SIX Nativity Activities to Teach 6 – 8 Year Olds About Christmas (Plus a GIVEAWAY!)

          One of my favorite Christmas memories is of watching my daughter play with the Baby Jesus that was part of our Christmas nativity. Pretending that Baby Jesus was crying, she’d gently take him out of the manger, rock him, feed him a bottle, and softly sing a lullaby or two.
         Here she is – several years ago – sweetly singing “Away in a Manger” with me after playing with the Baby Jesus. In the background (when we sway) you can even see that little nativity.

    
         Wasn’t that adorable?!  Her sweet play inspired me to write “Goodnight, Manger”, a Christmas bedtime picture book that not only serves as a fun reminder that Jesus was once a baby who cried and felt everything we feel, but which also keeps Christ, rather than Santa, as the focus during the holiday season. 
         With all this in mind, this week I am a guest over at Noelle Kirchner, The Ministering Mom’s website, noellekirchner.com,  sharing SIX Nativity Activities to Teach 6 – 8 Year Olds About Christmas , plus there’s a giveaway for one signed copy of GOODNIGHT, MANGER! I also previously shared on her blog 8 Nativity Activities to Teach Little Ones About Christmas so please check that out as well.
Thank you for having me, Noelle!!
Blessings, all!
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And the winner of ‘TWAS THE EVENING OF CHRISTMAS is…

Twas The Evening Cover

I’m delighted to announce that the winner of this week’s special giveaway, a brand new copy of Glenys Nellist’s and Elena Selivanova’s beautiful picture book ‘TWAS THE EVENING OF CHRISTMAS, published by Zonderkidz, is…

AMY!!!!!

Congratulations!  I will be in touch with you today so we can get the book to you.

Thanks again, Glenys and Elena, for sharing your thoughts with us in this week’s interview. I’d also like to thank everyone who took the time to comment and to my daughter, once again, for lending me one of her snazzy hats for the drawing.

HOLIDAY GIFT IDEA: Signed (and personally inscribed) copies of GOODNIGHT, ARK and GOODNIGHT, MANGER

IMG_0069Can’t make it to a book signing?  No problem!

I am excited to announce that this year once again, in response to requests from readers for signed copies, my local indie book store, The Town Book Store in Westfield, New Jersey, will again offer signed, personalized copies of my books for sale!

If this interests you, please call them to order the book or books you want. Be sure to explain that you would like to have them signed by the author and pass along the names you’d like included. They will take the order and do the transaction. I will then come in and sign the book or books. Readers can either pick them up in-store at no extra charge, or have them mailed. There will be a shipping fee to cover the cost of mailing, but they can give you those details.

I thought this was a nice way to make signed copies available and support a wonderful independent book store.  Their number is: The Town Book Store (908) 233-3535. You can also email the owner, Anne, at anne@townbookstore.com.

HAPPY THANKS-GRIEVING: Reflections on Joy in the Midst of Sadness

I lost my mother early Thanksgiving morning four years ago.

I had awakened early that morning to get a turkey in the oven for dinner at our house later that day. It was heavy and awkward, and involved lots of clean up afterwards, but I was grateful for the normalcy of the act and was looking forward, in a distracted way, to having my husband’s family over for such a traditional, time-honored meal.

But to be honest, at my deepest core, I was struggling to be thankful. The previous December my mother had been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease – a heart-breaking disease that slowly kills the nerves in your body, paralyzing you till you can no longer walk, move, eat, speak.

And over the previous eleven months, I had watched my mother decline. But her prayer all that year, and mine, and we prayed it often, whether together or apart, was that she would feel Gods’s presence and that He’d give her the courage she needed to live life each day.  We also prayed for mercy and grace.

And God answered our prayers, for even as her muscles steadily atrophied, as she lost the ability to walk and to draw (she was an artist) and to speak and eat, her soul rallied. She adjusted to life, first with a scooter, and then with a wheelchair. Every day she treated herself to long rides out in the sunshine and she always had a wave and a smile for passers-by.  Indeed, I was amazed at how she was able to find the good in each day. She encouraged me to do that too.

