Tag: prayer (page 1 of 2)

Jesus Listens

I suppose every family picks up its own lingo, usually after an adorable toddler misspeaks and her invented word becomes enshrined in the family vernacular. Thus, when something is crooked in our house—a sock, say, or a ponytail—we call it “fonky.” Or when something is of the ordinary, tried-and-true variety, we don’t call it “regular”—we say it’s “reggly.” And so forth. These are the words our daughters will most likely take with them into adulthood, not realizing until they call something “fonky” in public that nobody else’s family says it quite that way.

But it’s funny to think that we’re learning language all the time—not just language, as in The English Language, but all those subtle forms of it. There’s Mom Language, for example, and its various dialects, each particular to the season of motherhood you’re in. These days, I’m pretty fluent in Writing Language, which means that, if you don’t stop me, I could really talk your ear off about the way Stoker employs dramatic irony in Dracula or about Semicolons, The Uses Thereof. When my husband talks Coding with another computer programmer, I definitely need a translator.

Jesus Listens, by Sarah Young | Little Book, Big Story

And there’s no denying it: the church has its own language, too. Sometimes it’s heavy with “thee’s” and “thou’s” or perhaps with talk about the heart—”the Lord put it on my heart,” or “guard your heart,” or “check your heart on that one.” I remember coming into the church at seventeen and putting some serious work into decoding these phrases, which seemed to fly most thickly during prayer time.

Have you noticed that? We seem to slip into our stiffest, most stilted language when we’re praying. Not all of us, all the time, of course. But I sure feel that temptation, and I know I’m not the only one.

Jesus Listens, by Sarah Young | Little Book, Big Story

And that is where Jesus Listens gets it right. This is a devotional for kids, written in first person, that helps guide children into a rich prayer life. In Jesus Listens, Sarah Young somehow strikes a balanced tone: these prayers feel like they’re offered to both to the God of the Universe, who made all things, and to our Heavenly Father, who loves to hear from us right where we are. Neither too casual nor too formal, these prayers are written in the language of childhood—open, honest, and direct. Each one draws heavily from Scripture and closes with a handful of verses for readers to explore.

This book is written as a devotional for kids to use during their own reading, but it also works when read aloud as a family. However you use it, Jesus Listens serves as a beautiful template for prayer. And every time I read one at the lunch table with my daughters I want to sigh happily and say, “That is so good.” I find that it’s teaching me a new language as well, one that encourages me to drop the Official Prayer Language and simply come before God as his child.


Jesus Listens: 365 Prayers for Kids
Sarah Young; Tama Fortner (2022)


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.

Praying Through the Bible for Your Kids

I don’t typically review parenting books here. The pitfalls are too many, too various: I don’t want you to come away thinking that we must agree on parenting philosophies and strategies if we are to parent alongside one another.

What I do want is for us to agree on the gospel. Everything else is peripheral, and if we are teaching our children the truth of the gospel, we have a lot of room to differ on the practical stuff. How we educate our children, how we train them when they’re young, how we discipline them when they’re older: these are all matters we work through with God, within our own families and church communities. You don’t need some book reviewer telling you how you ought to feed your toddler. And so while I may occasionally mention parenting books that I have personally enjoyed or found helpful, I rarely recommend books specifically for parents about raising children.

The One Year Praying Through the Bible for Your Kids, by Nancy Guthrie | Little Book, Big Story

But this book is a worthy exception. Rather than provide practical parenting advice on a particular issue, Praying Through the Bible for Your Kids begins where all our parenting must begin: with prayer, and in Scripture. Nancy Guthrie structures this book around a Scripture reading plan (which takes readers through the whole Bible in one year) and shares a series of short devotionals and guided prayers to accompany each day’s Scripture reading. The idea is to encourage parents to read Scripture and allow it to shape our prayers.

The One Year Praying Through the Bible for Your Kids, by Nancy Guthrie | Little Book, Big Story

I don’t know about you, but I find that the longer I’m a mother, the more acutely I realize that I am, frankly, not big enough for this job. In defiance of every motivational Instagram tile out there, I’ll say it: I am not enough. As my children grow up, the issues they struggle with get bigger, and the roots of those issues run so deep we can’t suss them out in the five-minute motivational talks that did the trick when they were two. Parenting children through this past year alone has called for wisdom and strength beyond my natural allotment.

