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.