Tuesday, December 22, 2020

New Devotion: Give Your Best Gifts

This Christmas devotion for iBelieve and Crosswalk was featured over the summer, but a Christmas event sparked its year-round reflection. I hope it helps center your holiday as we anticipate Christ's birth. The best gift we can give God is ourselves. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Interview with "Long Days of Small Things" Parenting Author Catherine McNiel

When New York Times bestselling author Ann Voskamp recommends a book, I take notice. When it's about my passion—faith and parenting—and it's by a fellow author in my writer's guild, I have to interview the author! I am delighted to introduce you to my new friend Catherine McNiel. I asked her several leading questions so that you can get to know her and her wonderful book. Also, register to win a signed copy of her book for Christmas at the end of this post! My questions to her follow in bold:

I just published a book on life purpose, so I'm particularly curious: What inspired you to write your book on the ministry of motherhood—how did God place that calling on your heart?

When my three children were very small, I kept hearing two messages over and over again. One, from Christan teachers and writers, teaching that anyone who was serious about their relationship with God would invest at least 30–60 minutes a day in solitude, silence, prayer, and study. As someone trained in Spiritual Formation (not to mention deeply committed to being a person of faith!) I knew the value in setting aside this time, investing in devotion to God. But I had two toddlers and was pregnant at the time. I was literally never alone! The baby I carried was always with me, and my little boys essentially were too. 

The other message I heard over and over came from my friends, my fellow parents of young children. This voice was one of despair and failure. The Christian life simply cannot be for us, for parents, for moms, during this season. I'm failing at everything. I'll just have to wait until another season of life. We had been trained to find God mostly in our "Quiet Times" but frankly, there was no time. There was no quiet. There was no 30–60 minutes to set aside. Even in the middle of the night, even in the bathroom, we were surrounded by demands. 

But I knew that this season was so full because we were already doing the things spiritual practices and disciplines are meant to lead us to. We were creating and nurturing alongside God. We were pouring out God's love. We were surrendering, sacrificing, serving, celebrating. We were too exhausted to serve...but only because we were so worn out from serving! I became passionate to show my fellow moms (and dads, and caregivers of all sorts!) that we were already practicing the spiritual disciplines of our faith, already offering our bodies and souls to God every moment of the day. The key, at least for me, was to silence the voices saying "You should do more! You are not doing enough!" and realize that God was already present in each moment, that each exhausting act of service and sacrifice was something God could use to mold my soul in Christ's image. 

Every mom knows a balancing act! What was it like juggling your calling, book writing, with three children?

Ah yes...this is my point exactly. :) I wrote this book while my youngest was in preschool. Literally, at a table in the foyer of her preschool. I would drop her off (the two older boys were in elementary school) and write until her three hour class was over and I picked her back up. But, also, writing is my job—not a hobby. So just as parents find time to work as accountants or barristas, my professional life is filled with writing. Always juggling, though, and there's always a trade off! If you read my book, you'll know that I'm more than happy to trade cooking and crafts for more time to write. :)

Your book honors the sacrifices we often make as parents behind closed doors. What would you say to the mom who feels invisible today?

Oh, I'm so grateful for the chance to see and speak to exactly that mom. I would say: Sister! You are exactly the one I had in mind as I listened for the Spirit and wrote this book. You are doing hard, hard, meaningful, necessary work. This is God-work. There is no list of shoulds you are failing at. God is right here, already with you. Take a deep breath and receive God's peace. You are creating life, alongside the Creator of life. God knows you, sees you, always. 

And, I would say: I wrote Long Days of Small Things to be readable even (especially!) when you are tired and unable to see straight. If it is not too much of an oxymoron to say "I know you can't do one more thing...so read this book!" (I get the irony!) I have heard from so many moms feeling exhausted, unworthy, and invisible who found life and help in these pages. Praise God. 

Do you have any wise words for parents who are navigating the unprecedented—this pandemic—in light of your book?

Oh my. Now more than ever we are in the long days of small things! My words are the same, just possibly more urgent: These are challenging times. Don't fill up a list of to-do's that set yourself up to fail. Take a deep breath and look around for God's presence, for God is already right here. You don't have to cherish this moment, and it won't last forever. You are creating life alongside the Creator. One day at a time. One breath at a time. Take heart, friend. Take courage. You are never, ever alone.

