Emily Bonga Posts

Make Memorial Day Weekend with Your Kids Unforgettable by Jon Farrar

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Ah, Memorial Day weekend . . . the first three-day weekend of the summer!

If you’re anything like me, you have big plans for the weekend. Beach trip? Hiking in the mountains? Maybe, a relaxing backyard barbecue?

It’s fun while it lasts. I wouldn’t want to miss a moment of the activity—from hearing my six-year-old daughter shout for more ice cream to having a short “real conversation” with my teenage son.

If your experience is anything like mine, the weekend goes by so fast! Then, the clamor of work the next week pounds away the memories. So, let’s plan something radically different for this Memorial Day.

Memorial Day weekend is a call to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. What a great weekend to resolve to remember  better!

Before you pack your bags, before you start corralling the kids into your car, before you plug in that address to your GPS, take a moment to consider two things.


siblings-playing-together-in-sunshineRemembering is an important—even sacred—act.   One of the reasons I let life slip through my memory banks so quickly is that I don’t realize how important remembering is. The Bible encourages us to “remember the deeds of the Lord” (Psalm 77:11).

Recently, I’ve become convinced I take far too many things for granted, including those precious three-day weekends scattered throughout the year. I fail to realize that the work of God during daily life is just as important as his work during big turning points. The moments of sunshine and laughter God has allowed me to enjoy with my daughter are equally significant to anything that happens at work.

Sometimes I may consider these moments of joy as God’s small  blessings on my life—his little deeds. But, in light of eternity, God has an entirely different perspective.

Those moments are worth cherishing. They are worth remembering because they represent the goodness of God toward my family.

Resolve that this weekend you will remember the “small things.”


father-and-child-at-beachYour kids need you to remember. What you decide to remember about your life will become part of your family’s ongoing storyline. Every family has a story it tells itself. Your job as the parent is to shape that narrative and make sure it’s a life-giving story for your children. The few long weekends each year are perfect times to shape your family’s story in a profound way. It’s not hard to do. Here are some ideas to help. 

  • Choose a phrase or word for the weekend. The word could be anything from God’s gifts to hope to laughter. Ask each one of your kids to be on the lookout this weekend for a story about that word or phrase. This technique helps you and your kids filter all the events of the weekend and look for the extraordinary moments.
  • On the way home, ask your kids to tell stories about the weekend using the chosen word. Don’t let the last day of a fun weekend put everyone in a bad mood. Instead begin the remembering process while traveling home. Tell stories about the weekend, emphasizing what you want to remember for years to come—the calm walk on the beach, the intense game your family played together, the arduous hike that led to a magnificent view. Think about God’s gifts of time and relaxation. Avoid stories that put anyone in a bad light. Shape the story your family is telling about the weekend.

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  • Create a memento. Our memories are activated by an object. That’s why the ancient Israelites on several occasions constructed a memorial altar with stones. They needed an object—in this case, a pile of stones—to help them remember God’s powerful deeds. You can do the same thing the Israelites did years ago with all types of objects. Everyone does this differently. In the cell phone age, many simply snap pictures and upload them. Others buy small physical mementos of a place. At times, I have simply picked up a large shell or a shiny stone and told a story around those objects.

You’ve worked hard for your long weekends, so relax and enjoy these special days. Memories of times spent with your loved ones are important in God’s sight. Take a moment to frame this weekend so your family will be nourished by these memories for years to come.

Your kids won’t forget it.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.

Psalm 77:11


Jon Farrar is a senior acquisitions editor for Tyndale’s nonfiction team with more than sixteen years of publishing experience.  Recently, Jon has enjoyed partnering with Alister McGrath on C.S. Lewis: A Life, with Chuck Swindoll on Searching the Scriptures, and with Scott Sauls on Jesus Outside the Lines. Jon also manages the One Year devotional line. Before publishing, he earned a master’s degree in history and theology. Jon loves to jog on Chicago’s lakefront when he has the time to do so. Most of his time, however, is spent maintaining the Wi-Fi network for his two kids at home.


 

The Three Powerful Prayers of Motherhood by Stephanie Rische

Tyndale Kids

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I am far from having a PhD in motherhood; in fact, this is my first Mother’s Day with a child in my arms. But that’s long enough for me to know this: being a mom comes with all the feelings.

