Seventy-two Hours

379739o 200-cropMy daughter-in-law had a chance to attend a weekend family event so I told her to go and I would watch the kids. My granddaughter is four and my twin grandsons are 20 months. I was excited about spending three full days with them—72 hours!. I thought we would read books and play games, and I even brought my computer along so I could do some writing while they quietly napped.  Not so much. I guess the past three decades erased the reality of how challenging and exhausting caring for three littles one can be. Even with the help of a neighbor girl and my son, I was overwhelmed!

I spent most of my time making food, feeding hungry kids who did not like the food I made, changing diapers, washing dishes, and soothing boo-boos. I managed to take one real shower and two quicky sponge baths in the bathroom sink. My hair—well let’s just say I went with the natural look which is not a flattering look for me. My sleep-deprived eyes were bloodshot and swollen.  My back ached and my head throbbed. Don’t get me wrong—I loved having that much time with my precious grandkids, I just forgot how hard it is.

I am not sharing this to complain or to get a pat on the back. I am sharing this because I know that many of today’s baby boomers are caring for their grandkids either part time or fulltime and I have the utmost respect for them! I have a new appreciation of what it takes to care for little ones when you are no longer in your 30’s.

Many grandparents today have stepped up to fill in the gap when the parents of their grandchildren are not there. Military deployment, illness, divorce, death, drug abuse, and incarceration are just some of the reasons today’s grandparents are parenting a second time around.

If any of our readers are in this season of their lives, all I can say is bless you! I admire and honor you for the role you are playing in nurturing, loving, and shaping the lives of your grandchildren. You have unselfishly set aside your retirement years to make an investment in the next generation. May God give you the strength and grace you need to endure.



Fall Fun and Reading

appleGrowing up approaching fall meant more than back to school. It meant apple picking with pies, cider, applesauce, and other tasty treats. We simply headed to the backyard and started grabbing the ripe fruit from trees my great-grandfather planted. Fall also meant colorful trees, raking leaves, and jumping into soft piles of crunchy leaves that crackled as I rolled. Growing up in farm country, we celebrated the harvest season with family gatherings and yummy tastes of the last of the garden vegetables.

Autumn LeavesYears later, as a mother, I took my children apple picking and to a cider mill to watch the pressing of apples. We also enjoyed jumping in leaves together. When we lived on a small island and gardened, the school classes took field trips to our pumpkin patch!

My Princess Devotions by Karen WhitingI extended the fun with books related to the season. The classic Three-in-one A Picture of God that focused on an object lesson with an apple to understand the trinity remained a favorite. We also enjoyed The Pumpkin Patch Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs. Modern books include the Veggie Tale’s Princess Petunia’s Sweet Apple Pie and P is for Pumpkin: God’s Harvest Alphabet. Of course, I sprinkle in some autumn fun in my one year devotional boys

It’s great to combine seasonal fun with books. Consider your plans and then see if there’s a book on the topic appropriate for your child’s reading level. Take photos having fun and reading together to make some autumn scrapbook pages.

The pilgrims planted the first apple trees in America and since that time the US has become the world’s largest producer of apples. Apples grow in all 50 states. Cut an apple crosswise and look at how the seeds form a star. God designed it that way!






Books for Beginning Readers: An Interview with Joyce Maynard

JoyceLast spring I had the pleasure of meeting Joyce Maynard at a book fair and learning about her books for new and struggling readers.

The faith-based stories of Sunday Bells Publications are designed for young children who are just learning to read independently. A retired teacher, Joyce not only writes her books but illustrates and self-publishes them too!

I invited Joyce to stop by today and tell us more.

Thanks for joining us here today, Joyce! What is your background, and how did you start writing?
I was a public school teacher for thirty-three years, thirteen of which were as a reading intervention specialist. When I worked with first graders who were really struggling, there were not a lot books available that were easy enough for them to read. I would create homemade books for them, using words they knew or could easily decode. I guess that was the beginning of my writing career, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

That all seems like great preparation for your next steps. Why did you begin Sunday Bells Publications, and how did you choose the name?
When my retirement was nearing, I had a big list of all the fun things I was going to do with my newfound time. But, in the back of my mind, I really felt the Lord asking, “What are you going to do for me?” One sleepless night, the answer came. God gave me the idea of using my knowledge and experience from teaching to write Christian books for early readers.

Since my stories are distinctly Christian, I thought the word Sunday would be good to use in the business name. My home church has a children’s bell choir, and listening to them is such a blessing. Sunday Bells came forth from those two ideas.

Joyce in MayThat does seem appropriate! Who are your books for, and what needs do they meet?
The Sunday Bells books are good for beginning readers and for those who are having difficulty with learning to read. They could be used anywhere from preschool through first grade or beyond, depending on the progress of the reader. They are suitable for instruction, and they can also provide practice as learners become more accomplished.

Daniel Prays to God, 3rd editionMost Bible storybooks are meant to be read aloud and are written on advanced reading levels. Not many are designed for early readers, and God is helping me create books to fill that gap. It is our hope that Sunday Bells books will help boys and girls enjoy favorite stories of Old and New Testament heroes as they read independently.

Helping children gain reading confidence is so important! You’ve illustrated the books yourself. Why was that important to you?
First of all, I am not a naturally talented artist. When I began the books, I had no idea I would do the artwork.But I approached many potential illustrators, and the doors kept closing. Eventually, I felt that God was sending me the message to try my own drawings. It has been a journey–lots of tutorials, hours of practice, and continuous learning–but now I am glad that I was led in that direction.

There are advantages to being in control of the illustrations. For beginning readers, pictures are a very important source of story meaning. By doing them myself, I can draw whatever is needed to support the text, and I can place them where they are give the most beneficial help to the reader.

For example, the word angel appears on a page in Daniel Prays to God. That would normally be a difficult word for young learners, but one look at the accompanying picture helps them easily figure it out.Daniel interior

What would you say to encourage parents whose children are struggling with reading? What tips would you give them?
First, look for books written in simple, natural language and that carry a lot of meaning. Sometimes that involves a lot of searching, but good materials are out there.

Also, it is very important that your child is not frustrated with texts that are too hard. The best reading practice comes when a book has only one or two new items to learn–such as an unknown letter, word, or word ending. A large percentage of the story should be what the child can read with ease.

My blog at has several entries designed to help parents of beginning readers.

What do you enjoy when you’re not writing? Tell us a little about yourself.
I enjoy life in rural Ohio with my husband, Jim, and we recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary! We have two married daughters and three grandchildren–and two of those are babies. Family gatherings are the delight of my life.

I love serving the Lord. At my local church, my husband and I lead an adult small group Bible study. We both also work in our church’s benevolence program.  Both of these ministries have brought me many blessings!

And I’m sure you are a blessing to many as well! Any closing thoughts today?
Beginning a home business and learning to self-publish has been a long process for me. Many times I have had to come back to my life verse for the Sunday Bells project, from Isaiah 42:16 (NIV): “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.”

I am so glad I began this adventure! It is my desire that the Sunday Bells books will bring blessings to young readers everywhere.

You can learn about all the Sunday Bells Publications books at
Connect with Joyce on Facebook at



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