Do you have a new project on the horizon that we can watch for?

I do! My second book (not specifically about parenting) came out right before the pandemic, and it seems to have been perfect timing. All Shall Be Well: Awakening to God's Presence in His Messy Abundant World is about connecting with God through the cycles and seasons of the world he created—it's especially about finding hope in times of darkness, and life in seasons of wilderness. 

Also, I've spent the past several months writing my third book. It doesn't have a title yet and won't be out for another year, but I wrote about God's invitation to live out of love rather than fear with our neighbors, strangers, and even enemies. It has been quite the year to write this book! I'm grateful for all God has taught me along the way. You can find all this and more at www.catherinemcniel.com where you can also sign up for my periodic essay email called Everyday Epiphanies.

Author Catherine McNiel

If you want to win a signed copy of Long Days of Small Things for Christmas:

The contest ends this Friday the 18th, so don't delay! Also, I will be tweeting some of my favorite parts of the book this week and continuing the #12DaysofChristmas book selections on Instagram. Don't miss them!

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

12 Days of Christmas Book-Buying Ideas

Looking for Christmas gifting ideas? Books are a great choice! They are affordable and further education—a gift that can never be taken away. In this case, they plant eternal seeds too! Here are a baker's dozen of books this Christmas to warm your heart and ignite your faith: 

For babies (0-24 months) I recommend:

The Beginner's Bible Little Lamb's Christmas 
        This is an adorable finger puppet board book that my one-year-old loves!
Baby's First Bible and Book of Prayers Gift Set
        This would make a cute baptismal gift too.
The Wonder that is You by Glenys Nellist 
        Glenys has been a repeat visitor on my blog. Her book celebrates the unique gift of a child, and its illustrations are gorgeous.

Toddler picture books:

I'm Going to Give Your a Polar Bear Hug! by Caroline Cooney
        Children love butterfly and eskimo kisses—this adorable book follows right in stride!
Pugato Finds a Thing by Sophie Corrigan
        This book inspires children to overcome self-doubt and believe in themselves. Bonus: It just might spark a child's love of vegetables!
Goodnight Manger by Laura Sassi
        This beloved Christmas title must be on the list! To see my favorite book spread of angels or hear more about the book, watch my interview with Laura.

Educational resources for preschool and early grade school children:

The Beginner's Bible Learn Your Letters
        This wipeable book encourages letter practicing with Bible-related pictures for each letter.
Tiny Truths Wonder and Wisdom: Everyday Reminders from Psalms and Proverbs
        This resource distills teachable lessons for children from the Bible's most popular go-to books. I cannot wait to read it with my children!
Clap Your Hands: A Celebration of Gospel by Toyomi Igus
        Christianity was a healing agent of voice, strength and change through the Gospel tradition. This book contextualizes Gospel music by relating it to black history.

Faith tidbits for the busy family:

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones
        I read this book often at the family breakfast table for a little inspiration to start the day. When I interviewed Sally, her wisdom was evident—this book condenses big faith thoughts into chewable nuggets. 

For tween girls:

Loved and Cherished: 100 Devotions for Girls by Lynn Cowell and Michelle Nietert
        I had Lynn and Michelle on my show—I hope you benefitted from Michelle's counseling wisdom amidst the pandemic, Lynn's parenting insights as a Christian mom of grown children, and the peek into their devotion! It's an excellent resource that would make a great stocking stuffer! 

For adults:

How to Live Your Life Purpose: The Six-Step Journey to God's Best by Noelle Kirchner
        What better gift is there than to help someone live into whom God destined them to be? Buying this book can help, and 20% of the proceeds go to World Vision.
Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline by Catherine McNeil
        Catherine's insightful book on the ministry of motherhood will inspire and edify you, especially when you're feeling invisible. NYT's bestselling author Ann Voskamp recommends it too! Stay tuned next week for more on Catherine's book! 

I am blessed to have a relationship with the Christian publisher Zonderkidz. They sent me many of these titles so that I could pass them along to you! I will be enjoying these books with my family, sending some to my niece and nephew in the Midwest, and donating a few to needy children this Christmas. Check out my Instagram feed (@noellekirchner) for the next 12 days for more on my picks (and others) and where they will go! Merry Christmas!

TODAY Video Clip