Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pelted with Milestones

Originally posted in May 2009, this post is all too true for me again today--and probably true for you too. My little redhead is now graduating to middle school, and the older son just graduated from college. I don't even want to think about seven years from now. . . . Nope. I think I'll just enjoy today.

Last night, Ethan and I were on the front porch when a little ball of fluff fell into the soft net of ivy below our shrub. Our baby cardinal had just launched from its nest. 

We had been watching the nest for weeks--the parents as they swooped around, heightening their guard when humans or other intruders entered the perimeter (which we had to do frequently, since the nest is right by our driveway).

Today, however, was a milestone for our neighboring bird family. Their little one had outgrown the nest and ventured out alone--albeit just a few feet below--to assert a newfound independence.

Coincidentally (or is it?), May is the month of many human milestones as well. Graduation announcements from preschools to universities have continually pinged newspapers, calendars, and mailboxes. 

It's the season for learning to fly. 

I empathized with Daddy Cardinal as he fluttered around, trying to figure out how to get the little one back in the nest, using his smoke-detector chirps to announce possible danger, the little one answering with squawks to identify his location. I knew that Daddy had a worrisome knot in his stomach, twisting just below the swells of pride that filled his heart--the two forces wreaking havoc in the mind of a parent.

Just this week our family has been pelted with our own set of milestones. A few days ago, we matched our son's savings to buy his first vehicle: a 1981 American CJ-7 with a dented hood and a reputation for stalling. It's his pride and joy. And my new source of concern. But despite my chirps, I know he'll soon be driving it. Alone.

Then, on the day the little cardinal pounced from his nest, my own little redhead finished his last day of preschool, outgrowing his nest of loving teachers and sweet friends that had nurtured him for the past three years. In two short months, he'll be venturing into strange, new surroundings, full of uncertainty and opportunity. All the while, mother bird will be here chirping and fluttering helplessly about.

God, in his wisdom, gave parents no control over the advancement of time. And while we can do our best to nurture and shield our little (and not-so-little) ones, we can only stand helplessly by and be pelted by their milestones.

This morning, writing from the front porch, I notice a calm has settled over Daddy Cardinal. Still flitting around the young bird, Daddy has conceded to bringing the little one's breakfast down to the ivy. The alarming chirps have subsided, and moments ago, I even saw Daddy--now 
with a fed and quiet child--high above singing a much more relaxed song.

As for this mama bird, I smiled and sighed knowingly as I read my key verse for today. Coincidentally (or is it?), "He will shield you with his wings. He will shelter you with his feathers. His faithful promises are your armor and protection" (Psalm 91:4 NLT).

For a little while at least, I'll relax a bit, knowing that my little ones--as well as I--can always run for protection in the wings that shield the world.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Scavenger Hunt for Autographed Books!

Because I love a little challenge . . . and I LOVE giving away books (ask Hubby ;) . . . and I love, love, LOVE the entire concept of the Little Free Library (<--Seriously. Check it out NOW.), I'm going to use all of the above to celebrate my latest two releases!

So here's the deal: I'm placing autographed copies of Night Night, Mommy and Night Night, Daddy in secret locations around the country. Watch my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or blog for clues, and you may just find an autographed book at a Little Free Library near you!* The book is yours to keep, give away, or read and return. Up to you!

(Of course, you could always order them from my website--but what fun is that?! ;)

Have fun, and happy reading!

*Still not close enough? Wanna help in my little scheme? Comment below!

Monday, March 28, 2016

* New Releases + Free Bookplates! *

April 5 marks the release of two new adorable titles from Tommy Nelson: Night Night, Mommy and Night Night, Daddy! They're sturdy board books, perfect for buying alone or as a set, with a subtle foil print on the cover (see below).

The story is told from a grateful child's point-of-view, a soft and sweet recount of a child's day with Mommy or Daddy, set to a slow rocking rhythm, perfect for settling down at the end of the day. And as always, they're both inspired by my own two (not so little) babies. (Look especially for "my eyes are getting sleepy," a quote from Michael's toddler days. :) 

And to sweeten the deal, if you pre-order now--in this one week before release--I'll send each and every one of you signed bookplates to personalize the books.

