Emily Bonga Posts

5 Ways to Cultivate Grateful Hearts That Last by Kathryn O’Brien

Tyndale Kids

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Ah, the wonder of fall. Crunchy leaves. Pumpkin pie. All of those forgotten fuzzy socks and flannel jammies pulled from the bottoms of dresser drawers. And most glorious of all, our kids, our busy, bustling, blessed kids are asked to turn their hearts and minds to living with thanksgiving.

At least for a few days. All over America, at this time of year, children are presented with activities, assignments, and lessons that center around gratitude. As they learn about the hardships of colonial life, they discover the joy of simple things, such as enough food and a warm bed. They make lists of blessings for which to be grateful. They read books about Plymouth Rock and make turkeys out of clay. They wear Pilgrim hats and reenact friendship feasts, remembering those who faced dire circumstances yet continued to praise God for His provision.

All too quickly, though, the big day comes and goes; and along with our harvest décor, the Thanksgiving focus of our nation, community, and family is put away for another year. To help the thanks keep on giving throughout the year, try these simple tips and activities with kids of any age.

Point out blessings. Invest in a spinning globe or world map. On the first day of every month, let your children take turns spinning the globe or pointing to a place on the map. Then do some research together on that nation or city. What are the people, customs, and culture like? What issues do they face? How can we pray for them? In what ways could we help? Allow your kids to see the many ways they are blessed by being interested in the needs of others.

Model a life of thanks. Be a daily reminder to your children to live gratefully, by living gratefully! At the dinner table, share blessings from the day. Start bedtime prayers with a list of gifts from God. Get in the habit of saying thank you to your kids, your spouse, your friends, and complete strangers for kindnesses big and small. Write thank you notes or e-mails with your children. Bring flowers or treats to neighbors, teachers, coaches, or friends—just to say thanks!

Frame the discussion. Buy or choose a special frame, and set it in a place of honor in your home. Fill the frame with the photo of a person, place, or event that your family loves and appreciates. If there isn’t a photograph readily available, spend some time with your kids drawing and coloring it yourselves! Change the picture on a regular basis, by the month, holiday, or season; and use the frame as a reminder to give thanks for that person or place in their lives.

Give thanks write now. Purchase a journal, or even make one from blank paper bound with pretty ribbon. Title the book, We Give Thanks, and every year, ask family members to jot down the things for which they are most thankful. Let even the smallest children participate by dictating their words to an adult or older sibling. Store the journal with your autumn linens so that each year you can bring out the book, reminiscing about past blessings and adding new blessings for generations to come!

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Create a plateful of grateful. Buy a uniquely colored dinner plate (or decorate an old plate with safe markers), and add it to your set of dishes. Let different family members use the special plate at least once a week. During mealtime, give the honoree encouragement by sharing the ways in which they are a blessing to those around them. Mention their God-given qualities, abilities, and talents that you are most thankful for, and say a special prayer of praise for them.

Hopefully, this Thanksgiving—as the last of the cranberry sauce is gobbled up and the cornucopia is tucked away—we will hang onto gratitude for God’s goodness in our lives . . . and our children’s thankful hearts will remain.


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Looking for books that encourage little ones to live with a grateful heart? Check out Give Thanks by Kathryn O’Brien, part of the Sit for a Bit series from Tyndale.


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Kathryn O’Brien writes books for kids and has a heart for moms. She’s published five children’s picture books, including her latest series (Sit for a Bit, Tyndale) and serves as a contributor for several publications. When she’s not writing or enjoying her day job as a Christian school administrator, Kathryn can usually be found texting her three grown children, hanging on the front porch with her husband, or hiking the canyons near her home in Southern California. To learn more about Kathryn, visit her at her website, www.kathobrien.com.


For more tips from Kathryn O’Brien on how to help your kids think about thankfulness, check out this post!

Letters from War – Veteran’s Day 2017

One of our very own Tyndale Kids authors, Dandi Daley Mackall (author of Wow! The Good News in Four Words), has two veteran parents. Her mother, Lt. Helen Eberhart Daley, and her father, Captain Frank R. Daley, M.D., both served in World War II. Dandi recently published a fiction book based on their lives and their love story, called With Love, Wherever You Are. Dandi also frequently shares pictures and memories of her parents on her blog, keeping their memory alive.

Below are some photos and captions taken directly from Dandi’s blog. To see more, head to Dandi’s blog, or find Dandi at her website.


