In today’s episode we discuss the strength and power found in joy, and we explore how to help our children make a difference in the world through joy and kindness. We also look at how to help our children be resilient and joyful through hard times.
Books and Resources Discussed in This Episode:
Welcome to Books that Spark, a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids. I’m so glad you joined me today. I’m excited today to talk with you about kindness and joy. I had another episode actually planned for this week, but after interviewing Glenys, I am just overwhelmed by the joy and the kindness that comes through her books. And I feel like with our situation right now, that’s something that our kids really need. Not only because it comforts us, but I think we forget that it strengthens us. When we’re thinking of helping our children to find joy and to find peace and to be kind to others, we’re equipping them to live their lives as a testimony for God in the strength of the Holy spirit, because the fruit of the spirit includes kindness and joy and peace and all of those wonderful attributes that we long for with the very innermost part of our being. And so, I found some really cute books to share with you today about joy and kindness.
The first one is actually called Joy, and it’s by Corrinne, Averiss and illustrated by Isabelle Follath. It’s a very cute story about a little girl who adores her Nanna. Her name is Fern. Her Nanna has been sad and not full of joy. It’s like she’s lost her joy. So she wants to try to help her Nanna find joy again. And it really exemplifies encouraging one another. And it exemplifies the Philippians 4:8 verse where it says to think on these things. And it’s just an adorable little storybook. And she tries to go out into the world and find joy for her grandma so she can share it with her. And she takes all these little things and it’s a British written in British English. So we have mum and she takes a tin instead of a can. And so there’s several words in there that are the British English, and it’s very sweet and quaint, but anyway, she tries to catch joy. She goes to the park because people are always joyful at the park and she’s trying to find joy and get it in her little tin. And, of course, it won’t go in the tin. So, she’s very disappointed and goes home to her Nanna and tells her, “I tried to find joy to give to you.” And she tells her about all the incidents of joy that she saw. One is really cute. It’s a dad tickling his little kid’s feet on the swing and, you know, just adorable. Anyway, her sharing the experiences she had helps Nanna to smile and to be filled with joy. And so, Nanna gives her a big hug and tells her she’s her cause for joy. She’s the reason she’s joyful again. But I love that it shows that a child can make such a difference just by their attitude and by what they share with others and what they say. And so this is a really cute book called Joy.
And two adorable books that I just came across a few weeks ago, and they are so cute, is Ordinary Mary. There’s two books in the series that I know of. Anyway, there may be more, but Ordinary Mary’s Positively Extraordinary Day by Emily Pearson and Fumi Kosaka is the illustrator. She goes through her whole day, and it’s just an ordinary day. And it shows how the little things we do, again, the little things we do can make a difference in someone’s life and can make a difference in the outlook and of what’s going on in the day and in the world. And so I love that. And just about, I think all the books I’m sharing with you today pretty much are books about this, where we can teach our children that what they do matters, even if it’s just a small kindness or a small word of encouragement, it can make a difference. And then, not only does it help the other person find joy, it helps nourish our soul and help us find joy. And so, these books are really good for this: Ordinary Mary’s Positively Extraordinary Day. And then her other one is Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed. And both of these are beautiful books. And, and I, I just I’ve. I think both of them were worth getting both are by Emily Pearson and both are illustrated by Fumi Kosaka, but they’re just very sweet books and show the power a child has to do and make a difference in the world.
Another one is called, Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Jen Hill. It’s a very sweet picture book. And this little girl is trying to figure out how to make this other little girl feel better because she spills her grape juice on her dress, and it stains her dress. She’s trying to say the right things and do the right things to encourage this little girl and to encourage others. And it’s a very sweet little story, and it shows the frustration of sometimes you try to do the right thing and it doesn’t come across quite right. Because she says her favorite color is purple because she knows this other girl’s favorite color is purple, but she thinks she’s making fun of her cause she spilled grape juice. And so, she cries instead of being blessed, and Tanisha is the one who spilled her grape juice. And so, it shows trying to help someone and persisting in that, even though sometimes the act of kindness isn’t quite received right the first time, you keep trying. I liked that about it too. So that’s a very cute book about the same topic we’re talking about.
