December 2016 Posts

Starting a New Year by Sherry Kyle


A friend of mine once said, “You never know the unexpected wonders of new change. Watch for them!”

new-year-1The holiday season is full of wonder—Thanksgiving, the birth of Jesus, turning the calendar to a new year. Come January 1, there is anticipation and expectation. If I’m completely honest, a bit of apprehension too. What is the year going to hold? Will I accomplish my goals? Have good health? Grow in my relationships—with God, my family, and friends, too?

I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but I do choose a word and a Bible verse for the year. For 2016, the word I chose was joy from Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

romans-15-13Whenever I needed an attitude adjustment, I thought about how God is the only one who can fill me with joy and peace. My job is to trust him so that the Holy Spirit’s power will be evident in my life. Needless to say, I was not always successful in the joy department, but overall, I had a joyous year. I felt content. And for the most part, I was at peace.

With only a few days left before the New Year, I’m praying about what my new word and verse will be. In the meantime, I want to be open to what God has for me. To wait with eager anticipation that he will answer my prayers in the ways he sees fit. To help my kids, who will all be considered adults this year, understand their roles. To accept that change, big or small, is to be expected.

And to see the unexpected blessings in change by:

  • Having a new mindset. Instead of being scared of the unknown or viewing change as negative, we can make a decision to see the positives and focus on how we can grow through the experience.
  • Believing we are capable. Fear of the unknown can paralyze us if we let it. Instead, rely on the Holy Spirit’s power to help us through any situation. He will give us strength.
  • Realizing others are watching. By handling ourselves in a positive way, we have the opportunity to encourage and inspire others when change happens in their lives too.
  • Finding ways to grow. Let’s face it. Life is difficult. But when we view life as a learning experience, we can take change in stride and allow it to build our character.
  • Looking for the blessings. Not all change is bad. Many times it is good. No matter what, there will be blessings if you have the right attitude and outlook.

Unexpected Wonders Box

Teach your kids the gift of gratefulness with this Unexpected Wonders Box. All you need is a pad of paper, a pen, and a place to store the blessings for a full year. Otherwise, collect these items for a more polished look.

What you need:

  • Cardboard box and lidwonder-box
  • Clear tape
  • Pen or marker
  • Ribbon
  • Scissors
  • Small pad of paper
  • 16 inches of string or yarn
  • Wrapping paper

What you do:

  1. Wrap the cardboard box and lid separately. (Optional: Decorate with sequins, buttons, glitter, etc.)
  2. Cut a slit on the top of the lid so that slips of paper can slide through.
  3. Tie one end of string to a pen or marker and tape the other end to the lid.
  4. Wrap ribbon around your box to keep the lid in place.
  5. Place the box in a well-used spot in your home.
  6. Set the small pad of paper next to the box.
  7. Tell your family to write down what they are thankful for throughout the year.
  8. Read through the blessings or “unexpected wonders” at the end of the year.

As a mom to four almost-grown kids, I cherish the time spent with them.
Yes, change is evident, but I can still hold them close even when we are apart.

Now that’s a blessing!

kyle_sherry_01Sherry Kyle is the author of books for tween girls, including a Gold Mom’s Choice Award winner, and new releases The Girl’s Guide to Life and Love, Lexi: Letters to God. She also writes novels for women set along the coast of California, where she makes her home with her college sweetheart and their four children. When she’s not writing, Sherry spends her time reading, having coffee with friends, and decorating her beach home. You can visit her at, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Enjoying the Days Before Christmas by Crystal Bowman


Christmas is the busiest season of the year—and the season seems to be getting longer and longer! When I was growing up, the Christmas season didn’t begin until after Thanksgiving. We would put up our tree one week before Christmas and take it down a few days after New Year’s Day.  Our Christmas season was about 2–3 weeks at most. So what has changed? I think you know. The retailers love this holiday because it means lots of sales and profit. I’ve seen Christmas items on display in early October, and one of our local radio stations starts playing Christmas songs the day after Halloween. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t think it’s a bad thing to celebrate Christmas for many weeks or even a couple of months. But the important thing is to keep our focus on the real meaning of Christmas to avoid getting caught up in the holiday hype and materialism that comes with it. If you have children or grandchildren in your life, then you know how hard it is to keep little ones from wanting everything they see. With a little thought and planning, you can help your children capture the true wonder and miracle of Christmas.