I may not be big enough to be all those things and meet all those needs, but God is. I need his help every day, and I suspect you do too. Praying Through the Bible for Your Kids reorients parents each morning and reminds us that this is a big task, but we do not face it alone. God equipped us for the challenges of yesterday, and he will equip us for whatever today brings as well. This book may focus on praying for our kids, but of course our contact with the Lord and with Scripture will leave us changed as well.


The One Year Praying Through the Bible for Your Kids
Nancy Guthrie (2016)

Window on the World

Until now, I have proceeded as usual with my publishing schedule. I usually plan out blog posts a few months in advance, so while our family found our footing under a stay-at-home order in Washington state, I let that schedule hum along and publish books I’d chosen months before.

But it occurred to me the other day that, really, I want to shift focus a bit while many of us face some degree of quarantine. For the rest of the school year, I’d like to share books that, I hope, encourage and equip you all during this strange season. Books for kids dealing with difficult issues. Comforting read-alouds that remind us of the big picture. Educational resources that are both enjoyable and easy to use. Devotionals that draw our hearts back to God when we are ambushed by fear.

I hope that you all are finding some measure of peace and comfort during this season when so much is uncertain. I find the greatest source of hope and courage in the gospel, which is not dependent on our circumstances, but was written for us long before any of us lived. Let us mourn our losses and bring our sorrows to God, our true and steadfast hope. And let us also rejoice in him, for he is our true comfort, and he will never change. My prayer for you, dear friends, is this:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)


And now for today’s book!

Window on the World, by Molly Wall & Jason Mandryk | Little Book, Big Story

At the start of the school year, after I’d spent the summer planning to homeschool and then, abruptly, preparing our girls to return to school, I got to choose one book from the massive reading list I’d assembled for our home-school-year-that-wasn’t—one out of dozens that the girls and I would read together, one Friday morning lunch at a time.

I passed over beautiful history books, thrilling science books, charming story books, and landed on this book: Window on the World. This, I thought, is the one thing I want to share with them this year.

Window on the World, by Molly Wall & Jason Mandryk | Little Book, Big Story

Window on the World is a prayer resource for families filled with double-page spreads on different countries or ethnic groups around the world. Through stories and facts, authors Molly Wall and Jason Mandryk introduce readers to the culture, history, and Christian church of each country, while giving both an on-the-ground perspective of daily life and a flyover view of the country’s larger details, like population and geography.

We have worked our way through this one slowly, spreading each country’s reading over three or four days. And at the end of each reading, we pray—fumblingly, some of us very much with the training wheels on. We are new to praying as a family, and I’m grateful for the way this book has nudged us to think beyond the borders of our home, church, and city.

Window on the World, by Molly Wall & Jason Mandryk | Little Book, Big Story

Of course I had no idea how this year would progress—I didn’t know we’d be homeschooling again by the end of it, or that the world would seem so unsteady. It is probable that life in these countries will look like different by the time this particular storm passes, but even so, I am grateful for the chance to gather together with my girls over empty lunch plates and pray for our brothers and sisters around the world, knowing that our Father knows their needs just as surely as he knows ours. When so much seems uncertain, it is good to clasp hands with my daughters and remember that.


Window on the World: An Operation World Prayer Resource
Molly Wall & Jason Mandryk (2018)

4 Family Devotionals for Advent

One of the advantages of not having fully moved into your house is that you can put your Christmas tree pretty much anywhere. One of the disadvantages is that your Christmas decorations and books are buried somewhere in the shop behind all the other stuff, so you might not have any actual decorations on display at the start of Advent.

Ah, well. But we have a dining room. That’ll do.

We also have a handful of Advent devotionals I’m eager to share with you! At least one of us will be somewhat prepared for Advent this year. (Hint: you.)