Another one is called Those Shoes. Those Shoes is by Maribeth Boelts and illustrated by Noah Z. Jones. It’s a sweet story about this little kid, and this is really good for little boys too because almost all the characters in it are boys. These little boys have the latest, cool shoes that everybody’s wanting to wear. They’re the black sneakers with two white stripes, and all the boys have them except for the main character. And Jeremy is from a poor family and he just can’t afford those shoes, and he lives with his grandma and she wants to get them for him, but she just can’t do that with their budget. So, they go to the thrift stores and try to find some and they find a pair at the third thrift store they go to and he buys them, even though they’re too small and he keeps hoping they’ll stretch. He puts them on every day after school and tries to make them stretch, and they just don’t stretch, and he just can’t wear them. So, they just sit in his bedroom, and he winds up wearing his other shoes that are not cool. Then one day his neighbor friend comes over to play and sees the shoes. And he’s like, “Oh my goodness, you have some of those shoes. Those are so cool.” And he doesn’t want to talk about it. He’s saying to himself, “I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to do it” or not going to say it. I forget what he says, but he keeps telling himself “I’m not going to do it.” And finally, he does. He gives the shoes to the neighbor boy because his feet are smaller, and they’ll fit. And it comments on how the neighbor boy’s shoes are like held together with tape. They’re falling apart, and he feels bad, but he just doesn’t want to give up those shoes, even though he can’t wear them. So, he finally does, and he feels so good about it. And it’s just a really good picture of showing that, even though he’s disappointed he couldn’t have the shoes, he was able to bless someone else. I think it teaches a lot for children in a lot of conversations we could have with our children about giving and making a difference in someone else’s life and not being so focused on ourselves and making a difference. Even though we are disappointed, we can still bless someone else.
Now there’s one book it’s actually not out yet. And I was trying to find out more about it, but it sounds so intriguing that I’m going to go ahead and mention it here. It doesn’t actually launch until January, 2021. And it’s a book for boys and it’s called The Book of Dares: 100 Ways for Boys to Be Kind, Bold, and Brave by Ted bunch and Anna Marie Johnson Teague. I thought this sounds so intriguing. I want to check it out when it does come out, but the grade level or age level for this grade level is three through third through seventh grades, age level is eight to 12. So, it’s where a little bit older kid. And it’s challenging them with 100 inspiring, creative, fun challenges for boys to be kind and respectful and to share with others around them. So, I think this is a really unique book, and I’m anxious to look at it. Like I said, I can’t, I haven’t seen it yet. It’s not out, we can’t preview it or anything, but that’s one on the horizon that I would watch for and check out when it does come out.
Now, there was another book I was very hopeful about sharing with you. All I’ve read of it is pretty good, except it borders on the lines of New Age. And it is a Christian book, and it talks about God having a plan for our lives. It’s written for middle school and upper elementary age boys. And it’s challenging them to live a positive life and to keep their mind focused on positive things. And I think it’s so close to being good, but there’s so much in it that is still New Age. And so, I’m mentioning it, not because I want to recommend it. I’m mentioning it because we do have to be careful what we give our children to read, especially when they’re hitting the middle school, high school years. There are so many good books out there, and there’s so many seemed-to-be-good books that aren’t, we have to be careful to guard against the false teachings that are running amuck in our culture right now. So, I want to kind of clarify.
I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for each of our lives. It says in the Bible that he created us for a good works that he ordained before we were ever born. So he has a plan for us and for what we’re supposed to do with our lives. And he has a plan for every one of our children, no matter what their abilities or disabilities are, there are no mistakes. He has a plan. I believe that with all my heart, however, a lot of it that is out there being taught right now is very similar to the secret and the law of attraction that says the universe will give you what you tell it to give you basically where we make ourselves little gods. And unfortunately, that has become a teaching that has been embraced by some churches and some preachers. And I think it’s a very dangerous theology because the focus of the Gospel, even though it is for us, the focus is not us. The focus is God and what he has provided for us and his plan for mankind and for eternity. And so we need to keep our eyes focused on, we are following him. We are his disciples, and we can have a very fulfilling, rich, amazing, overwhelmingly joyful life in following him in obedience. And when we walk in obedience to his plan and his word and what he wants us to do, then it is a joyful and a fulfilling opportunity every day that we live. But when we focus on ourselves and we’re striving and we’re trying to get God to do what we want him to do, we run into a trap where we are making ourselves god; we fall into this false theology. That is American Buddhism is what I call it, but it’s even worse than American Buddhism. It’s making us god. I think it’s very dangerous for our children to fall into that.
