Gobble, Gobble! It’s a Blog Party—Let's Celebrate & Give Thanks!

Gobble, Gobble! It's a Blog Party!
Gobble, gobble! It’s a blog party!

All my friends at Write2Ignite are setting this time aside to celebrate and give thanks for all the good things concerning the 2014 Write2Ignite Writers' Conference.

Our goal is to be a blessing to writers and illustrators, especially those who yearn to create, with a Christian worldview, for children and young adults.

Every year the leadership team bathes every detail of the conference in prayer. Our fearless conference director, Jean Hall, exemplifies faith and patience. She urges us to be on our knees seeking God’s will for Write2Ignite. The leadership team works hard in preparation but ultimately trusts God to finalize all the details.

Here’s what we’re praising God for today:

· The date and place are set. March 28 – 29, 2014 at North Greenville University in Tigerville, S.C.

· Bill Reeves, of Working Title Agency, and actor/writer Torry Martin have agreed to be our keynote speakers.

· We have a great line up of authors, editors, and agents. Many of these as well as professional writing instructors will be teaching awesome writers' workshops and meeting one-on-one with writers.

Teen Track & Adult Track Workshops at Write2Ignite!

· There are two tracks at the conference—one for adults and one for teens. We’re thankful for the three, fresh teen voices serving on the teen track team. (Yeah, they do plenty of running! J) Speaking of two tracks, this is a perfect time for parent-writers to plan a fun, road trip with their teen-writers. (Plus, if you homeschool, this is superb, high school English credit!)

· Sleep Inn in Travelers Rest, S.C. is offering another great discount for W2I conference attendees this year.

· Cecil Murphey has graciously donated scholarships this year. In fact, he’ll match up to fourteen scholarships if we can round up some more generous donors. Fourteen!

YOU are a blessing to us.

As you can see, we’ve a great deal to celebrate. Will you please join us in prayer for the conference and ask God to continue using it to encourage and train writers? You, dear friend, are a blessing to all of us at Write2Ignite.

If you’ve never attended the Write2Ignite Writers’ Conference, please pray about attending. This is an exceptional conference. Not only do you receive excellent writing instruction, your spirit is revived. You’re inspired and equipped to make a difference with what you write.

Even if you have never submitted any of your writing anywhere before, this conference may be just what you need. Writers of all skill levels attend. Be brave. Try something new in 2014!

If you have attended Write2Ignite before, share your experience with us by leaving a comment below. We would love to hear from you.

Also, continue celebrating this party at the following blogs:

 Go Tell Your Friends About the Blog Party!
Gobble, gobble. Or better yet--TWEET about it!


14 Ways to Teach Children about Gratitude

by Sally Matheny
“I would like to order a cheeseburger and fries, please.”
“Would you like a Mega Shake to go with that?”
“No, thank you. Just a water, please.”
“Your bill is $3.14. Pull up.”

I drive to the first window and count out the correct change for the cashier. Handing him the money, I smile.
Not returning the smile, he takes the money. “Pull up to the next window,”  he says in monotone, closing the window with a slam.
I greet the next cashier with a smile.
He hands the order to me. “Cheeseburger, fries, and water.”
“Yes, thank—“
The window smacks shut. 
  Does this sound familiar? Not all food service personnel are like this, but overall the customer appreciation gauge has definitely nosedived. Are employees not taught proper customer service techniques or do employers assume they were taught at home? 

   Who is teaching today's children about gratitude?
  My senior English teacher in high school, Mrs. Ledford, not only taught us life lessons through literature, she also taught us about other delicacies in life.
  One I will never forget, was when we had to pretend there was a chicken breast on our desk. We were instructed where our napkin should be anchored and how to cut the chicken with a knife and fork.  Many finger-lickin’ teens found this a humorous but valuable lesson. After all, we didn’t want to embarrass ourselves when we went away to college. Mrs. Ledford yearned for us to put our best foot forward as well.


  She taught us the proper way to address our own high school graduation invitations. She instructed us not to burden our parents, but to do it ourselves. We had to practice writing thank you notes. She even had us write a thank you note to our parents. She conveyed the importance of expressing our gratitude to others.

  Not many teachers today invest in the kind of character training Mrs. Ledford did.  Who, then, will teach children about gratitude, rather than perpetuating a sense of entitlement? Hopefully, today’s youth will have the same role models I did—their parents.
  My parents were great at developing thankful hearts. As a young child, I didn’t have a whole lot of say-so in matters. Once when I needed a warm, winter coat, I received one with hideous purple fur--because it was on sale. My parents reminded me of how soft and warm it was. And that was that.
  As I grew older, my opinion was taken into consideration. However, price and quality were still the two determining factors, not brand names or popularity.
  I remember voicing my opinion about an ice cream cone once. It was a treat for our family to go to Spake’s Drive-In and get ice cream.  They had shakes, banana splits, and sundaes, but only two flavors of soft-serve ice cream cones. Chocolate and vanilla.