There’s something about being a mom that takes any given emotion and injects it with steroids. Sure, I experienced worry before I became a mom. But now if my baby so much as sneezes, I’m convinced that this is the twenty-first-century version of the bubonic plague. I used to feel pain, too, but that was nothing compared to the vicarious pain I felt on his first trip to the ER. I felt delight before, but nothing could have prepared me for the way my heart would swell the first time he smiled at me (even if was just gas).

baby-smiling-with-motherAs I read Scripture, it occurs to me that this phenomenon of maternal emotion is nothing new. In the story of Hannah, we see a woman who experienced the full gamut of mom-feelings—all within the span of two chapters. It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone in this swirl of emotion. But even more consoling is that God doesn’t just tolerate our spectrum of feelings; he affirms them.

Maybe you’ve bought into the idea that expects a little, well, decorum when we come to him. We figure that approaching him with our requests is like interviewing for a job or applying for a grant: we need to pull ourselves together first, and we certainly shouldn’t have any mascara running down our cheeks in the process. But Hannah’s story is proof that God welcomes us just as we are, with our full range of emotions.

woman-praying-with-bibleAnd believe it or not, there’s actually a gift that comes with strong emotion: it can drive us to our knees. All the emotion bubbling inside us can drive us to more fervent—and more frequent—prayers than we’d muster up otherwise.

This was certainly the case for Hannah. She prayed three mother-prayers for her child, and all these years later, they are the prayers all of us moms need.


Please.

Hannah’s journey to motherhood was a long and arduous one, having longed for a child for years. At the Tabernacle, she poured out her heart to the Lord, not holding back an ounce of her anguish. She prayed so fervently that the priest assumed she was drunk. “I am a woman who is deeply troubled,” she said. “I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief” (1 Samuel 1:15-16).

expectant-mother-hands-on-stomachGod heard the heartfelt “please” of this mom-to-be and answered the desire of her heart. We, too, can come to the Lord with our requests, both for ourselves and for our children, knowing that he hears and that he cares about the things closest to our hearts.


Thank you.

The Lord graciously answered Hannah’s prayers and gave her a son, Samuel, which means “heard by God.” Every time she said his name, it was a reminder of God’s faithfulness. “She named him Samuel, saying, ‘Because I asked the Lord for him’” (1 Samuel 1:20).

mother-and-daughter-walking-togetherJust as Hannah brought her full grief to the Lord, she also brought her full gratitude to the Lord. In 1 Samuel 2, we read her song of praise, which opens with these joyful words: “My heart rejoices in the Lord! The Lord has made me strong” (1 Samuel 2:1). After God answers our prayers, it’s so easy to move on to the next problem, the next request. We get stuck in “please” mode and forget to say thank you. But Hannah’s example reminds us to bring both the sorrows and the joys of motherhood to the Lord.


They’re yours.

This is perhaps the most difficult prayer for a mother to utter. We’re wired to protect and nurture our children, which is a good, God-given instinct. However, we sometimes forget that these children aren’t really ours. God has entrusted them to us, but ultimately, they belong to him.

willow-tree-mother-and-sonAfter all those years of waiting, it would have been easy for Hannah to cling tightly to her son. He was her miracle-child, after all! But she never forgot that Samuel was first and foremost God’s child, and when he was just a few years old, she brought him to the Tabernacle so he could serve the Lord for the rest of his life. “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:27-28).


Whatever emotions you are experiencing this Mother’s Day, I invite you to bring them to our gracious God, who welcomes our tears and our joy—and everything in between. Let those feelings be transformed into prayers in his presence.

Please. Thank you. They’re yours.


Stephanie Rische is a senior editor and team leader at Tyndale House Publishers, as well as a freelance writer for publications such as Today’s Christian Woman, Christian Marriage Today, and Significant Living magazine. You can follow Stephanie’s blog at www.StephanieRische.com.


Don’t miss these books about motherhood from Tyndale Kids!

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3 Ways to Remind Your Teens to Use Kind Words by Jesse Doogan

Tyndale Kids

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I don’t remember exactly what the argument was about, but I do remember that I alienated a good portion of my lunch table. I think we had gotten into a discussion about religion, and in my young-teen-self’s usual overzealous way, I had gone a little too far as I had explained the realities of heaven and hell to my non-Christian friends.

When I got home, I told my mom about the conversation and wasn’t quite sure where I had gone wrong. She told me that while it was good that I was “prepared to give an answer,” part of 1 Peter 3:15, I had forgotten the “with gentleness and respect” part. We talked about the importance of salt in cooking and how bland a meal is without seasoning. Then we talked about my very favorite seasoning, the garlic salt we got from the fancy spice store in the city. She read me Colossians 4:6, and we discussed what it means to have speech filled with grace.

salt-and-pepper

The next day, I opened my lunch and found a tiny baggy filled with garlic salt and a note that read:

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with [GARLIC!] salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6, NIV)

I kept my little baggy of garlic salt and my mom’s note in my locker for years, and it was a helpful reminder to watch my words.

