Tag: christian (page 1 of 37)

Carved in Ebony

At some point, I turned into a full-fledged history nerd. It started with that project my eldest daughter and I did a few years ago, researching the history of our home, but I never really stopped. For a while when people asked me what I’d do once all the girls were in school, I joked “Spend all my time at the museum photo archives.” And while that’s not exactly how it’s turned out—I’ve only made it there once since our youngest started kindergarten—I have definitely disappeared down a rabbit hole of weird, smelly library books and city directories from 1910.

I justify this in part because I’ve been writing some historical fiction, but I’m pretty sure I’d sit around watching YouTube videos about old buildings in our town whether I had a “project” to “research” or not. Because here is what keeps me coming back: the little stories, the nearly-forgotten ones, the stories that remind you that, one hundred years ago, people were still living one life at a time and didn’t know what was coming next. Beneath the oft-retold narratives of our town’s celebrated founders are smaller memoirs and newspaper articles about people who don’t have schools, roads, or mansions named after them—and those are my favorite stories. The ones about people quietly doing their work—raising children, opening businesses, teaching students, baking bread, hosting sewing circles, selling houses, all of it.

Carved in Ebony, by Jasmine L. Holmes | Little Book, Big Story

And so I was delighted to find, in Jasmine Holmes’s Carved in Ebony, stories about Black women often overlooked in the historical accounts. In choosing women to profile in this book, Holmes made a point of steering clear of familiar names and introducing readers to women on the fringes of the historical record. And in doing so, she creates a small but powerful volume featuring ten Black women who were faithful to God where he placed them and who reminded those around them—many of whom were arguing vehemently otherwise—that they, too, were created in God’s image. Holmes writes that she tells these stories

to combat the opposing narrative, yes, but [also] to point to the inherent dignity and worth of women, whom God created in his image and for his glory.

These are stories we may not think to look for and may not (I confess, this was my case) realize that we need. But Holmes’s writings are rooted in the Bible—thoroughly and soundly. She isn’t writing solely to inflame or provoke—not to tear down, but to build up. Not to belittle America or the Church, but to help them repair and grow. “What if,” she writes,

instead of putting Uncle Sam in a cape and Lady Liberty on a pedestal, we told the story of America as the story of God’s faithfulness—and not our own? What if we took a note from the people of Israel, and every time we stood on the precipice of a defining cultural moment, we reminded ourselves of God’s providential hand protecting us in spite of our waywardness?

Holmes’s passion for unearthing the names of women new to most readers is what drew me to her in the first place. But her message in this book extends far beyond that. As she tells these stories, she continually turns back to Scripture, weaving a multi-dimensional tapestry for readers that illuminates so much we might be missing in our conversations about race and our country’s history.

It is hard to know what the big issues will be facing our children when they’re grown, but I’m struck again and again by this truth: the way to understand the things we’re facing now is often to look behind us—at history and at the Bible. Jasmine Holmes does both these things faithfully here, and readers will be richer for it.


Carved in Ebony: Lessons From the Black Women Who Shape Us
Jasmine L. Holmes (2021)


Carved in Ebony has been released in two editions: the regular one for teens and adults, and the young reader’s edition for middle school students. I’ve been quoting and writing about the regular edition so far, but the young reader’s edition covers much of the same material, though it’s been simplified (Holmes’s personal stories, for example, have been removed) and formatted a little differently so it’s accessible to middle-grade kids. Both editions are wonderfully illuminating, though, and I recommend both heartily.

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.

The King of Christmas

Where is the King of Christmas? Where can we find him?

At this point in the Christmas season, I sometimes find myself wondering: Is he in the piles of presents accumulating in closets around our house? Is he in the minivan with us, as we drive to one gathering after another? Is he in the kitchen with us as we bake, or in the bedrooms with us as we fall asleep, exhausted after a Christmas recital, a December birthday party, a family gathering?

Where can we find him?

And so I love Todd Hains’s new book, The King of Christmas, which follows the wise men, who follow the star, asking as they search: “The heavens where the stars shine—is the King of Christmas there? The thrones where the mighty sit—is the King of Christmas there?” The answer, of course, is “no”—until they reach the manger where animals eat, and the cross where criminals die. Jesus’s throne room is found in the lowly, humble places; his court serves all who search for it—they have only to ask to gain admission.

