The Christmas miracle


  “Christmas is pish-posh!” Thus says the grumpy leading character in “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.” Gathering round Susan Wojciechowski’s touching Christmas classic is one of my favorite family traditions. The heart-touching tale reveals a Christmas miracle! You see, Jonathan Toomey carries a heartbreak that colors everything in his life. After the death of his wife and child, he no longer sees joy or hope. The village children call him “Mr. Gloomy.” Always complaining, he never smiles or laughs but hides in his corner of the world sorrowfully working his woodcarvings. However, one Christmas season a knock on his door changes everything. A local widow and her son Thomas ask him to carve a replacement for their lost wooden nativity scene. Young Thomas becomes a regular visitor as he watches the woodcarver shape and form each figure . . . BUT he offers very definite opinions on how the carvings should look. His suggestions are most often met with a growling “Pish-posh!” Undeterred by Jonathan Toomey’s gruff demeanor and grumblings, Thomas shares his view of the holy scene—with happy sheep, a proud cow, important angel, well-dressed wise men, protective Joseph, smiling Jesus, and loving Mary. As the story unfolds, Jonathan Toomey begins to see Christmas through Thomas’ eyes. The simplistic wonder he sees through Thomas’ innocence and faith eventually helps warm and heal his own heart! On Christmas day, “the village children saw Jonathan throw back his head . . . and laugh. No one ever called him Mr. Gloomy again.” This story always reminds me that God placed magic in a child’s eyes. And it is never more evident than at Christmas. I know you agree that when you see a child squeal at Christmas lights, belt out Christmas carols (in tune or not) or stare wide-eyed at a manger scene, your heart literally feels warmer. I’ve never seen an adult look at a baby and not smile. Children touch us deeply. What a gift for adults who are burdened by life’s challenges and worries to return for a moment to wonder and hope! Perhaps that is why God’s story of grace begins with a child—a treasure born of love. That precious baby boy was God’s greatest gift to you and me in a form he knew we could understand and relate to . . . WOW. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only … Read More

Christmas Coloring Sheets: Mary Had a Secret


If you have littles in need of an activity this Christmas season, try these coloring sheets featuring a Christmas poem I wrote and the illustrations of my dear friend and artist Dinah Jameson. Merry Christmas! COLORING BOOK Cover COLORING BOOK Mary Page 1 COLORING BOOK Joseph Page 2 COLORING BOOK Innkeeper Page 3 COLORING BOOK Shepherds Page 4 COLORING BOOK Wisemen Page 5 COLORING BOOK Manger Page 6 COLORING BOOK Christmas tree Page 7    

5 Principles To Teach Your Child About Prayer


With the launch party of my debut children’s book about prayer last weekend (The Bubble Who Would Not POP!), children and prayer have been on my mind all week. I think raising a man or woman of prayer is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. I’m still working on it with my kiddos, but a few principles came to mind that I thought I might share with you. If we can imprint these fundamental truths about prayer onto our children, it is a great start to equipping them for a life of prayer.   Truth #1 – God ALWAYS hears your prayer. This principle is my favorite and something I address in my book. Isaiah 65:24 says, “Before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.” Isn’t that just the coolest?! If you want your child to grow into a person of prayer, this is step one . . . the most basic belief necessary to pray. God hears your prayer. Period. In all of my favorite biblical stories about prayer, the heroes and heroines have one thing in common. When they pray, God hears them. Now, his answer might not be what they want . . . or they may have to wait to see how God is working. But, no matter the result, God hears them.   Truth #2 — You can talk to God about ANYTHING. Remember in Genesis right after Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit? Scripture says God was walking in the garden in the cool of the day and called out for Adam. Looks to me like God would often hang out with his creations. God wants a relationship with us . . . and that means talking. Children should know that God wants time with them through prayer. If they see God as a loving Heavenly Father who wants to hear from them about what is going on in their lives, they will be open later to spending time in prayer about bigger issues.   Truth #3 — Timing is everything. This is a hard one. I’m an adult and I like to see immediate results . . . so how can we blame children for wanting everything now? But to maintain a faithful life of prayer and faith, we must understand that God has a plan and an answer for … Read More