For your free bookplates, just go to to order, then email me your mailing address through the Want Updates? form.

Easy peasy, right?

So, if you've got kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, or know someone with a baby on the way, you've now got the perfect, personalized gift.

You're welcome. ;)

See the lovely foil on the cover? :)
Really, I hope you love these just as much as you've loved all of the others before them. I hope most of all that the love of a parent and child rings through, reflecting the love of our Heavenly Father too.

Happy reading! And I hope to be hearing from you soon!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Review of the Week: The Plans I Have for You

My favorite review this week just happens to come from my favorite test market: the Smith household. 

Laura Smith, a dear friend and fellow author, has four kiddos in her house, ranging from elementary to high school ages. For that reason, I am always eager (and a bit apprehensive) to hear her kids' all-too-honest reactions to the books and manuscripts I send for their review.

One that got the thumbs up, apparently, was my latest, The Plans I Have for You picture book, which Laura says in her review "is more than a picture book--it is a life book." 

And wow--she captured my hopes so perfectly in those two words: "life book." I pray that the message of The Plans I Have for You (from Jeremiah 29:11 and the best Life Book ever) is a message that will stay with kids--and adults--for life.

You can read her review of that book and her other favorites from 2015 here. 

And you can check out the adorable trailer for The Plans I Have for You here: 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Seven Parenting Wins That Matter . . .

Thank-you note: win! Penmanship: total loss. ;)
Parenting is a daily battle. You win some. You lose some. And you pray to God that in the end, you will survive victorious.

I, for one, have lost a bunch. But after two decades of parenting (wait--not possible), here are a few wins that I can note. And to me, they are wins that are totally worth the battle.

1. Teach your kids to write thank-you notes. We use the basic format: 1) Thank you for the specific item. 2) I will use it in this way. 3) Thank you again. After asking (okay, forcing) the older child (and eventually the younger child) to write thank-you notes for the last, oh, fifteen years, I finally see the payoff. He has learned to be brief, witty, and sincerely grateful in the space of a note card--a tool that better equips any man for life.

1b. Teach them how to address an envelope. You'd be surprised. And that's all I'm gonna say about that.

2. Eat dinner together, around the table, as often as humanly possible. So many important conversations have casually spilled out over the dinner table--when we're not competing with the television or tech devices. And do I even have to mention the money we've saved and sodium we've avoided by eating home-cooked food? (And the gratitude we've learned for burnt, under-seasoned, disastrous food . . . but I digress.)

3. Teach your kids to do laundry, even--no, especially--the boys. Several years ago, when I had to teach a twenty-something-year-old man how to work his washing machine, I vowed to send my boys into the world with a working knowledge of the laundry room. I'm not saying they're gonna like it, but they're sure gonna learn how to use it.

4. Teach your kids basic hospitality. There's really one rule: the guest comes first. We've had to have this discussion after debates at sleepovers over which movie we're watching or who gets to ride which bike. The guest comes first, period. Not fair? Well, you can just hope the sentiment is reciprocated when it's your turn to visit his home.

5. Record it all. Be the obnoxious, photo-crazed parent. Take all the photos. (Hear all the groans.) Write it all down. You will absolutely cherish every letter, every pixel (or else, in my case, sometimes regret the lack of them).

6. Embarrass them with love. Hug them. In public. Tell them you love them. Out loud. In front of their friends. Don't make them forever regret pushing you away--and being successful at it.

7. Show them a daily relationship with God. Pray with them, every day about everything, big and small, math tests and tragedies alike. Read daily devotionals. Show them an unforgettable, invincible, unshakable place to turn to when you're no longer around to parent them.

Yep, out of two decades, those are my seven wins (and really, they're ongoing battles). I do realize that I veered recklessly from thank-you notes to faith. But isn't that the scope of parenting? Every day, right here in our homes, we are tackling the ordinary and extraordinary, giving vitamins and and growing leaders, changing underwear and changing the world.