So, drawing on her example of strength and blessing even in the midst of great challenges, I resolved that morning to give thanks. In fact, I had just written that in my journal when the phone rang. It was my father calling to say my mom had died. She had gone to bed very tired that night, but apparently fine. However, at 6 am when he went to her bed, she had gone.

In a quick change of plans, I passed the Thanksgiving off to my husband, hastily packed a bag, and drove six hours straight to be with my dad.  As I did, my daughter’s teary voice repeated in my head. “Why Mommy, why did Mattie have to die?  It’s supposed to be HAPPY Thanksgiving.  But instead it’s so SAD.”  Yes, I thought, so terribly sad.

IMG_1776Over the next few days, my dad, sister and I did all the things one has to do when someone dies. We kept ourselves busy, but as we did waves of tears would overcome us. In the evenings we’d sit by the fire alternately talking and being quiet. At one point my dad said my mom had been having panic attacks the last several nights before her death because she felt trapped in her body. So I asked him if he thought she had been afraid.  He answered, “Yes, of course she was afraid, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t have courage. She had great courage. God gave that to her.” Having courage, he reminded me, isn’t living in the absence of fear. Courage is having strength as we face our fears.

That got me thinking. It’s kind of the same way with sadness. We are sad. One sure thing in life is that there will be sadness, but there will also be joy.  And just as my mother could at the same time be courageous and yet have fear, we too can rejoice, even in the midst of sadness.

Joy in the midst of sadness – light in the midst of darkness – that’s really what faith in Christ is all about.  My hope for you this Thanksgiving, for all of us really, is that wherever you find your soul this week – you will feel the presence of the One who has overcome it all.  And that just as my mother did, through God’s grace and mercy, even in the midst of her terrible circumstance, each of us will find joy and goodness even in the midst of life’s challenges.

With a heart full of thanks,

Laura

 

GOODREADS GIVEAWAY: GOODNIGHT, MANGER signed by BOTH the AUTHOR and the ILLUSTRATOR!

IMG_0241Something readers don’t often realize is that it’s highly unusual to actually meet your illustrator – especially when you live on different continents!  That’s why I was thrilled last summer to have the delightful privilege of meeting Jane Chapman who illustrated both GOODNIGHT, ARK and GOODNIGHT, MANGER.

While were together enjoying this rare gift of meeting in person, we had the idea that it might be fun to sign a couple of books.  So now, to kickoff the holiday season, I’m giving one away!

Before I share the details (below) I thought you might enjoy a few snaps of our lovely meeting last summer:

 

 

 

 

Finally, without further ado, here are the details for my GOODREADS GIVEAWAY!

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Enter to win a very special copy of GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015,hardcover edition), signed by BOTH author Laura Sassi and New York Times best-selling illustrator Jane Chapman.

Story Summary: It’s bedtime for baby Jesus, but who knew a stable could be so loud? Mama, Papa, and all of the animals try to lull the baby to sleep, but between itchy hay, angels singing, and three kings bearing gifts, it’s too noisy. Cuddle up as everyone tries working together to shepherd Baby into peaceful dreams.

Giveaway ends December 4th, so I can send you the book in time for Christmas.  Click here to get to the GOODREADS GIVEAWAY page.  And don’t forget to add GOODNIGHT, MANGER to your “Want to read” list.

Tell all your friends. Good luck!

Stop by at HEART OF DEBORAH for a Special Christmas Post…

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There’s more to a picture book than the thirty-two colorful pages it contains. There’s also the story behind the creation of that picture book. What inspired the author to write it? And what does the author hope readers will take away from the story? Today, as guest blogger at Heart of Deborah,  I’m sharing a special Christmas memory and how it inspired me to write GOODNIGHT, MANGER.  So, please grab a cup of coffee, or tea as I prefer, and head on over! I’ll make it easy. Press here.