“Lt. Helen Eberhart Daley, Army Nurse, and Captain Frank R. Daley, M.D. (Early pictures find him still a lieutenant in the Army, however.) As I was writing and revising and rewriting With Love, Wherever You Are, I used each of these photos to help me describe locations and to help me visualize my young parents in such strange circumstances. Helen is pictured in Rennes, where she served in an Army hospital during the war. Frank is in a Battalion Aid station inside Germany, then in Heidelberg, and in a temporary camp. In the old Army trunk, I found both the sleeping bag on his back and the canteen pictured in the bottom-right photo”.


Imagine yourself serving in a makeshift hospital overseas. Now, imagine you’re in the middle of World War 2, trying to care for desperately sick, wounded, terrified soldiers. And on top of that, you are a newlywed, and your spouse of only a few weeks is also at the front, caring for battlefield wounded . . . in a different country. How could such a marriage survive?

Letters. These are just two of the Army trunkful of letters from my mom and dad, Dr. Frank Daley and Nurse Helen Eberhart Daley. They lived for mail call, when they would hear from each other and know they were safe and still in love, in spite of the physical distance between them. Imagine waiting for a letter, hoping, praying . . . and nothing for days and days. You had been writing 2 or 3 times a day, every day. And then, imagine receiving a treasure–11 letters at once”.


To those who have served, are serving, or will serve our country, we thank you.

Happy Veteran’s Day!


Looking for a fresh way to present the gospel to young children? Wow! The Good News in Four Words (by Dandi Daley Mackall) is a perfect resource. Head to tyndale.com to learn more!

Incorporating Education into Story Time by Crystal Bowman & Teri McKinley

Tyndale Kids

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From Crystal:

As a grandmother, I remember the days of raising three young children. We spent a lot of time at home, playing and learning. My kids were full of questions: “Why do ducks quack?” “Do worms yawn?” “Can Jesus fly?” “What’s that noise?” I loved being the one to teach my children about the world around them, but to be honest, those never-ending questions occasionally wore me out. I always looked forward to bedtime reading when I could dispense knowledge to my eager children, but my tired brain wasn’t always up to it. That’s why I especially loved reading children’s books that offered questions and answers. It opened conversations in a way that was enjoyable for all of us.

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From Teri:

As a mother of a toddler, I already feel the urge to prepare my son for school. Because of the Technological Age we live in, our kids are expected to know a lot before they even begin kindergarten. While I want to equip my son for school, I also want him to enjoy learning and embrace the freedom of being a child. I am hungry for resources that can cater to all of these needs. There is something about reading a book with my son in my lap that is beautifully simplistic. It takes the focus off of achievement and places it on connection. And through these special snuggle times, it’s amazing to see the knowledge he gains.

Our Shared Vision:

Our latest picture books launch a new series called “I’ve Got Questions.” Do Baby Bears Have Mommies? and Does God Take Naps? are picture books created for inquisitive children ages three to seven. The question-and-answer rhyming text is whimsical and delightful to read, yet the books have an educational component that makes learning fun for the child. The questions in each book will stimulate a child’s thought process, while the answers are a “gift” to the adult reader. What’s especially unique about these books is the way they introduce children to basic STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) concepts that are pivotal to education.

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Do Baby Bears Have Mommies? is all about animals that kids love—from monkeys and elephants to skunks and bears and ladybugs. As young children begin to explore the world outside of their home, they naturally engage with animals and nature. They notice birds in trees, bugs on flowers, and worms crawling across the sidewalk. They mimic animal sounds and animal movements. This is the beginning of their experience with the natural sciences. In this book, children will dig deeper into educational aspects of the natural world, such as why cows moo and why ducks quack. Do you know how to tell a boy ladybug from a girl ladybug? You will—after reading this book!

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Does God Take Naps? builds a bridge between science and faith, helping children understand the character of God in relation to the natural world. They can learn who God is and what he does. Scientific minds will learn that God created the stars and put them in outer space. They will learn that God rules the universe and keeps everything in place. Mathematical minds may try to calculate how old God is, and the answer given in the book keeps the adult from having to say, “I don’t know.” Inquisitive minds might wonder if God eats vegetables or takes naps. Pet lovers will wonder if God has pets. The answers are fun to discover together as you turn the pages. Children will also learn that God is loving and kind: “God cares about your problems. And sees each of your tears. . . . And nothing in the whole wide world is greater than his love.”

