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It’s always fun to be featured on another writer’s blog and so, when children’s author Laura Sassi, (author of the Amazon #1 best-selling zoo book, Goodnight Ark) invited me to share five fun facts about my new mommy and daddy books, I was excited.

Head on over to her blog today to find out what those five fun facts might be, and while you’re there, be sure to enter the sixth giveaway of God Made Mommy Special and God Made Daddy Special.

PS… If you happen to be a grandparent, you’ll LOVE fun fact #5!

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So I’m perched on the front pew at Lake Harbor United Methodist Church in Muskegon.

I’d already known it was going to be a wonderful morning… what could be better than:

  1. Being together with my ‘tribe’.
  2. Walking into the sanctuary under a huge sign that read ‘WELCOMING ALL’ (and in the United Methodist Church, that really does mean welcoming all… NO MATTER WHAT.)
  3. Being able to read my new books to lots of wonderful children there.
  4. Witnessing the consecration of their brand new Grace Space (a welcoming area set aside in the sanctuary where young children can play.)
  5. Listening to the witness of four-year old Lillian, as she loudly tells the congregation that her least favorite part of Sunday school is when she has to leave.

But the best part was yet to come…

It’s time for communion. As I perch on that front pew, I see a family come forward, not to receive communion, but to offer it. It’s a whole family… of five. There’s Mom and Dad, and three little (and I mean little ones.)

So, naturally, I grab my phone. I have to take pictures of this… it’s a new thing for me (and I don’t know it at the time, but it’s a new thing for them too.)

And as the people come forward… some in wheelchairs, some slowly pushing walkers, some skipping, some running, to receive their bread and wine, I’m watching this family…

Preston is just six. His job is to hold the loaf as his mom breaks it into the pieces and offers it to those who come. His eyes are on each person who receives the bread.

Tatum is just three. Her job is to carefully hold the big cup, along with her dad, and to lift it up so that folks can dip their bread inside. Her eyes are on each person who receives the wine.

And then there’s Keelan. Keelan is a mere two years old. And he doesn’t really have a job. But he stays there, still, the whole time. And as each person comes forward, his eyes are lifted up, towards them. And he looks. And he listens. And for every person who comes, the message is the same:

This is the body of Christ, broken for you… this is the blood of Christ, shed for you….

And I know, then, as I watch this little two-year old, his eyes wide in wonder, that I’m witnessing a truly sacred moment, a sacred space, a sacred ceremony, that Keelan, and Tatum, and Preston are engaged in.

And nobody knows, no one can ever know, what God is doing in their young minds and hearts as they stand and offer Jesus to others, as they stand and hear those ancient, mysterious words spoken over and over and over.

But I do know this… God was at work in those young hearts on Sunday, God is at work in those young minds. And perhaps one day Preston, and Tatum, and Keelan, perhaps they’ll be standing at the altar with their own children and offering communion to others.

Almost twenty years ago, the young father in that photograph used to be in our youth group at the first church we pastored here in the United States. And now here he is, kneeling at the altar with his family, offering Jesus, and grace, and hope to all who will come.

Because that’s how God works… quietly and mysteriously, in invisible ways, through the seeds we sow, through time and years and generations; at work in hearts and minds in ways we may never see or fully understand.

But God is at work in the world.

Thanks be to God!

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What are you going to give, or hoping to receive for Mother’s Day this year?

Just for fun, I thought I’d try to find out what the most popular Mother’s Day gifts might be and in my search, I came across a fascinating article on USA Today entitled The 19 Best Mother’s Day Gifts of 2017

What would your guesses be? Top of the list was the ‘Gift of Scent’, closely followed, somewhat predictably, by the ‘Gift of Flowers’, and in at number three came the ‘Gift of Security’ (an indoor camera….as IF!)

I scanned quickly down the list, searching, searching for the gift I hoped to find, whizzing past the gifts of style, and beauty, and technology and ‘chic’, and nowhere, nowhere, did I find what I was looking for… I couldn’t believe it, but the ‘Gift of READING’ simply didn’t make it into the top 19. As a children’s book author, and an avid reader, I have to say: That is… Just. So. Sad.

