Book Review: Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions

July 24th, 2014

Does this ever happen to you? You are driving down the road to the grocery store, the kids strapped in safely in the backseat, and in your mind you are going through your grocery list, hoping not to forget something. Then out of the blue, one of the kids asks, “Mommy, why ______?” Or “Mommy, how does _____?”

Sometimes these questions are easy to answer, or at least a promise to google later will suffice. Like the time my son asked how a car engine works. But other times the questions are hard. Questions about death, disaster, or other painful circumstances of life. Maybe they heard something on the news and they want to know more about it. You’re not quite sure what to say. You aren’t prepared. Because the reality is, questions like these almost always come out of the blue.

My oldest was almost four when he attended his first funeral. Very inquisitive, he has had many questions about death, divorce, and things he hears about going on in our society. As a parent, I’ve had to learn to  be prepared and thoughtful about answering such questions.

When I was at the TGC conference last month, I met with my friend Jessica Thompson and asked her if she had any new books coming out that I could blog about. She reached into her bag and pulled out Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions: Helping Them Understand Loss, Sin, Tragedies, and Other Hard Topics.

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I looked at the cover and said, “This is great! It’s so needed!” I knew from looking at the title alone that it would be an excellent resource for helping explain difficult things to my children. Friends, whether you are parents or not, even if your children are still very young, whether you are grandparents, teachers, youth leaders, we all need to be prepared to answer the hard questions our children bring to us. And I’m excited to tell you about this book.

Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions: Helping Them Understand Loss, Sin, Tragedies, and Other Hard Topics is a book we all need. Each chapter focuses on a different issue such as death, Satan, divorce, natural disasters, sexual sin, and even the hard stories from the Bible. At the beginning of each topic, the authors (Jessica and her mom, Elyse Fitzpatrick) discuss the topic in detail, helping the reader understand what Scripture says about the topics. Then they include a section on how to explain that topic to children. They give several options on how to explain the topic based on age range: preschool, 5-10, 11 and up. The answers provided to these questions are developmentally appropriate, gospel laced, and Biblically thorough. It isn’t a script that you read aloud to your child, rather a guideline to give you an idea for what is appropriate to say, given your child’s age, with the caveat that you know your child best and know what they can and cannot understand.

What I appreciate most about this book is that it is not based on fear but on the truth of the gospel and how God works in the heart’s of our children. There’s a good chance I will not explain a topic perfectly. I will probably mess up in my delivery or I may not have an answer to every question my children ask. There are times I will have to say “I don’t know, I’ll have to research that and get back to you.” But God and his grace are greater than all of my inadequacies. He is the one who regenerates and breathes life into dead hearts. He and he alone is the author of salvation for our children. So even when I can’t explain things perfectly to them, I can trust that God is ultimately in control of their hearts.

They write: “Let’s get real. The truth is, no matter how much we pray or study, none of us, not even those of us with real theological degrees, have all the answers. We all struggle with what’s known as the noetic effect of sin, which means our ability to know and understand truth is broken, in the same way our bodies are broken. Our thought processes have been affected by sin, too…I’m thankful that now I truly understand that as good as it is to have answers ands to seek to be prepared to speak to my children about my beliefs, their ultimate salvation isn’t up to me. No, the salvation of souls depends on the Lord alone. Our children’s salvation is not dependent on the strength of our faith or the shrewdness of our answers…Yes, we are to have answers, but no (thankfully!), our answers will not save our children” (pgs. 17-18).

If your children are not asking questions now, trust me, they will be. Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions: Helping Them Understand Loss, Sin, Tragedies, and Other Hard Topics is a resource you will want to have.

Not only am I excited to tell you about this book, but I am super excited to give away three copies! Three! So sign up below to enter the giveaway. It ends Sunday at midnight, EST. US residents only.
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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author to read, not necessarily review. I chose to write a review for it here on my blog. The thoughts and opinions are my own.



Use the Voice God Gave You

July 20th, 2014

I recently spoke on a panel about writing at the TGC Women’s Conference in Orlando. The only problem: they didn’t have any mics available for us. When it was my turn to speak, I had to apologize to the audience because I am so soft spoken. Unfortunately, I’m sure there were many who couldn’t hear me. (A friend later compared my voice to that of Michelle Duggar).

Not only is my physical voice soft and quiet, but in many ways my writing voice is as well. For those unfamiliar with the concept of voice, a writer’s voice is their unique individual style of writing. It includes their use of words, preferred sentence structure, formality/informality, the overall feel and style of their writing, etc. It is as unique to them as an individual’s personality.

People have described my writing voice as “winsome” and “gentle.” Occasionally when I hear that, I wince. It reminds me of what one of my former teenage client’s once said to me. I used to work in a special school for children who couldn’t be in a regular school environment. In comparing me to the other counselor’s on staff, my client said, “You’re the nice counselor.” And it’s true. I was nice. The student’s lives were filled with abuse, danger, poverty, and so much uncertainty. I felt my role was to love and nurture them.

Sometimes I struggle with this assessment of my voice. I’ve told my husband that I need to hire someone who can teach me how to project my physical voice when speaking so that it is more audible. I used to think that when it comes to writing, the playing field would be leveled a bit. While you can’t hear me speak in a crowd, perhaps my voice would be audible in my writing. But, as it turns out, I am gentle in my writing voice as well. There are times though, when I wish I wasn’t that way. Sometimes I want to stand up and speak my mind and say “This is the truth. Listen to me!” I want to sound strong and certain and make my voice heard.

But a writing friend recently told me that while some people learn best from a loud and strong voice, others need a quiet, gentle voice. She said that my voice reaches those who need a kind, friendly voice that can encourage them in their pain and sorrow. I have been thinking about what she said ever since.

It made me think of the voices in Scripture. Four different people painted a picture of Jesus’ life: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They told the same story, but each portrait looks different and sounds different. Each one wrote their gospel to a different audience and each one wrote in a different voice. Mark’s story was fast paced and to the point. I am often drawn to John’s voice which is rich in metaphor. Matthew wrote to the Jews and painted a portrait of Christ as the long promised Messiah they grew up studying in the law and prophets. Luke was a doctor, well educated, and wrote his story to provide an orderly account of Jesus’ ministry.

Perhaps God gives each of us a unique voice that speaks to a particular person or audience. He knows just what someone needs to hear and the best way to deliver it. I think of the way Jesus spoke to people in Scripture. Some he debated with logically. Others he spoke with in warm, gentle tones. Still others he gave just the facts. He pushed when necessary, guided in love, questioned when needed. Sometimes he healed right away, other times he waited and addressed their hearts first.

I may never learn how to speak louder than I do. My writing voice may be fixed as well. I don’t know. But I do know that God has called each one of us to spread his glory and gospel to the world. First in our homes, then in our communities, and as far beyond that as we are able. Whatever our voice, loud or quiet, gentle or strong, academic or practical, God will use us to reach the heart’s of his children. He is not limited by our abilities or lack thereof. And we can’t compare the voice he’s given us to that of others. For he made each of us for a purpose and he will fulfill his purposes in us.

He gives each of us a voice; we simply need to speak.




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Communication in Marriage

Do you ever watch those dance competitions on TV? It’s amazing how the couples move across the dance floor in such harmony with one another. I wish I could say that I can dance. Instead, when I take to the dance floor, my moves are stunted; I stumble and am out of step with the […]

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