Don't ever take it for granted. Their very lives depend on it. It is as simple and serious as that.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

*RELEASE DAY!* The Plans I Have for YOU Devotional and Journal

Today we're celebrating RELEASE DAY for two more books: The Plans I Have for YOU Devotional and The Plans I Have for YOU JournalThey're the second and third books in a growing brand with ZonderKidz based on Jeremiah 29:11. (There are even more to come! Stay tuned!) 

Photo by Amanda Ward 
In August, the first of the series, The Plans I Have for YOU picture book, releasedSince then, I've read the book to hundreds of kids, watching their heads tilt and eyes widen as they hear about God's plans for them--and of course, as they learn what an entomologist is. ;) I wonder how many parents have now been told, "I'm going to be an emtozologist when I grow up!"

And really, isn't that the point? To let kids know that they're valued . . . that they have a purpose . . . Even with those little bones, in that little skin, behind those flubbed words, there's a big ol' heart that can hear God's call, that can make a big ol' difference (Matthew 18:3, 1 Timothy 4:12). It's a message we could all use--grandkids and graduates and grandmas alike!

The devotional and journal both (sample pages below), while maintaining the engaging whimsy of the picture book, take the message of God's plans and purpose to the next level. In the devotional, you dig deeper--with poems, Bible stories, scripture, even a scavenger hunt!--to really discover God's plans for you, right now, right where you are. 

The journal then lets you run with it, personalizing the message to your own life. (I would truly recommend the journal for ANY age.) Most spreads offer a scripture, then prompt you to apply that scripture to your life right now.

So we've got the picture book that plants the message in a way that will take root, the devotional that nourishes and grows that message for 90 days, and a journal with over 200 pages to harvest the message in your own life. It's my hope that these three tools will produce fruit that nourishes kids--and adults--for a lifetime, a constant reminder that:

God has BIG plans for YOU!

From the Devotional . . .

From the Journal . . .

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Jesus Calms the Storm

I'm not the best manager of my time. 

There. I said it. (But if you know me, this is no surprise.)

I take on too much. I say yes much too often. And I am much too optimistic about what I can accomplish on any given day--with all the other stuff I've taken on, and all.

This tends to create the occasional storm. Sure, I've gotten better. But at least once a year, it all piles up, and I become a basket case. Or a raving lunatic. Or both. 

It's not pretty.

I'm in the midst of the storm now. And I just so happen to be writing about Jesus calming the storm (Matthew 8:23-27): 

The disciples were getting the hang of this faith thing. They had walked with Jesus as He preached. They had witnessed the many miracles He performed.

But then came the storm.

Jesus and His disciples were all in a boat, crossing the Sea of Galilee, when the wind started whipping, and the waves started crashing. They couldn’t see for the flashes of lightning and the driving rain. They couldn’t hear over the thunder and the wind. But they could feel the water rushing around their feet—and rising.

Where was Jesus?!?

They found Him—sleeping, no less—at the back of the boat. “Jesus!" the grown men cried. "We’re all going to die!!!” 

Jesus opened His eyes and answered with an unexpected question, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” 
                                              (from The Faith, Hope, Love Devotional, coming Fall 2016)

AMY (in her infinite wisdom): Why am I afraid?! Can't you see all these deadlines? Don't you know how far behind I am? And I still have to feed these carnivorous boys, go to six more events this week, and spend Friday at school passing out cookie dough! Why am I afraid?! I'm going to drown!

JESUS (slow blink): Oh, you of little faith . . . don't you know who gave you those projects? Don't you know who gave you those children? Don't you know I created you, gave you these gifts? You have everything you need to accomplish these tasks. Do you not believe me, that you can do all things through me? . . . Waves, chill out. Wind, hushhh. And Amy, get back to work.

And just like that, the storm is calm. And I live to see another day.

Don’t make Jesus call you out on your faith. Don't let your "little faith" get in the way of all the big things God has planned for you. He controls the wind. He can calm the waves. And I'm starting to think that maybe He even creates the storms--just to remind us who is in control.

photo credit: Tormenta Urroz Villa via photopin (license)