Tag: Older Children (page 1 of 18)

Christmas Tapestry

When Jonathan’s father takes a job pastoring a church outside Detroit, his whole family is uprooted—transported from Memphis, Tennessee, where Jonathan had just made the soccer team, where things their church was new and beautiful, and Jonathan knew where he fit. But his family’s new church is nothing like their gleaming Memphis church: attendance is small and the building feeble and rickety.

Jonathan’s parents assure him, though, that their Memphis church looked just that humble when they’d moved there, and that his father had been hired not just to shepherd the congregation but to repair and rebuild their Detroit church as he had their church in Memphis. And so the family sets to work restoring the old church in the hope that it will be ready for their Christmas services.

And everything goes swimmingly—they’re going to make it! Until a snow storm damages the churches and sets a chain of surprising events in motion.

The Christmas Tapestry, by Patricia Polacco | Little Book, Big Story

This is a classic Christmas miracle story, and it’s one that touches on something we’ve talked a lot about in our house this year. When things don’t go the way we expect them to, it’s tempting to look at the circumstances and protest, like Jonathan, “But how? How can God use this for good?” Even as an adult who has seen firsthand how God’s goodness to us often comes through suffering, it still sometimes sounds trite to my ears to hear that God is working all things for good when I can’t see with my eyes how he’s doing it.

But this story is a beautiful reminder that the goodness God works is often disproportionate to our suffering: Jonathan’s family labored over their church, and the damage done to it is costly, difficult to fix, and bitterly disappointing. These are real losses, and Jonathan feels them acutely. And yet the blessing God works through those very hardships is abundant and overflowing—the sort of goodness that makes the heart squeeze a bit and that makes the quick-to-cry among us lose our composure as we struggle to read it aloud. Like the gospel itself, this story sounds almost too good to be true. (And maybe this one is: it is based upon stories author and illustrator Patricia Polacco had heard told, so though she has reimagined it, there is likely some kernel of truth in this story.)

The Christmas Tapestry, by Patricia Polacco | Little Book, Big Story

And that is part of what makes this book, like many of Patricia Polacco’s books, so beautiful: it rings true. God does work in this way—he uses the run-down and overlooked to remind us that he is always working, drawing us together and to him.

One thing to note: this book does mention the Holocaust. It is not graphic or detailed, but you may wish to read this one first and determine if it’s a good fit for your younger readers.

The Christmas Tapestry
Patricia Polacco (2002)

The Adventure of Christmas

This week we had a big discussion about when exactly Advent begins, and I was certain that it started next weekend. I had looked at the schedule for Advent readings at our church—I knew what was up. I was sure.

Are you sure?” my daughter asked.

“Yes,” I answered. I was sure.

But at church the poinsettias were out, and the first candle was lit. As we sang the opening verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” I looked down the row at my daughter and sheepishly mouthed, Oops.

The Adventure of Christmas, by Ed Drew | Little Book, Big Story

We don’t start our family readings until December 1, though, so I had a few days of grace to break out the calendars and books. This year, we’re reading through Ed Drew’s new Advent book, The Adventure of Christmas. In our family, we have daughters on both sides of that curious divide between child and teen, so it’s hard to find devotionals that resonate with all four girls. But last Lent we read Drew’s Easter devotional, Meals With Jesus, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked for both age groups: he offered questions written for each age level from preschooler to teen and provided enough material with each reading to allow families to customize the conversation for wherever their kids are at.

The Adventure of Christmas follows a similar format. After a short Scripture reading come questions, from which parents can pick and choose, as well as “Optional Extras” likes crafts, deeper discussion topics for older kids, and resources for parents’ own Advent studies. It’s like a buffet with a little something for everyone! I love that about this book. And I hate to admit it, but I also love how short and to-the-point the readings are—perfect for discussing over dinner on a December weeknight and unlikely to make anybody groan.

One of the things I find most intriguing about The Adventure of Christmas is the fact that we won’t encounter Jesus’ birth on Christmas Day, but somewhere in the middle of the month—which leaves room for the stories of Simeon and Anna, and allows readers to look forward to who Jesus would when he grew up. Drew doesn’t present Jesus’ birth as the climax of the Christmas story, but as an event pointing toward a still bigger event; that is, I think, what truly sets this book apart from the many, many Advent resources our family has encountered over the years. (This is evident on the Advent calendar as well, which places the manger in the center of the timeline, not at the end.)

The Adventure of Christmas, by Ed Drew | Little Book, Big Story

And, mercifully, the readings begin on December 1—but the schedule is flexible. You’re not required to read all twenty-five throughout Advent, so if you also missed the first Sunday, never fear! You, like me, still have time to catch up.

The Adventure of Christmas: A Journey Through Advent for the Whole Family
Ed Drew; Alex Webb-Peploe (2021)

Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book for review, but I was not obligated to review it or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.

Christmas With Anne

If you could spend Christmas in any story, which would you choose?

Would you squeeze into the Weasleys’ living room or celebrate Narnia’s first Christmas after the thaw? Would you join the Ingalls around the woodstove in their little house on the prairie? 

Christmas with Anne, by L. M. Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story

I would spend mine among the puffed sleeves and plum puddings of Anne of Green Gables, where the company dishes twinkle prettily in the candlelight. I would finally get to wear one of those glorious dresses with their full skirts and strands of buttons. And oh, to savor a slice of dark, spicy fruitcake with Anne Shirley herself!

But reading Christmas with Anne is the next best thing. Christmas With Anne is a collection of warm and welcoming short stories, featuring Anne Shirley as well as a cast of new characters: strangers stranded on a train, students stuck in a boarding house over Christmas, families separated by bitterness and comically reunited by chance.