4 Family Devotionals for Advent | Little Book, Big Story

The Advent Jesse Treeby Dean Lambert Smith

The Advent Jesse Tree: A Family Devotional for Advent | Little Book, Big Story

This is our tried-and-true, come-back-to-it-every-year favorite. The Advent Jesse Tree walks readers through the whole story of redemption, one day (and one tiny ornament) at a time. You can read my full review of the book here, or learn what a Jesse Tree is and how our family uses ours in this post right here.


A Jesus Christmasby Barbara Reaoch

A Jesus Christmas, by Barbara Reaoch | Little Book, Big Story

This is a brand-new, interactive devotional that reminds me a little of our beloved Exploring the Bible. There is family journaling space with each reading, as well as room to write answers to questions. You could simply read it as a family and ignore the journaling prompts; you could read it and then discuss it and have one person record answers to the questions; or you could do what we plan to do and get all the writers in your family their own copy. (Read the full review.)


The Littlest Watchman, by Scott James

The Littlest Watchman, by Scott James | Little Book, Big Story

Through the story of the Watchmen, a fictional family tasked with watching and waiting for the Messiah’s coming, Scott James invites families to see what it might have been like for the Israelites to wait . . . and wait . . . and wait for the Messiah. That long wait makes his coming all the more joyous! This is a great devotional for families with young kids. You can even get a (very affordable) Advent calendar and devotional to go along with it. Our family used this book last year and loved it. (Read the full review.)


Prepare Him Room, by Marty Machowski

Prepare Him Room, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

If Marty Machowski keeps writing awesome devotionals, our family will keep buying them. Prepare Him Room follows the format of Wise Up (more so than, say, Long Story Short), in that it’s a series of daily devotions sprinkled liberally with hymns to sing and projects to do. This one also features a story that draws readers into the celebration. The Gospel saturates everything, as always.

What Every Child Should Know About Prayer

Dear readers: we are home!! And I don’t know what to tell you about first.

Josie, jumping joyously in her own bed for ten minutes straight, yelling, “Jump my bed! Jump my bed!” with the exuberance of a toddler liberated from the pack-n-play for good?

Phoebe’s sudden urge to dress as though she wants to wear all of her clothes—unpacked at last after two months—at once?

The stab of happiness I get every time I walk into the kitchen and see not a wall but a real dining room so big and pretty it makes our table—even with both leaves installed—look small?

Before . . .
After!

I could tell you about the two-month adventure that went from intense to really intense when we learned that our church of thirteen years was dissolving. I could tell you about sharing a twin bed with Mitch for two weeks, or about learning to cook in six different kitchens, or about how ridiculously well the construction itself went, or about how thankful we are for everyone who hosted, fed, prayed for and/or helped us in the past two months.

But for now, I will tell you about a book.

What Every Child Should Know About Prayer, by Nancy Guthrie | Little Book, Big Story

We brought a lot of books with us on the road, mostly because we like options and we don’t like leaving books behind, but there are a few that we read daily and that lent structure to our otherwise structure-less lives. What Every Child Should Know About Prayer is one of those.

What Every Child Should Know About Prayer, by Nancy Guthrie | Little Book, Big Story

Even though half of my girls are well outside the recommended age range for this book, we started reading through What Every Child Should Know About Prayer together because this is the sort of subject I fumble through, either over-explaining or overlooking the fact that it needs explanation. And so I’m glad for Nancy Guthrie’s help here. I’m glad for her direct explanations and for the conversations they generate at our table.

Guthrie’s short readings each explore some aspect of who God is, what prayer is, why it’s important, and how it’s done. Each one closes with a prayer prompt or question that got us thinking outside the box, and they have generated some great discussions with kids little and big. (Also worth noting: this book is part of series that also includes Everything a Child Should Know About God, which we love, and Everyone a Child Should Know, which I suspect we’ll love once we read it.)

What Every Child Should Know About Prayer, by Nancy Guthrie | Little Book, Big Story

But for now, friends, it is good to be home. We still have a crazy amount of work to do—there are rough drywall edges everywhere and we’re living on the subfloor—but still. We are reveling right now in the amount of work already done.


What Every Child Should Know About Prayer
Nancy Guthrie; Jenny Brake (2018)