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BookWorthy Chats with Eric and Meredith Schrotenboer



BookWorthy Season 3 Episode 2
This Special Blessing for You Cover




 


Valerie - Welcome to Bookworthy. Today, we're talking with Eric and Meredith Schrotenboer about their latest book, This Special Blessing for You. This picture book uses words and phrases to help children better understand what God wants to communicate. Each promise and declaration is based on the Aaronic blessing found in Numbers 6, 23-27. What a sweet blessing to help our kids understand. Welcome to Bookworthy, Eric and Meredith.

 

Eric and Meredith

Yay, thank you. Thanks for having us. We're so excited to be here. This is awesome. Thanks for the invitation, Valerie.

 

Valerie- Happy to have you. You guys have been busy with a lot of different projects. And so it's been fun to watch you guys on social media. So I'm glad to have you here. But to start us off, I must ask a random question for the week. And that is, what is your favorite ice cream flavor?

 

Ice cream flavors

Meredith - Okay, I love chocolate peanut butter in any form, and especially as ice cream, I'm a kind of a texture eater and I love it when there are ample amounts of like crunchy peanut butter and like dark chocolate ice cream.


Eric-I was thinking, and I think the toppings matter way more to me than the actual flavor of ice cream. So I like ice cream which is a good conduit for toppings. So, is plain chocolate? Yeah, yeah, plain chocolate with hot fudge. That's probably my jam, I think. And, Mallory, do we get to ask you that question too? What's your favorite?

 

Valerie -Well, what is it? I go through seasons of flavors, but it's one of those we call ice cream medicine at our house. So, it's usually kind of our go-to dessert. And so my favorite is tin roof, which is a blue-bell flavor. It has a lot of those different textures of fudge and caramel and nuts and that kind of stuff.

 

Meredith -We lived in Florida for six years and we were introduced to Blue Bell Ice Cream. Oh my goodness.

 

Blue Bell Ice Cream

Valerie-You guys are in Michigan now, right? So, you miss Bluebell.

 

Meredith -Even the classic vanilla is so hard to top with Bluebell. It's just it's an experience.

 

Valerie - I used to live close to Brenham where the Blue Bell manufacturing company is located. And if you go down there and just drive by, you can smell what flavor they're making that day. It sounds like a dangerous place to live. Well Eric and Meredith, why don't you guys tell us a little bit about yourselves and your family?

 

Meredith -So, I was doing the math the other day. We've actually been together 27 years, Valerie. We started dating when I was 16 and Eric was 18. And you do the math, you know exactly how old we are now. But so yeah, we've had 27 Valentine's days together. We're super grateful for that. And we have an eight-year-old Marin and a five-year-old Judah and parenthood has been such a joy. We love spending time with our kiddos. They're at such, that I feel like every stage is my favorite stage, their personalities are coming out, and their interests and it's been just a joy to be on this parenting adventure together.


Schrotenboer Interview

Eric- Yeah, Meredith and I are both storytellers, and so we get to tell stories in different ways, most recently through books and children's books, but Meredith for a long time was a news producer and then a news anchor, a morning show anchor, an evening anchor at a couple of the affiliates, NBC and ABC. And so she's been able to do that. Now she's doing communications for a hospital group. And so that's exciting. My background is in music and film. And so I get to tell a story through film. And so both of us get to tell a story. When Meredith was in the news, she had to tell a story very quickly, like overnight. And then I do a lot of documentary films. And so, I get a much longer love being able to tell people's stories. And so, we got to a few years back, we started to write children's books and we can tell you more about that, but we created a company called Fresh Wind Studios. And one of the things I get to do too, is I'm also a teacher and I get to teach people about the Bible and the lands of the Bible. And I get the opportunity to take people to the lands of the Bible. And so, to be able to teach them the context of the Bible, you know, the geographical, the historical, the cultural context. Um, and so to be able to open people's eyes to see there's much more than what we just read, and understanding the context helps us understand the meaning. Um, and so that's become a passion of ours is to help people better understand the context of the Bible. And so through taking trips over there teaching, but then also through our books, we've been able to teach kids that. And so that's been kind of fun to do, really fun to be able to do together.