Christmas with Anne, by L. M. Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story

Reading these stories is a little like celebrating Christmas over and over again. Each one tells of a different celebration in a different home, but each one also tells of some hurdle a character must overcome to better love those around her. L. M. Montgomery’s stories are a beautiful reminder that, though we can’t visit the world of our favorite stories, the Author of our story visited ours. Christmas With Anne illustrates beautifully what it looks like to love others the way he loves us.

Today’s post originally appeared in the Christmas 2018 issue of Wildflowers Magazine. You can purchase that (and any other) issue of Wildflowers Magazine right here. And watch for the Christmas 2019 issue, which will make an entrance any day now!

Christmas with Anne
L. M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables (Series)

L. M. Montgomery’s books make me want to befriend some patch of land and explore it thoroughly until I know and have named every tree, every brook, every starry-eyed flower in its thickets. I want to wear clothes made from fabric with names that sound edible—chiffon, taffeta, voile—in colors like “dove gray,” “dusky rose” and “pale green.”

Oh, to eat preserves from quilted jelly jars and don hats festooned with silk flowers and curling ostrich feathers! (I also want to clean, because I harbor a strong suspicion that Marilla Cuthbert and Mrs. Rachel Lynde would not approve of my standards of housekeeping.)

Anne of Green Gables (series), by L. M. Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story

Montgomery’s writing transports me so completely to the Prince Edward Island of yesteryear that it is with a jolt that I come to at the close of the chapter to find myself camped out on the couch with a sleeping baby on my chest and a mean crick in my neck (a scene no less lovely, by the way—just slightly less romantic).

You have read Anne of Green Gables, of course. I had—twice—and had also acted in the play (some of you may recall that I married Gilbert Blythe), so I was more than familiar with Anne’s story. But in these early days of new motherhood, I decided to read on in the series and, in doing so, discovered a story of rare beauty.

Anne of Green Gables (series), by L. M. Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story
Anne of Green Gables (series), by L. M. Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story
(Sometimes, when it is windy, I need a small assistant)

Anne is an endlessly endearing, perfectly imperfect heroine, settled into a story of lush scenery and unforgettable characters. To walk with a character through childhood and into adulthood, to watch her friendships and marriage grow and change, is a delight. Montgomery’s ability to present Anne in the various stages of life without slackening the pace or vibrancy of the story, allowing the reader to watch Anne grow in wisdom as she becomes a mother, confronts loss, and watches her own children mature, shows just how masterful an author she is.

Anne of Green Gables (series), by L. M. Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story

There is something singular about seeing a life spun out in story like that. I can’t help but hope that, in heaven, we’ll see our own lives in a similar way: we’ll step back from it a bit so we can see God’s delicate foreshadowing in our own stories and, knowing the end of things, we’ll see, in those moments when life seemed “a vale of tears,” the first glint of the glorious light up ahead.

Today’s summer re-run originally appeared way back in February 2014, in the early days of this blog. But it is about one of my favorite series in all of literature, so it’s worth sharing again. (Also, these books are perfect for reading beneath a favorite tree. Just in case you were looking for books perfect for reading beneath a favorite tree . . . )

Anne of Green Gables
L. M. Montgomery (1908)

What’s in the Bible? (Videos)


Way back in this blog’s beginning posts, I wrote a bit about What’s in the Bible? I told you that it was awesome and that you should watch it, but that was over a year ago and now it’s a cozy sort of season when movies and fleece blankets are in high demand, so I thought I’d give the series its very own post—even though it’s not a book, but a show about the book.

What’s in the Bible? is a series of 26 episodes that works its way through the entire Bible, but probably not in the way you’re thinking. Yes, it tells the creation story and shares a stellar retelling of the Book of Ruth, but the overall focus of the series is less on the celebrated stories of the Bible and more on the great, overarching story of the Bible. What is actually in the Bible? Why does it matter to us? What’s in the Bible? strives to answer those questions with creativity and sincerity (a great combination when dealing with anyone, little or big). The mind behind it all belongs to Phil Vischer, of JellyTelly (and formerly of VeggieTales). He briefly explains the vision of What’s in the Bible? here:

As you may remember from my post about his book, Sidney and Norman, I think very, very highly of Mr. Vischer. He appears on the show as a sort of anchor for an eclectic cast of puppets (which features, among other things, a Sunday school teacher, a news anchor, and a pirate), where he doesn’t shy away from difficult topics, but speaks to kids as though they can and should understand what the Bible says about tricky topics like sin, salvation, and theological doctrine. Take the show’s explanation of the Trinity, for example:

Our daughters love these videos. My husband and I love them, too, and through the show’s vivid illustrations we have both learned a lot about key aspects of the Bible. The episodes that touched on Paul’s back story or the silence between the Testaments switched lights on for both of us, and now our daughters tend to do things like, oh, list the books of the Bible in order just for fun. The show is full of catchy songs (a song about the Pentateuch—sung on a riverboat!) and great topical segments (A Pirate’s Guide to Church History!) that go far beyond the traditional fare of Christian children’s programming.

Now, where you can you find this excellent series? If you live in our area, you can request copies of the DVDs at the public library, but by far the easiest way to watch them is to subscribe to JellyTelly. The monthly fee is cheap and grants you access to all 26 episodes of What’s in the Bible? as well as a variety of other shows and games that our family has yet to explore. (Do I sound like an infomerical? Don’t worry, this is not a sponsored post—none of my posts are—so it’s simply my enthusiasm for this show that you hear taking on a cheesy radio-announcer persona.)

JellyTelly’s mission is “be a tool to help raise the next generation of Christians so they know what they believe and know how to live it and to help launch the next generation of Christian storytellers.” I love that vision and see it succeeding marvelously through What’s in the Bible? 

What’s in the Bible? (DVD series)
Jelly Telly