Another great reminder is this pneumonic from Girl Talk Guy Talk by Jesse Florea and Karen Whiting. They write, “There’s never too much kindness in the world, so choose to have a wise mouth” [emphasis added].

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Make an effort to control your emotions, so you can control your tongue.

Open your mouth only after thinking.

Use words to make a positive difference.

Touch someone with encouraging words.

Heal hurt feelings by asking for and giving forgiveness.

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I have one last way to remind your kids to use kind words. IOS stickers for their iPhones or iPods! I was a teen long before texting and social media were so prominent, but I’m sure if they had been around, I could have used some digital reminders to control my tongue. Download these free stickers for your kids to use in their texting conversations as reminders to stay positive and kind. There are fun stickers, such as paper airplanes and French fries, and serious stickers, such as Bibles and crosses. Sprinkle them into your texts like salt.


Jesse Doogan is an acquisitions editor for children and youth at Tyndale House Publishers. She graduated with a degree in Communications from Moody Bible Institute in 2009 and started at Tyndale in 2010. Jesse worked in e-book distribution and marketing for six years, where she kept a close eye on publishing trends. Jesse brings her experience managing details and relationships to the Kids Team, where she keeps track of books as they go through the publishing process and reviews new manuscripts. Jesse believes that the books you read as a child are the books that shape you for the rest of your life, and she is passionate about using literature to reach kids for Christ.


For more books for kids and teens, head to tyndale.com/kids.

The Best Habit to Cultivate When Joy Is Eluding You by Dandi Daley Mackall

Tyndale Kids

Katy wore her purple jersey proudly, thrilled to be part of the Dragons. The thump, thump, thump of a dozen practice balls echoed in the gym.

I watched my daughter smile at every player on the basketball court, even those on the opposing team, the Bears.

“Go, Ka—Dragons!” I shouted from the bleachers. Katy had coached her dad and me not to cheer, “Go, Katy!” Only, “Go, Dragons!”

She jogged out of sight. When she returned, she was pushing a wheelchair with a man I judged to be about forty, twice Katy’s age. He was wearing a Superman T-shirt, and his smile matched Katy’s.

I didn’t think he was on either team, but I wasn’t sure.

A whistle blew, and athletes were introduced as they ran to center court to the cheers of the crowd. Brian skipped onto the court, hands clasped above his head as if he was already the champ. Leslie pranced out, looking paler than the snow we all drove through to get here.

And Craig. Too shy, or frightened, to join his team on the court, he paced just out of bounds until Katy ran over and took his hand, leading him out as far as he’d allow.

Unable to help himself, my husband yelled, “Go, Katy!” She shook her head at him. Someone shouted, “Play ball!”

Katy didn’t come off the bench until third quarter. Even then, she couldn’t get her hands on the ball because the Dragons’ two best players were ball hogs.

Poor Katy ran up and down the court, arms outstretched, pleading for the ball. The boys paid no attention.

But it was obvious that one boy on the Bears team couldn’t keep his eyes off her. Each time they passed on the court, he stopped and smiled, mesmerized.

Someone passed him the ball. The kid’s smile turned back to Katy. He handed that ball to her.

Confused, Katy glanced up at us and shrugged. She returned the Bear’s grin, then shot the ball. Nothin’ but net!

It was the only shot she made all year. The gym erupted in shouts of joy. Even the Bears and their parents cheered.

The Dragons trailed by one. Katy had the ball with two minutes left in the game. Then a wonderful thing happened. Katy walked toward Craig, who still paced the out-of-bounds lane.

The gym hushed as Katy stepped out of bounds and took Craig’s hand.

The clock ran out, but nobody moved. Craig tried to squirm away, but Katy held on until he stepped across the line. She put the ball in his hands, and his arms sprang as if on coils. He missed the backboard. But the bleachers emptied, with both sides cheering their hearts out.

Every person in that gym experienced true joy, shared joy.

And I prayed that God would show me how to share joy in other areas, instead of competing for only one joy—mine.

That evening in the gym, joy poured out of me abundantly, spontaneously. But the truth is that joy doesn’t always come so easily.

Sometimes I find myself wishing that parenting a child with special needs brought with it more moments of straightforward joy. Or perhaps that my joy looked more like other people’s joy.