As experienced parents and caretakers, we hope you cherish the heart behind the “I’ve Got Questions” series. Our desire is for you to connect with the children in your life while teaching them important truths about God and the world around them. With the holidays around the corner it’s a great time to sit down for a good story, a moment of learning, and some one-on-one snuggle time. We hope these books will be a gift that can be enjoyed over and over again!


This Christmas season, teach your children the story of Jesus’ birth with M is for Manger  by Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley! Beautifully illustrated and written, this rhyming storybook will be a classic for parents to read to their children every Christmas.

Available in both hardcover and board book format. 


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 has written books for many popular children’s series, such as Little Blessings, BOZ the Bear, and I Can Read! She has co-authored Our Daily Bread for KidsMy Mama and Me, and M is for Manger with her daughter, Teri McKinley. She and her husband live in Florida.

To learn more about Crystal, head to her website, or find her on Facebook.

Teri McKinley grew up in the world of publishing, attending book signings and book conventions with her mother, Crystal Bowman. She began writing stories in elementary school and her love for writing grew in college. In addition to co-authoring several award-winning books with her mother, Teri has written greeting cards for Discovery House. Teri and her husband live in Texas and serve in several ministries at their church. Above all, Teri’s favorite job is being a mom to their son.

To learn more about Teri, find her on Facebook or Pinterest.


If God Is Saying “Go,” Why Am I Stuck Here? by Gary Bower

Tyndale Kids

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It was a beautiful July evening, back in the olden days before GPS and cell phones. The weather was perfect as we left the rustic lodge in the foothills of Appalachia. With my new bride in the seat beside me, I was enjoying gorgeous scenery inside and outside the vehicle while we drove to a special event. The winding road threaded through a dense forest of hardwoods, and with every twist and turn I became a little more unsure of my bearings. Somewhere along the way I missed a turn, and we became lost among the trees, unable to find our way out of the park. The signage was poor, and there were no hikers to ask for directions. I could have kicked myself for leaving the lodge without my park map.

As a Christian, I have a map, directions to help me navigate my way through thick forests. It’s called the Bible.

Same week, same honeymoon, different region. In a sparsely populated area known for its countless inland lakes, we found ourselves, once again, driving along a winding road, this time with a map in hand. But a few miles from our destination, around midnight, all the lights of our 1967 Plymouth suddenly went dead. We pulled over and sat in darkness wondering how to find our way, until a friendly local stopped to offer help. After hearing our situation, she said, “I know the place. Follow me.” For the remainder of the dark journey, her tail lights gave the guidance we desperately needed.

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As a Christian, I have a mentor, a guide to lead me through places that are so dark I struggle to see the map clearly. He’s called the Holy Spirit.

Moses received his directions, his map, when God spoke clear instructions to him at the burning bush and again, later, on the mountain. Moses also had a guide—his mentor—in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, so he and the people could keep going even in the dark. After all the opposition they had faced in Egypt, Moses and his people were finally making some real progress, heading down the road toward the destination God had for them. Except for one problem: They ran out of road.

You’ve probably been there. I know I have, trying to follow God’s Word and seeking Him for guidance. And just when you think you’ve received your directions and you’re heading down the path He has for you, you hit a brick wall (or in Moses’ case, a sea). There simply is no more road. The career door closed. The ministry opportunity ended. The family plan dissolved. The medical options ran out. The money dried up. You’ve taken the last step you can take, right up to the water’s edge, and the hostile army is closing in. Here’s how I describe it in my kids’ book The Hurry-Up Exit from Egypt: “[This is] the sea that made them all cry, ‘We’re trapped here like rats, and we’re all gonna die!’”

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Sometimes, I’ve found that same mentality in me. I’ve followed my map and my mentor right up to what seems like a brick wall, and here I am at the end of the road. But God had a third “m” for Moses: a miracle. While hundreds of thousands looked back at the approaching terror, Moses looked forward and watched the Waymaker make a way. God used a tremendous wind to heap up the waters of the sea like a wall on each side. Extraordinary! Truth really is stranger than fiction.

And while this was a truly incredible miracle, it was by no means the only miracle God did for His people. How about water in the desert . . . out of a rock? (Exodus 17). Or defeating an innumerable army while standing still and singing? (2 Chronicles 20). The Bible is filled with mind-blowing miracles done for the helpless in times that were hopeless. It tells us repeatedly to remind ourselves and our children of the wonders God has performed (Joshua 4:21-24; Psalm 78:2-7; Psalm 105; 1 Chronicles 16:8-12; Isaiah 43:16-19). These reminders build faith in our children. They build faith in me. And as my faith starts to swell again, I realize that, with God, not even the sky is the limit. You never know what He might do! After all, many years after He parted one sea, He simply chose to walk on top of another one.

I’m not exactly sure why my painful losses tend to be easier to recall than the incredible answers to prayer I’ve experienced. Maybe that’s why I’m supposed to tell and retell my children about God’s wonderful deeds. I can’t afford to let myself forget the miracles God did yesterday; I may be needing one tomorrow.

I’ll continue to look to my map. I’ll try to keep up with my mentor. And sometimes, when I run out of road, I’ll just have to remember to ask for a good old fashioned miracle.


Gary Bower is an award-winning author, speaker, and ordained minister. His many years of experience pastoring small children, tweens, teens, and adults have helped him develop a rare ability to touch hearts of a wide age range simultaneously. He is the author of sixteen books, including Perfect Christmas. His books have received high praise from Gary Smalley, Randy Alcorn, Chuck Bentley of Crown Financial Ministries, and the Duggar family. Gary speaks all over the Eastern United States at homeschool conventions, churches, and MOPS groups. He loves to read to his children and grandchildren.

Why I Wrote and Illustrated God Made the World by Sarah Jean Collins

Tyndale Kids

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People say that becoming a mom changes everything. I definitely found this to be true. I have always loved art and creating things, and when my daughter Campbell arrived, even this artistic area of my life was influenced. Campbell was a lot like most babies when it comes to books. She loved them from the time she could grab one and use it as a teether. As she got older, it was fascinating to see her engage with the stories I read aloud and to watch the way the artwork caught her eye. She particularly loved books that rhymed, such as Goodnight Moon, Dr. Seuss books, and the Madeline series. When she was about eighteen months old, I could read any line of a book, and she would be able to say the last word. Even though she could not speak in sentences, she was beginning to understand and really absorb what I was reading to her.

This is when I started to think about writing and illustrating my own children’s book. I thought it would be great if I could write a Bible story for kids that contained all the elements that really caught my own daughter’s attention. I wanted to write something geared toward her age group at the time—a story that was short enough to hold her attention span, but also memorable. I knew I would want the story to rhyme because rhyming books held her interest the most. I was nearing the completion of a degree in graphic design and had come to really love illustration. The thought of illustrating an entire children’s book seemed like a huge undertaking, but also an incredible amount of fun.

I was very excited about the idea, but I did not work up the courage to even attempt it for about six months! At this point, Campbell was two and was enjoying books even more. One day, during her nap, I decided to get started. I felt that the story of creation was the one I should tell. It seemed intuitive, not only because it is the first story in the Bible, but also because I believe it is extremely important for children today to know that God made the world. I also knew it would be both fun and challenging to illustrate this story. After I finished writing it, I immediately began working on the pictures. My goal was to make the artwork appealing to both kids and their parents. I wanted the pictures to be modern and sometimes abstract, but also colorful and childlike. Each page presented a new challenge as I tried to incorporate these elements and still effectively portray the story.

My hope for this book is that it will tell the story of how God created the world in a way that young children can begin to absorb the wonder of these events. I also hope the book is something both parents and kids will enjoy. Since I began this creative process, I’ve had another baby, a little boy named Houston. I am so excited to share this book with both of my kids, and I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to share it with the children who are special to you, as well!


From now through October 31, 2017, when you buy God Made the World at Tyndale.com  using the code GIVEABOOK, Tyndale House Publishers will donate a copy to kids in need. It’s that simple.


sarah-jean-collins-author-photoSarah Jean Collins is an artist and graphic designer from Bradenton, Florida. She graduated from Samford University in 2008 with a BA in history. Three years later, she decided to go back to school to pursue her lifelong love of art by obtaining an AS degree in graphic design from State College of Florida. While in school, Sarah Jean realized that she is passionate about illustration. She is inspired by minimalism, world cultures, and life on the Gulf of Mexico. In 2012, her design was used for the 30th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival T-shirt and poster. She and her husband, Tim, have two children.