   My sister and I were always presented a choice of the soft-serve ice cream cones. One day I complained to my dad about not being able to get something different. I informed him (and not in the best way) of my desire for a nut sundae. I don’t remember what he said to me but I have never forgotten how my sister went home with an ice cream cone that day, and I didn’t.
  I learned gratitude.
  There were plenty of times when my parents treated me to special things, even spoiled me.  Those days were fully appreciated because I understood I was not entitled to anything. Either I earned it, or it was a gracious gift.
  Some days I don't do near as good a job as Mrs. Ledford or my parents, in teaching gratitude to my children. It’s so tempting to give my kids the desires of their hearts. I love to make them smile.
  However, giving them everything they want is only giving them temporary happiness. And a relentless sense of entitlement.  Research studies actually link gratitude to happiness and a sense of well being. Entitlement only produces disappointment.
  We can trace selfishness all the way back to Adam and Eve. Gratitude is not something we are born with, we have to learn it. The best way for children to learn gratitude is for parents to model it at home. 

14 Ways to Teach Children about Gratitude:

·        Say please and thank you more often to the spouse, the children, and to people we encounter each day (the cashier, the UPS man, and the fast food servers).
·         Develop our own sense of contentment by not rushing out to buy the latest technical gadget or handbag.
·         Criticize less. Complain less. Point out more good points than bad points in people, things, and circumstances.
·         Express thankfulness for non-material items like love and kindness. Be more attentive to these kinds of things and praise children often. Ex. “I like the way you play with the baby while I wash the dishes. Thank you.”

·         Don’t reward children for every little thing. Teach the principle of doing good because it is the right thing to do. We help others because it is what God desires, and we want to please God. Sometimes we work to earn money or rewards, and sometimes we volunteer.
·         Regularly have your children join you in doing kind deeds for others like baking bread for a sick neighbor or visiting the elderly.
·         Insist children write thank-you notes. Young children can draw a picture of the gift or dictate their note. Teach older ones thoughtful ways to make the note more personal.
·         Encourage generosity. Before birthdays and holidays, ask children to find several things they no longer play with and donate them to charities.
·         As tempting as it is, don’t step in and do your child’s chores for him. He will have a greater appreciation for someone else mowing a lawn on a hot, summer day if he just finished mowing a lawn himself.
·         Make it a practice to talk about the good things that happened each day. Perhaps keep a gratitude journal.

·         When something doesn’t turn out the way the child had hoped, talk about what good things came out of it. Teach children to find things to be thankful for in the midst of trials and disappointments.

·         Pray together. Finding contentment can only come with God’s help. Train young and old hearts with God’s Word.  A thankful heart to God will overflow into other areas of life.

·  When an item is desired, consider 
these responses: 
1. NO, and explain why. 
2. YES, and explain why. 
3. YES, but the child will have to figure
    out a way to obtain it. (Earn money
    or wait for a birthday)

·   When children begin illegitimate
  “I wannas” (I want this and I want that),
  say NO often, and stick to it. That way,
  when the time is right, the YES is much sweeter and appreciated.

  Parents want the best for their children. Overindulgence will only produce an unhappy person who thinks they deserve the best of everything and what everyone else has. Ultimately, this only contributes to an endless cycle of searching for the next best thing.

  Teaching our children how to be content and grateful will not provide them with a perfect life, but it will be a more joyful one. 

   What are some ideas you have for teaching gratitude to children?


The Year I Learned the Truth About Santa

by Sally Matheny

Photo: The Truth About Santa

It’s time to face the facts, people. Christmas will be here as quick as Jack Frost. Are you ready?

And since we’re talking about facts, grab a cup of coffee and let me tell you about the year I learned the truth about Santa.

In the early hours of Christmas morning, at age four, I bolted to my parents’ bedroom. Groping in the dark room, I found my mama’s arm and whispered, “I heard Santa!”

A muffled murmur came from the pillow, “It’s not time yet.” 
“No, mama. I heard a loud thud. He’s here right now!”
Never cracking an eye, she mumbled, “Go back to bed. We’ll wake you when it’s time.”
Clearly, my mama did not understand what was happening. A strange, fat man wearing a fur-trimmed, red velour suit was in our house! At that moment, I could care less if he had toys with him or not. I was terrified. Obviously, my parents were too asleep to comprehend. 