And so, in an effort to compete with USA Today, I stopped by author Traci Smith’s blog, to offer my top THREE recommendations of children’s books, newly released for Mother’s Day 2018, any one of which would make the PERFECT ‘Gift of Reading’.

So, don’t delay, pop over there now and be sure to enter the third giveaway of God Made Mommy Special and God Made Daddy Special.

Visit Traci Smith.

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One of the most wonderful things for an author to see when any new title is released is a photograph of a little one with the book. And I just had to share this latest one with you..

Doesn’t that make you smile!

So if there’s a little one in your life who would love to have their picture taken my books, please enter the second giveaway at Purposeful Moms,where I sat down with Suzette Ladouceur as she interviewed me about author life…

Happy Reading!

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If the clever title of this new release from my friend Denette Fretz doesn’t grab your attention, then the cute cover certainly will.

I Want Your Smile, Crocodile is the latest release from the author who brought us Pirates on the Farm and Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door. When you read titles like that you know you’re in for a treat, and Denette’s latest book does not disappoint.

Meet Jack, the meerkat, who shares a distinctly human trait: he’s not happy with the way he looks. Now who can’t identify with this…

Surely if Jack could have crocodile’s smile, or porcupine’s spines, or elephant’s snout, he would be happier? Written in playful rhyme, I Want Your Smile, Crocodile follows Jack’s humorous journey to discovering a wonderful truth… he is perfect just the way God made him.

I was thrilled when Denette agreed to participate in an author interview and even more thrilled when Zonderkidz, her publisher, offered to host a giveaway of the book.

Read on for Denette’s responses to my questions, and enter to win this adorable new release…

Denette, It’s so good to welcome you back to my blog! Let’s get the formal introduction out of the way. What does the bio on the back of the book say about you?

“Denette Fretz is the critically acclaimed author of two books in ‘The Next Door Series’ – Pirates on the Farm and Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door. A perpetual doodler and songster, Fretz teaches elementary art and music in Medford, Oregon.”

Okay… now for two interesting and quirky facts about you that we won’t find on the back of your books…

  1. I talk to a volleyball. I rescued Cheesy Bob from a school closet about 11 years ago, and he has been a classroom mascot and rule-teaching scapegoat ever since. (“If Cheesy Bob paints his neighbor instead of his paper, then…”) The kids love him. Cheesy Bob’s beach ball cousin, Cheddar Jack, is currently visiting from Monterey.
  2. Skip the birthday cake and bake me birthday pie. And make it blackberry. Please.

MEET CHEESY BOB!

Haha Denette, I love Cheesy Bob! Okay, what inspired you to write I Want Your Smile, Crocodile?

When you see God’s handiwork in someone you love, but he or she wishes to be someone else, it kind of breaks your heart. And I wonder how The Potter−who molded the clay for a purpose−feels. (See Isaiah 64:8 and Ephesians 2:10.) Jack’s struggle is everyone’s struggle: embracing whom God created each of us to be and praising him for it. (See Psalm 139:14.) This struggle is fiercer in our social-media-comparison era. In I Want Your Smile, Crocodile, I was inspired to write fun characters and pointed humor to convey to children that “God’s great heart designed each part” of them.

I love that Denette! Your two previous books, Pirates on the Farm and Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door were written in prose. What made you switch to rhythm and rhyme for this title?

Once I had the rhyming title, “I Want Your Smile, Crocodile,” I researched more three-syllable zoo animals and correlated rhyming attributes such as, “Give me your swish, Jellyfish,” or “With spikes so fine, Porcupine.” When these characters were established, it was natural to hear protagonist Jack’s voice in rhyme−with a few short “prose breaks.” Also, I’m a singer, which helps with rhythm and rhyme. I’ll often lie in bed with “BAH dah-dah DAH dah” rhythms bothering my brain. (Hmm…that seems like a candidate for the “quirky facts” question.) Some of my first writing successes, way back in fifth and sixth grade, were in rhyme.

As someone who also loves to write in rhyme, I can identify with those ‘rhythms that bother the brain’! The illustrations by Jackie Urbanovic complement the text perfectly. Did you have any say in those?