The Countdown

advent-calendarThe days leading up to Christmas seem like an eternity to a child. The solution? An advent calendar! It’s a great way to help kids count the days until Christmas as they anticipate their favorite day of the year. Some years I would buy a fancy Hallmark calendar with little flaps that opened. My kids enjoyed taking turns opening the flaps to reveal a hidden picture. Other years, I’d make a simple calendar out of green construction paper and use Christmas stickers to count down the days. Either option works well and gives children something fun to do every day in December.


The Nativity

nativity-sceneOne of my favorite Christmas items is the Nativity scene. Whether it’s a front yard display, ceramic figurines on a fireplace mantle, a tree ornament or a snow globe, the nativity represents the Christmas miracle and reminds us of God’s greatest gift to the world. When my kids were growing up, I had a look-but-don’t-touch, hand-painted set that always found a prominent place in our home. But now that I’m a grandma, I have a kid-sized nativity set with plastic pieces so my grandkids can play with it. We imagine what the characters say to each other and wonder if baby Jesus is crying. Adults can tell the story of Christmas through a hands-on approach that kids love.

Christmas Books

reading-with-grandmaChildren love books—especially when Mom or Grandma are taking the time to read the books. A young mom shared a great idea with me that I’d love to pass along. Every year, she wraps twenty-five Christmas books (old, new, or borrowed) and puts them in a basket. Beginning December 1, her children take turns choosing a book from the basket. They unwrap and read one book per day until Christmas. It’s an affordable way to keep the focus on Christmas while spending meaningful time with children during this busy season.


The True Story

m-is-for-mangerThe true Christmas story is found in the Gospel of Luke, and a few details are also given in Matthew. The story has been retold through the centuries by writers who want to share it with children in age-appropriate fashion. My latest picture book, also available in a board book edition, is titled M is for Manger (Tyndale). It tells the Christmas story in chronological order, helping young minds understand how and where Jesus was born. Bible verses are included on every page so readers will know where the events or prophecies can be found in Scripture. As children turn the pages and follow the letters of the alphabet, the events surrounding the birth of Jesus unfold before their eyes. During a recent radio interview, the host asked me why we chose M is for Manger as the title. I responded, “Because the manger is where we find Jesus!”


If God has placed children in your life, use this Christmas season to share the true story of Christmas—that God sent his only Son to be our Lord and Savior.

Merry Christmas!

Crystal Bowman


Crystal Bowman is a former preschool teacher, award-winning author, national speaker, and Mentor for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). She has written more than 100 books for children, three books for women, numerous magazine articles, and Bible study materials. She also writes stories for Clubhouse Jr. magazine and lyrics for children’s piano music. She graduated from Calvin College with a degree in elementary education and studied early childhood development at the University of Michigan. She has written books for many children’s series, such as Little Blessings, BOZ the Bear, and I Can Read! She is the co-author of Our Daily Bread for Kids, My Mama and Me, and M is for Manger. She and her husband live in Florida.

Visit Crystal at her website, or find her on Facebook.

7 Myths about Creative Journaling in Your Bible: It’s More Than Coloring! (10 Bible Giveaway!)

Guest post by Amber Bolton of @biblejournaling: Inspire Bible TOUR workshop leader, youth pastor, and long-time Bible journaler


I’m sure they exist, but I’ve never met a person who didn’t like to color. Give someone a marker and you are sure to find them doodling on the page, writing their thoughts, making lists, or being creative. Coloring is used in therapy and in schools to calm children, and there’s no surprise that adult coloring books are in grocery store checkout lanes. Coloring has never been a fad. So, what about coloring in our Bibles and creative journaling?


Is creative journaling just making pretty pages? Is it more than an adult coloring book? These are the questions we’ve been exploring as we crisscross the country on the Inspire Bible TOUR (check out We are meeting people who have a hunger for understanding God’s Word and want a creative way to respond that is more than just coloring. The Inspire Bible is all about our hearts and how they interact with God’s Word. It’s a form of Bible study.


The Inspire Bible TOUR has given me the chance to help people feel confident and encouraged to get into God’s Word and respond in the margin. The goal is that the margin becomes the place where truth sinks into our hearts and pours out in the beauty of our lives. I’ve encountered people who walk into the workshop feeling like they are not creative and leave with confidence to study and respond to God’s Word in a unique way. There are so many myths when it comes to creative journaling. Here are just a few.

Myth 1: I am not creative.

Everyone is creative in their own way! God made us in his image and he is creative. He’s THE creator. You don’t have to be a talented artist to mark up the margins of your Inspire Bible. It’s not about a pretty page, it’s about using the margin to respond to what the Holy Spirit is saying through God’s Word. Some people journal, others make lists, still others use all the embellishments and paints they can find. Be uniquely YOU in the margins.