HOLIDAY GIFT IDEA: Signed (and personalized) Copies of GOODNIGHT, MANGER or GOODNIGHT, ARK!

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Can’t make it to a book signing? No problem!

I am excited to announce that this year once again, in response to requests from readers for signed copies, my local indie book store, The Town Book Store in Westfield, New Jersey, will now offer signed, personalized copies of my books for sale!

If this interests you, please call them to order the book or books you want. Be sure to explain that you would like to have them signed by the author and pass along the names you’d like included. They will take the order and do the transaction. I will then come in and sign the book or books. Readers can either pick them up in-store at no extra charge, or have them mailed. There will be a shipping fee to cover the cost of mailing, but they can give you those details.

I thought this was a nice way to make signed copies available and support a wonderful independent book store.  Their number is: The Town Book Store (908) 233-3535.

Happy Reading, all!

HOLIDAY TRADITION: Deck the Halls with PICTURE BOOKS!

IMG_3632 (1).jpgOne of the things I love most about doing signings at bookstores is chatting with customers.  Often, as I am inscribing a book, customers will explain why they are buying the book and who they plan to give it to. Well, this weekend, one lovely customer got extra excited when she saw “Goodnight, Manger”.  For the inscription, she asked that I inscribe it with a simple “Merry Christmas 2016”.  Then she explained that my book would be part of her family’s most wonderful tradition – decorating the house for Christmas with picture books!

IMG_3631 (1).jpgThis tradition, she explained, began the year her first child was born. That Christmas she and her husband purchased their first Christmas picture book and displayed it as part of their holiday decor. The next year they bought a second book, the third year a third book and so on.  For almost thirty years now, she has been decorating her house for Christmas with these picture books. Each year she nestles the new book somewhere among the special collection. And every year her children dash through the house looking for the new book.  Her children are in their late 20’s now, but the they still look forward to coming home for holidays each December and searching for the newest book. I’m honored and delighted that this year “Goodnight, Manger” will be that special book!

IMG_3629.jpgI’m also wholeheartedly embracing this magical tradition! Typically, each December, I pull out a special box that holds our Christmas picture book collection and place it by our fireplace.  All month we re-read our favorites and savor some new picks as well. But, I think that having the books out on display makes their presence even more special and engaging! Don’t you?

I’ve already caught my sixteen-year-old perusing the dining room display with interest. And I’ve decided, if the family is willing, that each night that we eat together (which unfortunately is no longer every night due to after school and evening activities), one of us will get to pick a favorite to re-read for the family after dinner.

For extra fun, I’ve decked this post with pictures of several spots in my house that are now decorated – picture book style – for the holidays.  I think they warmly capture the spirit and charm of our new Christmas picture book tradition. Happy reading, all!

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UPDATED: ‘Tis the Season for MORE Book Events!

img_3521In celebration of reading and living joyfully, I’ve added a few more events for the holiday season. Please join me, if you can.  I’d love to see you! 

Saturday November 26, 2016 10 – noon.  I’ll be reading my books and chatting with customers as part of Small Business Saturday at The Town Book Store in Westfield, NJ.

Sunday December 4th, 2016 1:30 – 4:00.  I’ll be reading GOODNIGHT, MANGER and signing books as part of Gingerbread Sunday at the Miller Cory House in Westfield, NJ.

Thursday December 8, 2016 12 – 2pm. I’ll be at the Barnes and Noble in Princeton, NJ reading and signing both books as part of a book fair. All are welcome.

Saturday December 10 2016 11- 1:30 pm.  Join me for festive readings of GOODNIGHT, ARK and GOODNIGHT, MANGER with puppets, then shop at the Cranford United Methodist Church’s Christmas Shoppe and Soup Festival. Note: The festival is open from 10 – 3pm.