Because I Want Your Smile, Crocodile has humor that is created when pictures and text are opposed, illustration suggestions were submitted with the original manuscript. Otherwise, some of the content would have been lost. For example, Jack’s words say:

“I want your smile, Crocodile.

Kids love your pointy chin.

If it were mine,

they’d stand in line…

and wait for me to grin.”

However, I didn’t want the corresponding illustration to show happy kids standing in line, so I proposed it show zoo goers scrambling away from Jack the Meerkat who is sporting a crocodile smile.

Another example of my illustration input would be the zookeeper. Just as Christ pursues us, I wanted the zookeeper to chase after Jack…and get a bit ragged in the process. Jackie’s execution of this is marvelous, although her zookeeper looks nothing like my mind’s original image. Her portrayal is far better.

For each of my three picture books, I have noted that my illustration suggestions are “a springboard and not a box.” Boy, did Jackie “spring!” I could not be happier with her humorous additions, text interpretations, colors, creative scene transitions, and her character creations. I especially love her portrayal of spunky Jack.

I couldn’t agree more, Denette… her illustrations are wonderful. Finally, what’s next from the pen of Denette Fretz?

Much of what I have written lately has been work related. I recently wrote the script for a Bible-themed musical and then directed it for 112 kids, ages three to six. I am back to penning prose in a simple, humorous manuscript…involving a cat. Also, I am optimistically writing more adventures for Jack, in hopes that readers love him as much as I do.

Well I’m sure they will Denette. Thank you so much for joining me today!

And now for the exciting part! Zonderkidz are offering a giveaway of  I Want Your Smile, Crocodile. To enter all you have to do is leave a comment on this post, telling me who you would read the book to. This giveaway is open to USA residents who have a physical street address (no PO boxes.)

If you share this post on Facebook, just let me know and I will enter your name twice. One random winner will be chosen and announced on Monday April 30th. Good luck!

Watch the book trailer.

Plan to visit the next stop in the blog tour at Laura Sassi Tales where Denette will be sharing some extension activities to accompany the book.

Connect with Denette Fretz.

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Drum roll please…

The three lucky winners of God Made Mommy Special and God Made Daddy Special are:

Lindsey, Chelsea Wipf and Krissanna! Congratulations ladies!

If you didn’t win, don’t despair! For the next eight weeks, I’ll be hopping on board a brand-new blog tour where these two books, the perfect gifts for Mother’s and Father’s Day, will be featured.

From homeschooling moms to authors; from reviewers to Children’s Ministers, the eight folks listed below will be sharing their thoughts about these new releases.

Along with their reviews, I’ll be sharing five fun facts about the books; answering questions, offering guest posts, and taking part in a joint author/illustrator interview with Estelle Corke.

Most exciting of all, there’ll be a giveaway of both titles at every stop, courtesy of my wonderful publisher, Zonderkidz.

Be sure to enter the first giveaway right now, with Children’s Pastor, Dema Kohen, at Families On a Mission.

And here’s the whole blog tour, just in case you’d like to hop along with me!

APR 16:  Dema Kohen WeAreKidMin
APR 23:  Suzette Ladouceur Purposeful Moms
APR 30:  Traci Smith Traci Smith
May 7:   Bethany Armstrong Mom of Wild Things
MAY 14: Laura Sassi Laura Sassi Tales
MAY 21: MeganRuth Guderian Alohamora Open a Book
MAY 28: Michelle Huddleston With The Huddlestons
JUN 4:    DeDe Reilly Children’s Ministries
I’ll see you there!
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I was never very good at math in school, but even I know that eight cute animals, two padded-cover board books and one awesome illustrator add up to something wonderful…

God Made Mommy Special and God Made Daddy Special  celebrate the special bond between animal parents and their little ones. Whether it’s Mommy Deer, Mommy Hamster, Daddy Bat or Daddy Lion, they all have one thing in common: these parents love their babies!

Each book closes with a celebration of the love between human parent and child, because even though God made all mommies and daddies special, there’s none as special as YOURS!

These two titles are now available in bookstores everywhere, but before you rush out to buy these lovely gifts for Mother’s and Father’s Day, you should enter the giveaway, sponsored by my awesome publisher, Zonderkidz, right here, on my blog.