Myth 2: I don’t know where to start.

So many people that I’ve met on TOUR are nervous to start marking up their Inspire. They don’t know where to begin and are afraid they will mess up. Know this, you will misspell a word or accidentally spill paint all over the page. It’s OK. Give yourself grace to get a little messy. There is no place for perfectionism when we come before God. We come with humility and an open heart. Give yourself permission to be free when you encounter the Inspire Bible. I encourage people to start in one of the Gospels or Romans. Maybe even Psalms. Read a whole chapter at once so that you can really get an understanding of the context. Jump in!


Myth 3: I don’t know what to put in my margin.

Creative journaling is more than coloring, it’s a study. I’ve created a process for creative journaling that helps me stay focused on responding and living out what I learn. Here’s what I do: 1.Pray (invite the Holy Spirit to speak through God’s Word); 2. Read (read a portion of scripture); 3. Ask (What stands out? What does this passage tell me about God? How am I to live differently based on this passage?); 4. Respond (THIS is what you put in your margin.) I answer one of those three questions in the margin of my Inspire. I’ll either write or draw what stands out from the passage, or bullet-point what it tells me about God’s character. Sometimes I’ll journal about how I am to live based on the passage. The margin is for you to process what you’ve read. It doesn’t have to be perfect or pretty, it just needs to remind you of what you’ve learned.


Myth 4: I don’t have time.

It does not take long to fill our spiritual tanks through creative journaling. I typically spend 30-45 minutes in my process from beginning to end. I have a little corner in my office dedicated to creative journaling where I keep all my supplies and Inspire Bible. Even if you don’t have space, I’m sure you have a small tote you can keep your Inspire and a few favorite supplies in for an “on the go” option. I’ve never regretted setting aside time to spend in God’s Word, but I have regretted passing it up. It doesn’t have to be every day! Creative journaling is just one of the ways to study God’s Word (personally I think it’s the most fun way!). So, switch it up. Maybe you read a passage and journal, another day you read and go for a run, another you gather friends and spend hours in your Inspire together!


Myth 5: I don’t have all the right supplies.

I encourage people who are new to creative journaling to start with what you have in your house. Don’t go out and buy all the supplies you think you’ll love. You’ll be overwhelmed—and out of money. It will take a little time, but you’ll soon find which supplies you love most (I’m all about the embellishments and TomBow pens!) Follow us on Facebook (Inspire Bible) to see what supplies we love, or come to a TOUR event and you’ll get to try out a bunch of supplies at the table! There are lots of social media groups that share their tips and supplies that work well. The last few pages in the Inspire Bible are great “trial” pages to see if a new supply will work or have bleed through. If you are unsure, use those pages to test them out!


Myth 6: I don’t want to do this alone.

Creative journaling is both personal and corporate. I love spending time alone in my Inspire, but I also crave going through the process and learning from others (and sharing supplies). There are many social media groups who have “weekly” pages/challenges. They are encouraging and helpful! It’s a great way to share with each other what you are learning. What if you were to start an Inspire Bible study group in your church? That could be a really fun way to connect with others and share supplies!!


Myth 7: I have someone in my life who would LOVE creative journaling, but I don’t know how to get them started.

There are a few really great ways to help your friends, or even get started yourself! Attend one of the Inspire Bible Tour workshops this spring (locations will be announced soon). OR…. join us for our live online workshop on Saturday, January 7th at 10 a.m. (CST). This online workshop will be an opportunity to learn the process, get tips, and go through techniques! This is a super fun Christmas present to yourself or someone you love. Register online at And, there’s some really fun happy mail that comes with the registration, including the Intro to Creative Journaling book by Amber Bolton, a fun T-shirt, and the Inspire: Psalms book!


10 Bible Giveaway!

Enter to win a copy of of the Inspire Bible Large Print NLT!



Here’s how to enter:

  1. Download and print this Christmas themed coloring sheet – Download Here
  2. Get to work coloring, painting, or however you’d like to express yourself.
  3. Post a picture of the end result on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.
  4. Use the Gleam form below to submit the link to your creation.

We’ll choose 10 winners on 12/26!



Inspire Bible Large Print NLT

Five Ways to Battle the Winter Blahs


It’s an elementary school highlight—winter break. I don’t know too many kids who have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads anymore, but the freedom of rolling around in the snow, having no homework, and just playing are definitely floating through many kids’ pre-break daydreams. But as days stretch into weeks the winter break glee can quickly wear off and is often replaced by a chorus of “I’m bored.”