We do need to make them aware of that. And I’ve talked with my kids a lot. It is a combination of New Age and Christian theology synchronized together. The gospel is no longer a gospel of denying ourselves, taking up our cross daily and following him. It’s a prosperity theology where we are meant to live our best life, and our best life isn’t till heaven. This life is full of pain and sorrow. And we have to hold onto that joy that God has given us. And we have to be a people who are different than the world—peculiar people who are always loving our enemies and who are seeking to show kindness, generosity, and love to our brothers and sisters, as well as to those outside the church. The Bible is very clear that we’re to count the cost to follow Christ.
And if all Christ has for us is to live a cushy, wonderful, rich, wealthy life here on earth, what is the cost we’re counting? That makes no sense. No, Jesus warned us. We would be persecuted. He warned us there would be tough times. He warned us that the world would reject us. They rejected him. And so they’re going to reject us. We’re told that they will think we’re foolish, and we see it all the time now in our culture. And it’s been in the world. I mean, if you’ve traveled overseas, you know that it’s everywhere. Christians are being persecuted. People of faith in general are being persecuted in many countries. The gospel is mocked, and we need to be tough people, and we’ve got to help our children be tough people. And if we don’t teach our children how to find the joy amidst the sorrow and that there’s strength in the joy of the Lord, then we’re hurting our kids.
We need to help them be resilient and strong and steadfast, and to hold on to the joy of the Lord, which is their strength. And we’ve got to learn the same thing. You know, admittedly sometimes it is a struggle and a battle. I think if it were easy, it wouldn’t be that big a deal, but it is something that we have to do. And we have to acknowledge that this is reality. There’s a video and a book I’d like to recommend for the parents. This would not be for the children. I don’t think it would be something that maybe high schoolers could handle it, but it’s a pretty gritty video and it’s a real story. And it’s called The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected by Nik Ripken and Greg Lewis. And he has a second book, The Insanity of Obedience: Walking with Jesus in Tough Places also by Nik Ripken. The video is called The Insanity of God and it’s published by the International Mission Board and LifeWay of the Southern Baptist Convention. And the Ripken’s were missionaries for the Southern Baptist Convention for most of their ministry life. And they served in some very tough places. God took them on a journey of understanding Christian persecution and understanding counting the cost in following God. And I think it’s a powerful video to watch, especially if you are coming from the West and a Western mindset of Christianity; it’s a whole different understanding it’s eye-opening and life-changing. So I do recommend that for the parents. It’s an excellent resource and there’s also a video on YouTube called Sheep Among Wolves, Volume 2, I recommend volume two. Volume One is the same video, just volume two is made better when they had more funding. It’s the same testimonies and same story.
But these two videos are so eye-opening and life-changing. For those of us who have been brought up in the shelter of a culture that appreciates Christianity, that acknowledges Christianity, and allows us freedom to worship, these videos are very powerful and important videos that I think we need to watch. And what it did for me too, was even though I didn’t feel even my kids at the age they are that they were quite ready to watch these, it helped me as a parent to know how to talk to my kids and to help them see a bigger picture than just what we have here in our country. At this time, even though things are heating up a little bit here, it is nothing like it is in other countries. I felt like it was important for me to educate myself so that then I could be a better parent with Insanity of God. There are some discussion materials that go along with it as well.
Another thing that we do each year—we participate in IDOP, the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church [November 1, 2020]. And there are materials on Open Doors’ website and there’s material for children as well. And I think this is also good. The materials for the children are quite appropriate. They’re excellent, they’re free. And you can get your church involved, but even if you don’t just using it in your own family and in your own prayer time to be praying for our brothers and sisters who are standing firm in their faith, even though they’re persecuted. So I think that’s something that we need to address and help our children be aware of.
I want to end with one more book that is by one author that I really like: Mo Willems and illustrated by Amber Ren, and it’s called Because this book is so cute because, because it starts out with one thing happens and then that causes another thing to happen. And another thing to happen, it results in this young girl becoming conductor of an orchestra. It’s just so cute because you see how each person’s decision each person’s circumstance and everything that happened was for a purpose.
Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.
Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.
Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.
For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com
Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.
Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.
Disclaimer: Although Terrie majored in psychology and sociology for her bachelor’s degree and has taught AP Psychology, she is NOT a licensed therapist. She sometimes mentions items in her blog and podcast that could be considered comments on psychology, but these comments are based on ministry experience and ministering to people through the missions and church work she’s done for the past 36 years. If you have questions about psychological disorders or counseling needs, please consider finding a reputable, licensed counselor in your area. Terrie’s comments should be seen as anecdotal and ministry-experience-related or scripture-based. Thank you!