There was no way I was going back. My room was closest to the point of invasion--the den. I would have to seek safety in my sister’s room.
Heart racing, I peered out my parents’ doorway. Pitch black. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t there. I knew he had special powers—the ability to fly reindeer, to see me when I was sleeping, and magic to go up and down chimneys. We didn’t have a chimney.  Imagine my horror to learn he had a magic key to open any door he liked. 
Hearing no sounds, I tiptoed quickly into my older sister’s room, shutting and locking the door behind me. I slid between the covers with great stealth. The thought of waking up my sister conjured up almost as much fear as I had of the Christmas intruder.
Leaving Cookies and Milk with Love
Of course, by morning time, the fears flew  with the flinging of wrapping paper.

As years passed, I resolved the trade-off of getting presents was worth the uneasy feeling of Santa entering my house while I was asleep. Besides, all the movies and books portrayed him as jolly and kind. Everyone else seemed to be okay with it. After all, you only leave cookies and milk for people you love. So, I learned to love Santa.
Every October, I began singing songs about him. I knew he was watching to see if I was behaving or not, so I tried to remember to be good—especially once Thanksgiving arrived. I wrote him letters and eagerly visited his “helper” Santas in every store each Christmas. Santa became dear to my heart.
Then, in fourth grade, devastation struck. Terrible rumors questioning Santa's existence had the whole class in a quiet uproar. Whispered opinions darted across the room. One friend said her mama told her, “If you believe in him, he’s real.” That sounded good to me. I loved Santa.

I hated Stuart Whistlenot.
He kept insisting Santa was not real. My friend, Kim and I were determined to prove him wrong. 

The next day, when Kim arrived at school, she was upset. 

“What is it?” I asked.
“Santa,” she sniffled.
My eyes widened as I drew in a breath. "What about him?"
"My mom said you need to ask your mom.”
“You tell me right now,” I demanded. “He's real, right?”
Tears welling up in her eyes, she slowly shook her head no. We hugged one another and cried. I was furious at Stuart Whistlenot.  Somehow, all this seemed his fault.
Is Jesus real?
Immediately after learning the truth about Santa, other thoughts swirled furiously in my mind. 

If Santa isn’t real, then what else is not true?  
Somehow, I always thought the Easter bunny sounded ridiculous and never quite bought into that. 

I figured out the tooth fairy after she forgot to leave money under my pillow a few times. Those characters were never as important, or as real, to me as Santa.
Here’s the thing. My very next thought was--is Jesus real?
For the first eight years of my life, people had read to me and taught me all about Santa. Adults at school, at church, and pretty much every adult I had ever met talked about Santa as if he were alive and well. Many of those same people also talked to me about Jesus.
I asked my best friend that day at school, “Is Jesus real?”
“I think so…I don’t know.”

Our world, as we knew it, slowly crumbled in confusion.
I remember Christmas not being quite the same that year. On Christmas morning, I tried to act excited and surprised because I thought it would make my parents happy. Inside, I felt like something was missing.
Something was missing, or rather Someone. After a year of struggling with doubts, I am thankful to say my friend and I both accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We accepted Him as the Truth.
After mourning the death of Santa that first year, my joy returned. I’d like to say it was all because of my relationship with Jesus. However, my Christmas "joy" over the years fluctuated. Many years, even as a young adult, I was caught up in the “magic” of Christmas, the hustle and bustle, decorating, and gift giving. 

However, my Christian walk gradually drew me closer to the manger, to a true and lasting joy.

Is a magical Christmas best?
When our first child was born, we envisioned magical Christmas mornings with her. Christmas traditions held special memories in our hearts. For the first few years, we did the Santa thing. Then I remembered my fourth-grade Christmas.
Before our daughter's fourth birthday, we made a decision that was not popular with many folks. But it gave us great peace.  

Family traditions would still be an important part of our lives but we promised to tell our children the truth. We never wanted them to doubt our word, to wonder if we were being honest.
Santa does not come to our house. We still decorate and have family gatherings. Gift giving takes place and lots of baking. Quite often, we still struggle not to jingle our way through the hustle and bustle. We love the excitement of giving gifts. Constantly reigning in our materialistic side, we do things that help us focus on the true meaning of Christmas.
Occasionally, when our children were very young, they would hear so much about Santa from others. Even though they knew the truth, they would still come home and ask, “Is Santa Claus real?”
I would tell them the history of the human St. Nicholas, who had no special powers, but was kind to others. We talked about how playing Santa is something people do for fun. My husband and I would remind them of our promise to tell them the truth. 
Recently, I read in Acts 14 about Barnabas and Paul’s journey to Lystra. The men were kind and healed people in the name of Jesus. They were called gods. The people brought bulls and wreaths to sacrifice to them.