Back-to-School Prayer Challenge


The countdown has begun! School begins in only weeks, days for some. I know you are crazy busy finding just the right backpacks, shoes, notebooks and folders (with the tabs and pockets that no stores actually seem to carry …. Ugh!!). But every year, I must remind myself of the most important preparation I can make as a parent—covering my children in prayer. That is why I want to challenge you to join me for the Back-to-School 10-Day Prayer Challenge. Starting August 1, will you commit to spending time each day in specific prayer for your child’s success and protection this fall? I think praying together for our children will be awesome and effective! Prayer is our most powerful spiritual weapon . . . let’s stand together. Here are the daily prayer focuses and some prayers to get you started. I’ll post one each day, starting August 1. Let’s do this!   DAY 1, Prayer for My Child “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16) Heavenly Father, Thank you for (child’s name). I love this gift from You with my whole heart and ask You to be with my child today and for the entire school year. My child is full of life and love, but is still so vulnerable. It is hard to entrust my child in the hands of others, but I know ultimately my trust is in You. Please walk with him through the halls of school. Give him understanding, focus and clarity in their studies. Open his mind to learning, yet give him strength, courage and discernment to stand firm in his faith. I place my child in Your hands this school year. Amen. DAY 2, Prayer for Safety “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11-12) Heavenly Father, The world is full of danger. Will You protect my child? According to Scripture, You have commissioned guardian angels to watch over us. I stand on that promise today for my child. Send Your angels to keep my child safe from harm. I pray that You hold my child in Your secure hands today and throughout the school year. Keep my child safe from physical harm. Ward off predators. Protect my child physically, mentally … Read More

Well, bless your house!


As a child, one of my favorite houses to visit was right next door . . . my grandparents’. When my sisters and I saw grandpa sitting on the porch, it was our cue to run down the hill to share a sleeve of saltine crackers and a can of Vienna sausages. (Don’t judge . . . anything is a treat when you share it with grandpa.) The house was a fascinating dichotomy—a garage crammed with tools and truck parts that smelled of oil and gasoline next to immaculate flower beds teeming with pristine, sweet-smelling roses . . . grandpa in his coveralls smudged head to toe in oil and grandma with her neatly coiffed hair and manicured nails. When I think of that home, memories flood in of summer evenings on the porch with my family, Christmas Eve parties, and Easter egg hunts. One constant ingredient in every visit to that cozy house, however, was laughter. I loved to hear my parents chuckling at grandpa’s latest joke, my great aunts and uncles howling with laughter as they shared stories from childhood, and grandma giggling at all of our silly antics. That house was blessed! Recently, I attended a house blessing for a new home. It was so cool! And it reminded me of what makes a house blessed—faith, family and laughter. My grandparents’ house wasn’t very big or extravagant, but it was full of those essentials. I’m hoping yours is, too! Here’s my prayer and blessing for your home: I pray your home is built on a foundation of love and faith that stands firm in life’s storms. (Matthew 7:24-26) I pray your family is sheltered, provided for and safe always. (Philippians 4:19) I pray your door opens to those you love often. (Hebrews 10:24-25) I pray your rooms are filled with the sounds of pattering feet. (Psalm 127:3-5) I pray your walls echo with much laughter. (Psalm 126:2)  

Punishment stinks!


When you got in trouble as a child, did you ever hear this phrase before the boom was lowered? “This hurts me more than you.” Ummm, I don’t think so. Whose behind is stinging right now? As a parent, I understand it’s not as simple as that. Discipline is no fun for the one who has messed up, but it’s no cakewalk for the one handing down consequences either. For example, when my kids were in elementary, playground time after school was a reward for good behavior. I loved chatting with other moms while they played. On days when they didn’t hit the behavior mark, I was just as sad as they were when we walked past those giggling children and cackling moms on our way to the car. Why did I have to be punished, too? Fast forward a few years and my daughter recently got a speeding ticket. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with an extra driver around. So I was just as bummed as she was to take her keys away for a bit. Now I have to drive her to work and her siblings to a myriad of sports workouts and practices. Good grief . . . how inconvenient! On top of it all, the moment you deliver the consequences you see the “face.” You know the one . . . that you-just-stuck-a-knife-in-my-heart face. No matter how disappointed or even angry you are, when your children hurt—even as a result of their own actions—it matters. Parenting is already pretty difficult. Is discipline really so important? In the midst of my whining, I got an image of God walking through a pristine garden in the cool of the evening . . . alone. Remember in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve made their big boo-boo? Prior to then, God hung out with them in an incredibly beautiful place he created. It looks to me like he really enjoyed their company. But when they disobeyed, there were consequences. God had to look them in the face and tell them how they would suffer as a result. I can only imagine their heartbroken, frightened expressions. God created them . . . of course their pain mattered to Him. But I think, most of all, God was saddened that he could no longer be in their presence. I believe he missed them. If God didn’t take the easy way out and let his … Read More

Silly Poem Day: Once I met a fine lady


Silly poems are so fun to write on a whim and tuck away to remind yourself later to smile. Here’s one I wrote that you might want to read to your kiddos and then see what they can create. Have a great day “click-clacking” off to whatever you do . . .   Once I met a fine lady with a most unusual hat. She held a rather large purse and walked on shoes that went click-clack.   How do you do? she inquired as she passed by without stopping. Waving a hankie, she sped away before I could begin talking.   Then, I saw a well-dressed man who had no time to chat. He was moving very fast so that his feet went tap, tap, tap.   Everyone is so busy. How I wonder where they all go. Maybe when I’m much older I’ll go, too. Then I’ll surely know.  

Look what I made for you . . .