The King of Christmas, by Todd R. Hains | Little Book, Big Story

This book is a lovely addition to Lexham Press’s FatCat books (see also: The Apostle’s Creed). Natasha Kennedy’s illustrations are filled with details for young readers to find (every page, for example, features FatCat, the series mascot), which add another layer of depth to the story. With these engaging illustrations and the musical, repeated refrain, this book is a delight for the youngest readers. But though we no longer have any of those “youngest readers” in our house, we read and enjoyed it together all the same.

Of course, today the Lord—through the Spirit—is with us everywhere. He is in the minivan, the kitchen, the dim, quiet bedrooms. This is the truth I return to here, near the end of Advent: the Lord is in all of it, working in ways we do not see just yet. So we rejoice in him! As we wrap one last present, write one last card, pull one last pan of sugar cookies from the oven.

Where is the King of Christmas? He is here, with us.

Merry Christmas, friends.


The King of Christmas
Todd R. Hains; Natasha Kennedy (2022)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this for review, but I was not obligated to review this book 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.

Seek & Find: The First Christmas

I am about to reveal one of my top-tier parenting secrets. Are you ready?

I never leave home without a deck of cards and a tiny tin of thinking putty. (And at least six different kinds of lip balm, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Many mid-sermon fidgets have been averted by that tin of putty, and many a restaurant tantrum has been defused by an impromptu game of War. For a full decade, we had either a baby or a toddler (occasionally both at once), so I became adept at keeping small hands busy whenever we encountered a lull.

For car rides or waiting rooms, here is my other secret: seek-and-find books. I Spy, Where’s Waldo, Things to Spot books—these are crisis-averters, road-trip-savers, Makers of Happy Hands and Calm Hearts. Though my daughters can manage most car rides without diversions these days, I still like to keep a few of these around, just in case.

So, how wonderful to discover a seek-and-find book for Christmas!

Seek and Find: The First Christmas, by Sarah Parker | Little Book, Big Story

Each spread in Sarah Parker’s The First Christmas features a short, paraphrased passage from the Christmas story, accompanied by brilliant illustrations filled with things to find. From hanging baskets to the charming Ruth Wren, there are treasures tucked into these pages that draw our attention into the story and invite us to pause and reflect on what’s happening.

This book moves at a different speed than the typical picture book does: “Here is the story,” it says. “Let’s sit and study it together for a while.” I think that’s part of why these treasure-trove books keep appealing to my kids even after they outgrow other books meant for young readers. Seek and Find: The First Christmas invites them to pause and consider; to stop fidgeting for a moment, to settle. To meditate again on the humility of Christ, the God born as a baby.


Seek and Find: The First Christmas
Sarah Parker; Andre Parker (2022)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this for review, but I was not obligated to review this book 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.

Unwrapping the Name of Jesus for Kids

The bedtime stories my dad told us were were usually about things he did before we were born. Back then he was a pirate, he said, and—briefly—a human cannonball. These careers ended abruptly and disastrously and elicited more than a few giggles from my brother and me as we listened from our beds.

When I tell my own daughters stories, they often fit in one of three categories: a) hilarious things my dad did when I was little, b) stories about sweet girls who live in treehouses or cozy boats and encounter some kind of magic, and c) retellings of stories from Scripture.

But Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids somehow captures the magic of all three of those genres and combines them into one story: as the narrator’s mother tells a story from her own childhood—of the time her family spent following Jesus during his ministry—readers get to delight in a good story that is true, joyful, and feels magical, while also hearing the story of Jesus’s years on earth in a new light.

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids, by Asheritah Ciuciu | Little Book, Big Story

As this story unfolds, Asheritah Ciuciu connects each scene to one of Jesus’s names—Prince of Peace, etc.—an act that reminds us, as we read, that the story of Jesus has its roots in every other story in Scripture. This reminds us, too, that though we celebrate Jesus’s birth at Christmas, we don’t only celebrate his birth. This season reminds us of both what came before his Incarnation and of what is yet to come.

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids, by Asheritah Ciuciu | Little Book, Big Story
Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids, by Asheritah Ciuciu | Little Book, Big Story

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids is an offshoot of Unwrapping the Names of Jesus, Ciuciu’s Advent devotional for adults. But it doesn’t feel derivative: it feels, instead, like a bud on the same branch. Reading the adult version highlights for me how much research and thought and preparation must go into writing a picture book like this one, which condenses all that study into a warm, engaging story. This book is a great read for Advent, as it tells not just of Jesus’s birth but of his whole ministry, death, and resurrection. It reminds us where he was headed, why he came, and what it looks like for us to follow him today. In that, it is the best kind of story.


Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids
Asheritah Ciuciu; Jennifer Zivoin (2022)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this for review, but I was not obligated to review this book 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.