“But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, ‘Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God…” (Acts 14:14-15).

When I read this, it made me wonder if that is how St. Nicholas would feel? He did kind things for other people because of his love for Jesus Christ. 

Somewhere along the way, in their enthusiasm, people misinterpreted St. Nicholas. If he could, would he tear his clothes today and rush out to the parents and children, shouting, “Friends, why are you doing this? I was only human, like you. Turn from these worthless things to the living God!” 
Jesus is God's amazing gift of love
I wanted to share with you about my struggles with Santa—as a child and as an adult.  I know some Christian parents labor over this. 

Even now, an inner scuffling still takes place every Christmas between beloved traditions, the desire to make everyone happy, and staying focused on Jesus Christ.

My prayer is for God to continue reminding us of his amazing gift of love and that we share that with others. 

The simple Truth is all we need.

If you found this post helpful, you may also enjoy reading "Besides Love, the Best Gift for Baby's First Christmas." 


Visit Nancy Sanders & Samantha Bell on the Writers' Blog Hop!

                                              Hey there!
Just a little reminder to join in on the Children's Writer Blog Hop. Zip on over to two of my friends' blogs today. Nancy Sanders and Samantha Bell  have their intriguing interviews posted and are tagging more writers as well.

Visit Nancy Sanders at:


and Samantha Bell at:


Browse around their websites. They are full of treasures!


Adoption, and Tree-Climbing Contest Winner Announced

Consider Adoption
November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Today’s post tells how three couples grew their family trees through adoption. At the end of the post, we’ll also announce the winner of our Climb-a-Tree Contest!

Have you ever pondered about adoption? Maybe you’ve heard glorious adoption stories and heart-wrenching ones. Every child is a gift from God. Sometimes that gift comes in unexpected ways. Here are glimpses of three miraculous gifts.

One couple devoted several years to fertility doctors before they turned to foster parenting, with hopes of adopting. They were in a special foster-to-adopt program but there were no guarantees. Their minds understood, but their hearts did not.  Falling in love with the first child they fostered, their hearts were shattered when eventually a relative adopted the child. Bracing themselves they fostered two more. Those also later returned to their homes.

Wondering if they heard God’s call correctly, the couple again prayed for direction. A phone call came asking if they would care for the baby of a cocaine addict. There was only one thing they knew to do. They loved and nurtured the baby. For however long God placed this child in their care, they planned to give their best. Three years later, the couple ecstatically adopted this baby into their permanent family.   

A second couple had three biological teenagers. No more children were in the plan. When one of the husband’s relatives chose a lifestyle of drugs over parenting, she left a five-year-old child stranded without a parent. After much prayer, the couple stepped up and welcomed the child into their family through adoption.  Unexpected joys and adventures have filled their home.

A third couple had two young, biological children. Their hearts ached for one more baby but a serious health condition prevented further pregnancies. Thankful and blessed to have the two children, they tried to move forward but the tug on their hearts pulled stronger. One of the children began to pray for a baby through adoption. Then they all prayed and finally they began the process with an adoption agency. They struggled with guilt because so many couples wanted to adopt—couples who had no children. Who were they to ask for a child when they already had two? But sensing God’s will they moved forward.
After awhile, they received a call. A birthmother was
considering their family for her child. The family shouted with excitement!

Two weeks later another call came. Plans were underway for other relatives to adopt the child. Disappointments rippled over the next two years. The home study expired and so this family also prayed for God’s direction. They decided to renew their home study.

Two months later, a birthmother chose their family for her infant. She knew adoption was expensive and some people are only able to adopt once. She wanted to make sure her child had siblings as well as godly parents. She continues to say the family was an answer to her prayers. The family insists the birthmother was the answer to theirs. Blessings abound.

Three, true adoption stories—not one of them came without some heartache. All of them required prayer and perseverance. Many people shy away from adoption for fear of the unknown. Not one child, adopted or biological, comes into this world with any guarantees. In fact, we are all flawed. Aren’t you thankful God loves us as we are and is willing to adopt us into his forever family? I am!

Pray about it. If not adoption, perhaps there is a child who desperately needs you as a friend and mentor. Think about the adults who made a positive impact in your life. A child somewhere needs you to guide and nurture them. It could make a monumental difference in their lives.            

*                                                       *                                              *

And now to announce the winner of our Tree-Climbing Photo Contest!   Thanks to all those who entered! I received many wonderful photos. The name drawn was Jonathan W.! He received a Wilson soccer ball and orange cones. Congratulations and have fun Jonathan!