Sunday, December 11, 2016 1pm. I’ll be at the Barnes & Noble in Springfield, NJ reading and signing both books as part of a book fair. All are welcome.

Tuesday December 20, 2016 10am.  Join me for an interactive story time featuring GOODNIGHT, MANGER at the New Providence Library. Meet my storytelling companion–Rooster and enjoy some fun book-themed coloring pages.

Wednesday December 21, 2016 10:30am.  Join me for an interactive story time featuring GOODNIGHT, MANGER at the Garwood Public Library. Meet my storytelling companion–Rooster and enjoy a holiday craft.

Guest Post: CHRISTMAS LOVE LETTERS FROM GOD – A Glimpse into the Book’s Dedication with Author Glenys Nellist

Bestselling Zonderkidz author Glenys Nellist has a new book out called CHRISTMAS LOVE LETTERS FROM GOD. Recommended for ages 4 – 8, this delightful picture book brings the significance and wonder of Christmas to life through seven vivid Bible retellings, each gorgeously illustrated by Rachel Clowes. Today, in celebration of the book’s recent release and as part of her blog tour,  I am honored to have Glenys as my guest. I know you will enjoy her reflections regarding the book’s dedication. Take it away, Glenys!

The only thing she ever wanted was a cottage. Instead, she got cancer.

I think about her a lot, especially since I’m the same age she was when she died. Fifty-seven. It’s no age at all.

My mum, like me, was born in a little town in northern England. How surprised she would have been to know that in 2000, I flew over the pond and emigrated to Michigan. She would have loved to visit me here. 

My mum lived a quiet, ordinary, hard-working life, managing to raise eight children, support her husband as he went to college to get his degree, and take care of a big old house. Hence her desire to live in a little cottage. But it wasn’t to be. She deserved so much—my mum. 

And so when my editor asked for my dedication for Christmas Love Letters from God, it was an easy choice. How could I dedicate it to anyone else but her—when she was the one who made every Christmas magical and memorable for me? 

Every Christmas morning, all eight of us would line up, according to age, outside the living room door. It was shut tight. My little brother, the youngest, was always the first to go in. I was fourth in line. It was an agonizing wait as we shifted from foot-to-foot, anxious to be able to peep around the door to see if ‘Father Christmas’ had been….and of course, he always had. The tell-tale bite in Rudolph’s carrot on the hearth gave it away, along with the few crumbs that remained of the mince pie we’d left for Father Christmas.

As we eight children peered expectantly around the door, the lights on our little Charlie Brown Christmas tree were always lit, the eight red socks dangling over the fireplace were always stuffed, and the room was completely bulging with toys, and tinsel, and presents piled high on every chair. It was a room full of love. That was my mum. And that was my Christmas morning. 

She never knew that I became a teacher, married a pastor and had four children of my own, or that we continued that fun tradition of lining up outside the living room door every Christmas morning. She never knew I became an author. But I hope she somehow knows that her name is on the very first page in Christmas Love Letters from God, where it so richly deserves to be.

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When you pick up that book, any book, turn to the author’s dedication and read it. You can be sure that whoever is mentioned there is a rich part of the author’s story, just like my wonderful mum was, and is, so much a part of mine.

Now for the GIVEAWAY!!!!! Zonderkidz is offering a free copy of CHRISTMAS LOVE LETTERS FROM GOD to one lucky winner. Thank you, Zonderkidz! If you’d like a chance to win a copy of this beautiful book, written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Rachel Clowes, simply post a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box ) and be at least 18 years old to enter.) The contest ends Thursday, 11/24/16 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced next Friday. THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER.  To see the winner, press here.

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Bio: Coordinator of Children’s Ministry for the West Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church. Zondervan children’s book author of two popular series: Love Letters from God and Snuggle Time. Glenys is a writer with a passion for God, her family, and children’s ministry. Check out her blog tour here.  Enjoy the book trailer here.  

Find out more about Glenys and her books here: