steadiness of both their parents and God. In the midst of a changing world, we wanted them to count on certain events returning each year, each month, each day—like dad coming home from work in the evening, mom being available after school, supportive family members to show up for their activities, and the fun of birthday and holiday celebrations.

Traditions mark the arrival of a special event, but they also provide sought-after predictability and continuity. Holiday traditions, in particular, mark special occasions as both a promise that the celebration returns yearly and as a reminder to kids that some days stand out more than other days because they are the basis and reminders of our faith. These moments are so important and influential that we celebrate them with regularity. By tradition, we remember Christ’s sacrifice weekly or monthly (depending on your church tradition) by taking Communion. By tradition, we baptize our children. By tradition, we baptize them into the faith through the passing on of knowledge through stories and reading.

In our home, we had traditions for each holiday, Christmas especially. While struggling to celebrate this most commercial of American holidays without letting the secular emphasis take over, we found a mixture of fun traditions balanced with sacred traditions that did the trick for us. We always had similar food each year, and the food is still expected today, now that our sons are grown. Chinese food on Christmas Eve (because way back when, most other restaurants closed on Christmas Eve so people could celebrate the holiday); sour cream coffee cake made from scratch on Christmas morning; and turkey, Ritz cracker stuffing, corn pudding, and pumpkin chiffon pie arrived at the table for Christmas dinner.

I find my sons must think about these dishes before they come home for the holiday, because they most certainly expect to see them on the table when they arrive. In addition to food, we always read the Christmas story, set up a manger scene in our living room, set out luminaries to light our way after the Christmas Eve service into the house, and watch It’s a Wonderful Life.

M is for Manger

Age-appropriate reading material, in addition to the Bible story about Christ’s birth, also offers the opportunity to teach about Christ’s entrance into the world. M is for Manger by Crystal Bowman is a wonderful book as the youngest children among you to begin to learn the great story of Christ’s arrival. This book is designed to become a family classic you will be able to return to each year until your children outgrow its simple format—unless they request the familiar story be read again – even to their own children.

Someday your family traditions may have to morph, and may disappear altogether as parents age, but for now, bask in the safety and warmth of them. Each family needs to develop their own traditions, but we suggest you begin with an idea as simple as M is for Manger that allows you to begin tradition-building early. Gather your young ones together this holiday season and form some lasting memories.


More about M is for Manger: Travel through the alphabet with this beautiful rhyming storybook that tells the story of Jesus’ birth. Begin with the angel who tells Mary that she is God’s chosen vessel and follow along until you reach the zillions of stars that paled in comparison to the star that announced the birthplace of the newborn King. Beautifully illustrated and written, this book will be a classic for parents to read to their children every Christmas season.

Sneak peek:
Mary gently wrapped her son,
then rested in the shed.
She placed the newborn Savior
in a MANGER for his bed.

Want to win a copy of M is for Manger? Leave a comment telling us about your favorite Christmas family tradition! We will choose five winners on October 16th. [GIVEAWAY CLOSED]

Congratulations to our winners!

  • Lacey
  • Maddy
  • Amy Tolley
  • Jennifer Cervantes
  • Maryann

Four Fun Ways to Help Your Kids Love the Bible (GIVEAWAY)

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As Christian parents, we want our children to develop a love for Christ and know that the stories in His Word are true and still meaningful today. So, how do you foster a love of God’s word in your children? How do you encourage them to appreciate the Bible, make it applicable to real life, and continue to read it as they grow older? Start when they are young! Make the Bible come alive to them as you share stories that capture their imaginations and teach them about the character of God.

Kids love to interact with books and the stories they tell. However, in this time of digital, interactive, and animated content, children expect to be entertained more than ever before. Providing a way for them to learn more about God without staring at a screen of some kind is becoming much harder to do – but it is not impossible. Below are some ways you can make learning about the Bible fun without the help of tablets, TV, or any other type of screen.

  • Find books that encourage your little ones to act out the stories you are telling. Watching them as they pretend to walk on water or pretend to see for the first time will be fun for you and for them.
  • As you read through a book with your child, think about ways you can put the lessons learned into practice. Some examples would be taking dinner to a sick friend, cleaning up the neighbor’s yard, or sponsoring a child who needs help. Plan together and help others!
  • Create small craft projects that help them remember and engage with the stories you read together. Some craft ideas include:
    – Have them find as many pictures of bread and fish as they can and glue them into “baskets” showing God’s provision for our needs like the time Jesus took care of the 5,000 hungry people who were listening to Him teach
    – Use brad fasteners to create a movable scene retelling the parting of the Red Sea for the Israelites
    – Let them color Joseph’s coat of many colors with their own design
    – Be creative and come up with ideas of your own!
  • Find books that have creative formats that will engage your kids. And what is more fun than a book that is also a toy? Bouncy Bible Buddies are fun, interactive, engaging stories from the Bible written for kids 3-6 years old. The easy grip handles turn these lovable animals into carry along friends. Push the handle down to make them bounce! This creative and fun design will draw little ones in time after time and help them learn more about God’s word and His love for them. Daniel in the Lion’s Den and The Lost Sheep are available now!

There are many benefits to sharing these experiences with your children. You will build a stronger relationship as you spend time together, your child will learn to love God’s word, and who knows – you might even learn a few things yourself.

Want to win some adorable Bible Buddies for yourself? Enter using the Rafflecopter below. Each winner will receive BOTH Daniel in the Lion’s Den and The Lost Sheep!

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Big Thoughts for Little People – the New App and a Giveaway

Tyndale House Publishers is excited to announce its first children’s app. Released to the iTunes store in January, 2015, the Big Thoughts for Little People app is the perfect companion to the bestselling alphabet book with the same name, written by Dr. Ken Taylor (over 560,000 sold).

big thoughts

In the app, each letter of the alphabet is accompanied by five unique interactive games designed to teach children letter recognition and beginning word identification skills. Activities include matching games, coloring activities, puzzles, picture comparison, and much more!

The Big Thoughts for Little People app will encourage kids to remember that God has created each of them and the world they live in. This app is a worthwhile investment in any child’s spiritual and educational growth.



Courtesy of Tyndale House, we have 5 copies of the book Big Thoughts for Little People to give away. It’s a beautifully illustrated, hardcover book that would be wonderful for your kids or to give awy. Enter using Rafflecopter below!

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Win Jeremy Camp’s Book and Latest Album!

Way back in September 2011, I reviewed Jeremy Camp’s autobiography I Still Believe. In it, the young recording artist talks about his faith-walk through the passing of his first wife, Melissa, who succumbed to cancer mere months after their wedding.

Since then, Camp has released an album of his number 1 hits and a Christmas album; but his most recent release, Reckless, is his first album of originals since 2008’s Speaking Louder Than Before.

Reckless is classic Camp, full of great music that will be sure to fly up the charts soon. You’ve probably already heard the title track on your Christian radio station. (You can listen to clips of all the songs here.)

“I want to be reckless / cause You are endless …. I will not be afraid to surrender my way and follow who You are.” – “Reckless”

Lyric-driven as always, fans will love Camp’s new album.

Want to win a copy of the album AND his autobiography, I Still Believe? Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

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Intentional Parenting with David Thomas – Q&A and Giveaway!

Q&A with David Thomas, author of Intentional Parenting: Autopilot is for Planes (Thomas Nelson, March 2013).

David wrote Intentional Parenting with Sissy Goff and Melissa Trevathan, who all three are on staff of Daystar Counseling Ministries in Nashville, TN. Daystar is a not-for-profit ministry offering both individual and group counseling for children, adolescents, families, and young adults.

Q: How would you define being an intentional parent?

First, let us tell you what intentional parenting is not. Reactive. It is essential to parent out of love instead of parenting out of fear. When we parent out of fear, our kids never get the best of us, the most of us, or even what they really need from us. Parenting out of fear is a reactive form of parenting.

We’d love to invite you into more proactive parenting—thoughtful, intentional, strategic, and wise parenting. Or more active parenting—responsive, engaged, invested, connected parenting. It’s difficult to parent out of love when we are simply reacting to everything going on around us. We are postured to react rather than respond.

We always have options. Sometimes we choose fear over love. Sometimes we choose love over fear. You will continue to hear us invite you to extend grace to yourself in the journey of parenting. You are going to make mistakes. God can redeem the mistakes we make in parenting. He extends grace to us so that we can then extend grace and mercy to our children. Receive the grace and mercy that is available to you. And then do that thing we teach our kids to do when they fall off their bikes while learning to ride: get back up, dust yourself off, and try again.

Being an intentional parent means I get back on the bike and learn from the mistake I made last time around.


Q: What does play have to do with parenting?

Play has purpose for you and your kids. When we speak to parents, we talk about the need for every child to feel enjoyed by their parents. Every child needs time with their mom and dad that is not spent instructing, coaching, teaching, or even exhorting … just plain play together. It helps build a child’s confidence and increases the bond between you.

As a side note, we’re not only talking about watching your children play, although that’s important too. Kids want an audience, and it’s easy to think (especially after a hard day’s work) that by watching them play, you are entering in. You can watch them play tennis and dive off diving boards, but they also want you to jump in and get a little wet right alongside them.

At camp, the kids will beg the adult counselors to get in the lake with them. I cannot even begin to count the number of kids who have said to me, “My mom won’t swim with us. She doesn’t like to get her hair wet. Or, my dad comes to the lake with us, but he spends a lot of time on his phone because it’s hard for him to get away from work.”

Dive in. Get your hair wet. Get on the floor and play a board game. Laugh. Enjoy your children by playing with them. And then save a little time to play without them, as well.

kid / vancouver, BC, CANADA
source: Ces’t June

Q: What role does hope play in parenting?

Your child will place his or her hope in a lot of things over the years—new friends, parts in plays, winning football teams, homecoming dates, SAT scores. And when those things fall through, discouragement will follow. Your encouragement, in those times, is invaluable. A middle school girl said that her mom puts a new Scripture on her mirror every day … just to encourage her. A high schooler said recently how much it means when she knows her mom is praying specifically for her and for what she’s facing that day. The encouragement of these moms is a genuine expression of their hope. When your encouragement rises out of that place, it has more impact than you can imagine.

In all of the complexities of growing up today, children and teens need hope. They need life and healing and relationship with you, as their parent. And they need you to offer these things out of the overflow of your heart. Encouragement is not just the words you say. It’s not just the truth and hope that you offer. It’s the way you live His truth and His hope out. Sensitivity to your child’s heart and confidence in God as your protector, provider, and redeemer is what truly encourages. You offer hope as you point your children toward Christ.

Want to win a copy of Intentional Parenting? We have 5 copies to give away to readers this week! Just enter using Rafflecopter below. 

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Do You Have Sparkly Green Earrings? (GIVEAWAY)


Melanie Shankle, author of the Big Mama Blog, has been much-beloved by LifeWay for quite some time. She has written for the women’s All Access blog as well as worked many women’s events. I’ve been a personal fan of her blog for quite some time, too, where she writes about life, parenting, TV, and fashion with a humorous touch.

Shankle’s first book, Sparkly Green Earrings, releases this week, and we’re thrilled to help her celebrate! Written in the same witty fashion as her popular blog, Sparkly Green Earrings is a memoir of motherhood that you’re sure to enjoy.

“It really is one of those books that you want all of your girlfriends to read so that you can talk about it and quote your favorite lines and tell your own versions of similar stories.” -Sophie Hudson, BooMama


We’re thrilled to have 5 copies of Sparkly Green Earrings to give away this month at ParentLife Online thanks to Tyndale House! Simply use the Rafflecopter below to enter. (Subscribers may need to click through to the post.) Winners will be selected February 13, 2013. Please see terms.

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Closed: Oct. 15 Giveaway: ParentLife Subscription

Congratulations to Amy Alsup Hess! She won the 1-year subscription to ParentLife.

Today’s giveaway is for one subscription to ParentLife magazine! Enjoy 12 issues full of Christian insight for parents of children ages 0 to 12. We tackle tough topics like bullying and teaching your kids about grief, but we also include lots of fun with craft ideas and activities to do as a family.

If you are already a subscriber, this would make a great gift for your best friend, sister, or ministry leader’s wife.

Enter using the form below:

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Don’t Forget!

Don’t forget to enter the March giveaway! You can enter by scrolling down on that post and answering the question or answering this question on fathering that we posted last week. We’re giving away some wonderful books, so you should definitely comment for a chance to win!

December Giveaway

With all the excitement of our Black Friday giveaway, we’re a little behind getting this one up … but we guess you’re probably a little behind in stuff, too, due to the holidays!

This month we’re giving away one Levels of Biblical Learning Super-Duper Prize Pack! Our prize pack includes the following:

God’s Creation stickers
Names of God stickers
God Loves Me stickers
Bible Times stickers
Kind Words stickers
• 1 copy of Super Duper Fun & Exciting Absolutely Thought-Igniting Bible Activities for Kids : 1st through 6th grade edition
Creation Box Puzzle (which includes 4 different small puzzles)
Solomon’s Temple Floor Puzzle
Magnetic Picture Frame Craft Pack
"I Love You" Cards Craft Pack (great for Valentine’s Day)

This would make a wonderful gift to your child’s Sunday School teacher or to have at home for ideas for your children! It’s a prize pack worth over $85 that will go to one blessed winner who comments on any ParentLife post during the month of December.

Best wishes!

Winner will be chosen January 3, 2011. USA only. LifeWay Employees are not eligible to win.


November Giveaway

It’s November! Do you feel the holidays beginning to breathe their "parumpa-pum-pum" rhythym? With a baby due on December 22nd, I definitely do! Now that we’re through a whirlwind week of two birthdays, four grandparents and one aunt visiting, one big birthday bash, and some trunk-or-treating, "baby time" seems even more close. Which means you have about 7 and a half weeks until Christmas!

For our November giveaway, we’re doling out TEN fun Christmas books for you and your kids.

 wonderofchristmas.gifHere are the ten books we’re giving away:

 The Wonder of Christmas by Dandi Daley Mackall

Away in a Manger by Mike Jaroszko

Tonight You Are My Baby (Board Book) by Jeannine Q. Norris

Pocket’s Christmas Wish by Ann Bonwill and Russell Julian

starofchristmasbook.jpgThe Star of Christmas by Maria T. DiVencenzo

Holiday Cupcakes by Annie Rigg

Come to the Table: Food, Fellowship, and a Celebration of God’s Bounty by Benita Long

Christmas Cooking with Kids by Annie Rigg

Kids in the Holiday Kitchen by Jessica Strand

Better Home and Gardens’ Best of Christmas Ideas

To enter, leave a comment on this post with one of your favorite Christmas books or family traditions. If you’d like, you can also comment which of these books you would like to have the most, and we’ll take that into consideration if you are a winner!

Winners will be selected December 1, 2010. LifeWay employees are not eligible to win.