My daughter Katie was driving home the other evening and saw something that made her happy. She was so inspired that she sped into the driveway and ran into the house at full speed. “Where’s your sister?” I asked wondering what was wrong. “She’s in the car. I need to grab the camera before it’s gone,” she called out as she whizzed by me camera in hand. “Beautiful sunset. We’re gonna take some pics.” And with that, she was gone again. Wow. Some sunset, I thought. And it was. They came back with several shots of stunning colors as the sun made its exit for the evening. You’ve probably experienced a sunset, sunrise or spectacular view of nature that made you stop and smile. Maybe you even said, “Now, that’s a work of art.” I’m not much of an artist myself, but I know a few. Creating art is not just a skill for them . . . it is a love language to be shared. In fact, from the time children are small, they share their art. Like me, you probably have a box, drawer or wall full of drawings and colorings from the children you love. Don’t you love their sweet faces, beaming with love and pride, as they proclaim, “Look what I made for you!” and present you with their best creation? Art is a love language for God, too. His palette is just a little bigger. I’m fascinated and amazed by the glint of sunbeams dancing through pine trees, the delicate layers of soft red rose petals, or a sunset that fills the sky with fiery hues. Every time I see something special like that, I can almost hear God saying, “Look what I made for you.” It makes me happy. How about you? “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1 NIV)              

60 Days of Summer Fun


Yesterday was the last day of the school year for my kiddos and they celebrated in very different ways. One came home, fell in the bed and took a nap that lasted . . . well, it is still going as I type this. (She’s OK and breathing. I’ve checked several times.) The other two came home dancing, went for ice cream and jumped in the lake (which was very, very cold). I suppose everyone has their own idea of relaxation and fun. When my babies were younger, I thought we needed a packed summer of activities to make the most of the time. It was busy and exciting, but just hanging out and letting them crawl all over me was fun, too. There are lists galore with summer ideas to be googled. Here are 60 of my favorites that don’t take you far from home. Whatever you do this summer, make sure you get plenty of hugs, kisses and snuggle time! (And a nap or two doesn’t hurt.) Declare a coloring day – dig out all your coloring books and colors Explore history Go fishing – for real or pretend Learn about other places/cultures Have a scavenger hunt – in the house, in the yard or beyond Plan a circus at home – dress up like clowns, enlist the family dog to do “tricks”, tumble, etc. Make a homemade piñata – Google it, some are pretty easy to make Write a silly story or poem and read it at supper Craft day – find simple crafts online like making tissue paper flowers, pinecone bird feeders, etc. Have a Nerf gun battle Play hide-and-seek Go camping at a state park or in the back yard Play hopscotch Learn about stars during the day and count them at night Make a fort with pillows Look up how to make some simple musical instruments (like paper rolls and rice) Laughing day — see how many jokes you can write or look up and share them at lunch or dinner Hunt for bugs Get dirty (play in the sand or dirt) Run through sprinklers Go to the zoo Paint something Play kickball Go to a flea market (make a craft with what you find) Take cards to a retirement home Balloon day, including a water balloon fight Have a picnic Dress up like . . . Go to a museum Sculpt with clay … Read More

7 places a busy mom can pray for her kids


As a mom, I mess up . . . a lot. Dirty laundry. Drive-thru suppers. Pit-eeeeee-ful birthday planning. The list goes on. (Can I get an Amen?) But one thing I know I can ALWAYS do right is pray for my kiddos. I’ve looked it up and prayer is a good idea. Period. Any prayer. Any time. Any place. Talking to God about your kids doesn’t have to be long or formal. It just needs to be consistent. That’s hard when you’re doing the mom thing from the time you wake up in the morn until you crash at night. In fact, when I actually try to spend time on my knees in a quiet place, I wake up groggy, facedown, forehead on arms with drool on my “prayer bench” . . . sad, but true! So, here are a few unconventional times and places I talk to God about my children throughout the day that might help you, too. –In bed before the snooze goes off. You know you do it! We ALL hit the snooze when that annoying morning alarm goes off. Why not whisper a quick prayer for your kids as your first act of the day while snuggling under the covers for that last 10 minutes? “God thank you for this day and for my children. Please bless them, protect them and guide me as their mom today.” It’s as simple as that . . . and you can even keep your eyes closed! –During morning coffee. If you steal a few minutes for a steaming cup of coffee in your favorite chair or on the patio before waking the house up, why not share it with God? Have a chat about your loved ones. That’s what friends do! –In the car. I’ve spent a lot of time in the car—school pick-up lines, sports practice shuttles, forgotten lunch drop-offs. I’m sure you do, too. Don’t just sing along with the radio. It’s a great time to pray. –On a walk. I’m not a fan of exercise. But when I do go for a walk, talking to God about my family makes the time more pleasant. Try it! –While doing housework. There is just something about praying for your child as you fold their undies that gets real. No lie! Laundry, dishes, vacuuming . . . talk to God while you work. He’ll listen. –In the shower. … Read More