We have a few ways you can not only get through the winter break blahs but also use this time to grow as a family by hiding God’s Word in your hearts. And—it’s FREE!

On there are FREE interactive downloads to help memorize 10 of the most beloved verses in the Bible. These include songs, coloring pages, devotionals, and games. Here are five ways you can to use these resources to have fun and remember God’s Word!




Bible Memory Song Party: Especially if you live in the frozen north, kids—and moms and dads too—can quickly catch cabin fever. Ward it off with a fun Bible Memory Dance Party. Download the free Bible memory songs, then play them as you dance around the house. You can turn it into a Bible Freeze Dance game where you pause the music sporadically and everyone has to freeze in their current position. See who can hold their pose the longest.


psalms-activityBible Game Challenge: Download the 10 Bible memory activities and see who can complete them the fastest and still get them all correct. Then take the memory verses and create your own games. See if family members can beat the quiz master.





psalms-coloringColoring Contest: There are free coloring pages and verse line-art to color. You can have a coloring contest, even posting the entries on social media to see whose pages get the most votes.






psalms-lyricsWe’ve Got Talent Videos: Whether you want to be a superstar or hide behind the camera, you can have a fun family activity making Bible Memory Song Videos. There are several different ways you can do this. Pick a song, memorize it together, and then record the performance as a family. Make it into a contest. Have every member of the family pick a different song to memorize and perform. Tape the performances and then post on social media for friends and family to pick who they like best. Don’t sing? Video the dance party, lip sync, or just have fun displaying your family’s unique talents.


psalms-verseFamily Devotional Time: One of the best parts about winter break is the chance to step out of the normal, hectic schedule and spend time together. Included in the free downloads are samples of the Hidden in My Heart Scripture Memory Bible’s Core 100 devotional section. This includes the memory verse in three translations, a short devotional about how to apply the verse to daily life, and a prayer. It’s a great way to come together as a family and grow closer to each other and God by hiding his Word in our hearts.



ll%20imprinting%20standingThe Hidden in My Heart Scripture Memory Bible was created to encourage kids not only to read God’s Word but also to hide it deep within their hearts. One hundred of the Bible’s core verses have been set to music by renowned children’s author and song writer Stephen Elkins. The 100 songs include a variety of genres and are available in the New Living Translation, New International Version, and King James Version, and all songs are free with the purchase of the Bible.

Shop now HERE.

The Gift of Giving by Brock Eastman

giftsPiled beneath the tree, dozens of gifts are wrapped in bright shiny paper, bows tied, name tags adhered. And if you have young kids, like I do, then you’ve likely bought them something they can interact with, such as a truck to roll, a doll to dress-up, or a book with pages they must turn.

I’m a proud daddy of four wonderful kids 7, 5, 3, and 1. Yes, you read that right, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. As I wrote last year, my wife and I try to teach our children the truth behind Christmas. What really lies at the center of the season is a gift from a Father who loves His children so much that He sent His one and only Son.

One of the reasons we focus on this particular fantastic gift is so that we can develop a giving heart in each of our children. Parents have the greatest responsibility in guiding their kids’ tender hearts and impressionable minds during this season. We are not to let them get caught up in the glamor of the latest and greatest toys or in the anticipation of one more thing that will soon be stuffed into a box high in a closet just days after Christmas. Instead, parents can give them a gift that will last their entire lives. We can teach them that giving is what we’re called to do and that God, Himself, set an example when he gave us Jesus in the manger. When you focus on this and make your family’s mission and purpose about giving, you will find richness in your family’s future spiritual heritage.

I invite you to take the challenge to begin changing your children’s focus, redirecting them to have hearts that put others first and that desire, even long, to give sacrificially.

The Nativity and Luke 2:1-20nativity-scene

We have a nativity set in a small alcove in our hall. A bright light shines on it from overhead, and at the center, is Baby Jesus in His manger. That’s a visible symbol our kids walk past, look at, and even touch. We’ve learned that a fancy glass nativity isn’t going to survive in our house, at least not yet. Instead, we have a nice plastic one that our kids are able to interact with.

My wife has a tradition from her childhood that we hide Baby Jesus until Christmas day, His birthday. When the kids find Baby Jesus, they place Him in the manger Then we sit together and read Luke 2:1-20 as a family and talk about the perfect gift that was given that day. Regardless of your kids’ ages, it’s never too soon to talk to them about Jesus’s birth and His purpose as the perfect plan for salvation.