I knew a couple of weeks after Katy’s birth that she wasn’t developing the way other babies did.

By age two, she required speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.

When she was three, she lost 40 percent of her hearing overnight and was diagnosed with nephritis and Alport Syndrome, a nasty neurological disorder.

I don’t recall feeling joyful as other moms chatted about their precocious toddlers.

I do remember my daughter, big grin and wide eyes, rushing home after kindergarten one day and shouting, “Guess what! Allyson can tie her own shoelaces her own self!”

She was ecstatic, but my first thought was: And you can’t.

Why is it easier to share the sorrows of others than it is to share their joy?

I’ve always marveled at Mary’s relative, Elizabeth, wife of Zachariah and mother of John the Baptist.

When Elizabeth received a visit from Mary, the future mother of the Messiah, wouldn’t Elizabeth’s natural response have been, Why not me? I’m from the priestly line of Aaron. I’m married. Zachariah is a priest and would make the perfect father. God considered me righteous. Yet my son will not consider himself worthy to tie the sandal straps of your Son? Jesus must increase while John decreases?

Instead: “Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, ‘God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.’” (Luke 1:42-44, NLT)

Elizabeth was overjoyed because she shared Mary’s joy.

And it’s not an accident that Katy is one of the happiest people I’ve met.

She gets more than her share of joy . . . because she, too, shares other people’s joys.

I am still learning from Katy.

Perhaps we all can.

Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy. Philippians 2:18


Dandi Daley Mackall is an award-winning author of nearly 500 books for all ages. She is winner of the Helen Keating Ott Award for Contributions to Children’s Literature, ECPA Children’s Book of the Year 2015, the OCIRA (International Reading Association’s) Hall of Fame, the Edgar Award, ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, Mom’s Choice Awards, and others. She was a missionary behind the Iron Curtain (the basis for Eva Underground). Her new book, Larger-Than-Life Lara, is a unique and multilayered story for young readers, with equal parts humor and angst. The central character, Laney, communicates the art of storytelling as it happens while weaving an unforgettable tale of the new girl, whose Christlike kindness and forgiveness transform the entire class…until nobody remains unchanged, not even the reader. This is a powerful and emotional story.


This piece was originally written as a guest post for Ann Voskamp’s blog. Ann is the New York Times bestselling author of The Wonder of the Greatest Gift, The Greatest Gift, and Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.  

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A Child’s Perspective on the Holy Spirit by Sharon Leavitt

Tyndale Kids

My granddaughter Emily is four years old and an interesting combination of cautious extrovert. She loves being on center stage but has a fair degree of anxiety about trying new things, and even randomly resists participating in normal routines at times. She internalizes stress, and it comes out as being clingy to Mom, refusing, resisting, etc. Not uncommon, I know.

I gave her a copy of Your Magnificent Chooser by John Ortberg when it first came out, and every time I’ve visited her, which is several times a year, she has me read it to her.

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Now to the part that made my heart sing.

Emily’s chronic anxiety surfaced recently, and she decided that she was finished with swim lessons.

My daughter Mary told her quitting was not an option because she needs to know how to swim from a safety standpoint. Mary said Emily could take her time getting in the water, but that she was going to learn how to swim.

Well, last Saturday, Emily called me to report, “Even though I was really scared and didn’t want to go into the water, I did! And it was okay!”

I asked her how she felt after doing that and how it happened.

She said, “It was fun. I heard something in my head say it was okay to go . . . It was my Chooser!”

Having had some training in spiritual direction and knowing that one of the most important things we can learn to cultivate is self-awareness and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, I was floored!

Little four-year-old Emily was proving that the goal of this book – spiritual formation and sensitivity to the Spirit’s leading – had been accomplished!

I told her that the Chooser was God’s Spirit in her, helping her, and I was so very proud of her because I’m still learning that.

For a Christian grandparent, there is nothing more important than seeing evidence that your grandchildren are “getting” it and the Spirit of God is pursuing our beloved little ones.


Sharon Leavitt has been a part of the team at Tyndale since 2001. She works with authors, partners, and agents in her role as senior author relations manager. Sharon considers her role a calling to represent and champion Tyndale to authors, and, at the same time, to advocate for and represent authors to Tyndale. Her desire is to be a practical help to authors throughout the publishing process, ensuring that the creation of their books from beginning to end is a pleasant and navigable journey. Sharon graduated from Trinity International University with a bachelor of arts degree in communications. Sharon loves and prays for people, is a trained spiritual director, and tells her husband, Ralph, that she has the best job in the house.