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post, telling me who you would read the books to. And if you share this post on Facebook, just let me know and you’ll be entered twice. Three lucky winners will be announced one week from today, Monday April 16th.

Increase your chances by entering on Instagram.

Good Luck!

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It was this time last year that we first met Tiny.

Spring had finally come to Michigan, and the robins began building their nests, hopping around and collecting twigs, just like they’re doing now. And the one I saw on the lawn today, I’m wondering if that might be Tiny… but of course, I’ll never know.

Tiny’s story began in a scrawny nest, built in our ladders, just one year ago…

We were worried from the beginning, my son and I.

His blue egg was the last to be laid, the smallest of the four, the final one to hatch.

And when he finally did make an appearance, he always seemed to be buried beneath his brothers, pushed out of the way when the tasty worms were dangled, and always the last to be fed by his mama.

And so it came as no surprise when he was left alone in the nest. Of course he would be the last to fly.

But it wasn’t long before we realized something was wrong. Tiny wasn’t flying. He wasn’t flexing his tiny wings. In fact, he wasn’t feeding. Where was Mama? Busy feeding his brothers, we supposed.

So Tiny lay, hot and panting, in the scrawny nest, as his little cries became weaker.

But then, the next day, the nest was empty! Hurrah! Tiny must have flown, we thought.

But sadly, it wasn’t so. He lay, immobile, in a pile of leaves, barely breathing. We left him there, hoping Mama would come. But she never did. All day he lay, too weak to chirp, or move, in the leaves.

And when the storms came that night, Tiny became wet and totally bedraggled. That’s when we decided to help him, because left alone, he would never have made it through the night.

It was dark. We used a flashlight as my son picked him up gently and placed him back in the nest, where he would be safe from predators. And then we fed him, using a baster filled with pureed cat food.

My son set his alarm so he could feed him early in the morning. And all that day we fed him, as he began to chirp again and flex his little wings.

It was then that Mama returned, and the next morning, our baby was gone.

He was back in the leaves, but this time, he was hopping towards his mama as she coaxed and called and encouraged him.

Tiny was last seen in the neighbor’s yard, being fed juicy worms by Mama. He can’t quite fly yet, but my son and I, we’re letting go of Tiny, and we’re holding on to hope.

Feeding a Baby Robin - YouTube
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Welcome to Holy Week.

Over 2000 years ago, a remarkable man named Jesus had just one week left to live on this earth: that’s seven sunrises and seven sunsets; seven short days to show the world what love looked like.

And he did.

I’ll be honest: I’m not very good at walking through Holy Week. I’m terrible when it comes to keeping my focus, as this story, from my last trip to Israel, demonstrates.

But I invite you to walk with me through Holy Week, even if you lose your focus, and even if you miss one day. Just walk with me. I promise I’ll be waiting for you to catch up, just like a walking companion would.

If you happen to own Easter Love Letters from God. please click on the picture below to download your free Resource and Activity Pack that will guide you through each of the seven days. 

But if you don’t own the book, simply read the following scriptures each day and ask yourself:

What does this story teach me about Jesus?

Where do I see myself in this story?

What might God be calling me to do as a result of reading this story?

MONDAY: King of Kings: Matthew 21:1-11

TUESDAY: What Love Looks Like: John 13:1-27

WEDNESDAY: The Secret Supper: Luke 22:14-20 and John 14:1-6

THURSDAY: The Gloomy Garden: Mark 14: 32-42

FRIDAY: The Darkest Day: Matthew 27:45-54

SATURDAY: The Quiet Cave: John 19: 38-42

SUNDAY: The Super Surprise: Mark 16:1-7

I’d love for you to share your thoughts with me as we journey with Jesus.

My prayer for you is that you have a meaningful and truly holy, Holy Week.

Glenys

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In case you missed it… I wanted to be sure to gift my readers with this 25 page downloadable Resource & Activity Pack that I wrote to accompany Easter Love Letters from God.

Just click on the picture below to receive your seven-day devotional, designed to be used during Holy Week, which contains scripture, prayers, cut-outs, conversation starters, coloring sheets, crafts and more. And if you know of any parents, grandparents or Children’s Ministry leaders who might like this resource, please do share it with them.

Enter the next Easter Love Letters from God giveaway.

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