Saint Nick
I shared this idea with you last year, but this time I’ve written a short fiction story that is on right now. You can read this story to your kids then take on your own Saint Nicking event as a family or with friends; here’s how:

  1. First, ask your church or a local shelter to find a family in need this Christmas. Be sure to ask the church or shelter for the names and ages of each family member. If possible find out clothing sizes (shirts, pants, shoes, etc.), any particular interests (books, princesses, cars, penguins), and specific needs (winter hats, school shoes, Bible, or water heater.)
  2. Next invite other donors to your house for a St. Nicholas party on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Assign one member of the family in need to each participating donor or group. Then read the story of Saint Nick aloud. We recommend The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving.
  3. With family members assigned and a list of suggested items in hand, everyone heads out to shop. We recommend 1 to 1 ½ hours for shopping. When everyone arrives back, the wrapping party begins. It’s a Christmas party too, so have everyone bring cookies to share.
  4. Now it’s time to deliver the gifts. The key to a successful Saint Nicking is the anonymity of it, just like Saint Nick. We want our kids to understand that these gifts are given without receiving credit. That brings me to an important point: If you have the address of the family, send one car to deliver the gifts to the front door. The challenge is to avoid being seen, so ring the doorbell, and leave before they answer. If you do not have the address, ask the church or shelter to deliver the presents to the family without revealing your identity.

Compassion Internationalcompassion-1

Teach your children about extreme poverty. Most children in the United States live a very blessed life and can’t grasp what abject poverty is. They have a roof over

their head, running water, three meals a day (and usually snacks), a comfy bed, clothes to wear, plenty of toys, people in their lives who love them, and hope for a promising future. But many children in the world have none of these things.

I am blessed to work for Compassion International and specifically with the Compassion Experience. The Compassion Experience is an interactive exhibit that you and your family can attend for free. It travels the country, and there is a good chance it’s been in or near your community. If not, it’ll be there soon.

The Compassion Experience allows your family to walk through the life of a child who grew up in extreme poverty through hearing their personal story and walking through rooms authentically designed to replicate their real home. This experience reveals the darkness of poverty that plagues kids and families around the world and shows firsthand the things they lack that we often take for granted; the very items listed above: shelter, clean water, food, clothes, love, and above all, hope.

This event is free and kid-friendly, geared for families to experience together. After you’ve gone through the exhibit with your children, they’ll want to make a difference; they’ll want to take action. And that happens through sponsoring a child. This is giving, this is understanding that most of us already have enough.

compassionSponsorship helps my wife and me in our quest to develop giving hearts in our children. Through our ability to interact with our sponsor children via letters, we discuss how our lives are different, and why $38 a month is nothing to sacrifice. It’s the equivalent of my wife and I skipping Starbucks once a week (8 cups = $40), it’s skipping pizza night once a month ($44), not going to the movies but waiting for Redbox ($42), not getting that new shirt and pair of pants at Old Navy ($60), or not having lunch at Chick-fil-A this week ($32). The point is, there are hundreds of dollars that we spend on things that have no long-term value, unlike the impact your monthly sponsorship and your letters will have on that one child in poverty. That one child’s life will be changed, their family will be changed, and their community will be changed.

I know firsthand from traveling to El Salvador and meeting one of our sponsor children that our giving and our letters are having an impact. I’ve seen it. I’ve spoken with our child’s mother. I’ve seen the joy of the kids in the Compassion program at their local church. I’ve heard the stories of the kids who have gone from hopelessness to hope. I’ve listened to a little child give their life to Jesus. Sponsorship is the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus. It is a tangible way to teach our kids about giving above and beyond and about making a real difference.

My hope this Christmas is that your family will join mine in teaching our kids that there is so much more to God’s plan that unfolded two thousand years ago in Bethlehem—that God didn’t intend for this day to be about the stacks of presents. He intended for us to see that the perfect Gift had been delivered. This Gift would teach us that sacrifice and giving of and beyond ourselves was His desire for our lives.

brockBrock Eastman lives in Colorado with his wife, four kids, two cats, and a leopard gecko. Brock is the author of The Quest for Truth series, the Sages of Darkness series, Showdown with the Shepherd in the Imagination Station series, and the novella Wasted Wood. He writes articles for FamilyFiction digital magazine and Clubhouse magazine. You may have seen him on the Official Adventures in Odyssey podcast and on its Social Shout-Out. He was the first producer of and launched the Odyssey Adventure Club. Brock works for Compassion International, whose mission is to release kids from poverty worldwide. Brock enjoys getting letters and artwork from fans. Visit Brock at his website, or find him on Facebook or Twitter.

Experience the Gift of Giving this Christmas by sponsoring a child through Compassion International!

Head to today to begin your sponsorship.