Eric Schrotenboer Quote

Valerie - That is neat that you guys have been able to take both of your loves for storytelling and one where Eric, you make things for longer audiences and then Meredith, you're coming from a news background where I always make the joke that a children's book, which seems simple, but it is taking a full-blown novel and cramming it into 600 words. There is a lot of that in making short stories, but getting it all impactful and out there. And I love that you guys are doing that with God's Word as well. That's amazing. Now, your newest book, tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind This Special Blessing for You.

 

Eric -Yeah, so this is our newest book, This Special Blessing for You. And, you know, we've been writing kids' books for a few years now, and we've tried to pull in the cultural context. So when we write and we tell Bible stories, we want to teach kids about what the land looked like, what they ate, what the people looked like, what they wore, and all of that, because all of that plays into the story. But that also When we talk about context, it means that we look at the Bible through the literary context, right? Through the lens of literature. So how can we help kids better understand that, first of all, their Bibles were written in a different language? They were written in Hebrew. But also, how do we take some of these really, really key and important verses and teach them to kids, but not just teach them the words, but teach them the context and teach them what these words actually mean? Because the Hebrew language is so beautiful and there are so many meanings to so many words. Each word has many meanings. So to help kids grasp that. So this book came about, I was having lunch with my pastor, who's been my pastor my whole life. And he said, you know what? He said, I really wish

This Special Blessing for you quote

we had a book that we could read to our grandkids when they left after we watched them. Like, so after a visit, you know, what's kind of something that we could send them on their way with, a blessing. Right, and the Aaronic blessing is words that many of us hear if we attend church, many of us hear every Sunday, but we don't know a whole lot about, or they become kind of rote in our mind, and we forget how powerful these words were, you know, when God says, I want you to, I want to Aaron, I want you to speak these words over the people. Because I want you to put a blessing on them. I want you to literally and then the Hebrew, that's what it means. And that's the idea that I want you to transfer my power to the people to equip them to go out and do what God is calling them to do. And we thought, oh, my goodness, how cool would that be to create a tool so that parents, teachers, and grandparents can speak that blessing over the kids and the children in their lives. And so, we thought, okay, we're gonna take this verse and we're gonna rewrite it a bit, adapt it so that kids understand the context, and then put it in book form. And so that's how this book came to be.



Number 6:23-26 image

Valerie -I love that you guys have taken a verse that, you know, I think most people who have been in church for a long time have heard, as a Lord bless you and keep you let your face shine upon you. We all kind of heard those things and it's almost become cliche in the church community or Christian community. But it's neat that you're taking something that was this command to Aaron, right after the golden calf, it was kind of his first real act of being a priest in the wilderness. And so, it was just neat that you've taken something and allowed kids and parents to explore it with depth. Cause I think a lot of times, you know, in church settings, we can hear all the stories on the surface level, but it's that depth, like you said, the multiple meanings of words in Hebrew, that man, if we just take a little bit longer just to look a little deeper where you can be just that much more amazed by the God that we love.

 

Eric -Yeah, I think one of the coolest verses in this is not the blessing, but it's the verse that comes after the blessing. And it says, may you put these words on my people, like literally put these words on the people so that they carry them around. Put my name on the people. So one of the coolest pictures we have in here is a bunch of kids playing soccer and they all have names on the back of their jerseys. And you know, the picture is, well, what if we had jerseys that had God's name, and everywhere we went, we represented God in the world. And so to help kids get these pictures was really fun.

 

Valerie -It's really neat that you guys can take the words that you worked with and also just allow kids to see it. After all, I think that the power behind picture books is to not only hear the words but to see images that can sink into our minds because kids are very visual learners and I love the connections you guys have made with that book. Now you kind of did this a little bit with your inspiration, but of all the blessings, throughout the Bible, why the Aaronic blessing?

 

Eric - Well, I think there's pivotal scriptures, right? And we hope that there are parts to this scripture where it's not just, I'm going to bless you, but it's also, I'm going to protect you. And it's also a challenge to take God's love for each one of us and bring it out into the world. And so I think there's part of this where it's not just a blessing that kids get, but it's a blessing that they also can give. And if we can challenge kids to, you know, know that every interaction they have represents God and who they are in God and that God loves them and that God loves everyone they meet. That's a cool thing. So, we're hoping it transforms their lives and that, you know, they feel that protection when they go out into the world and they feel that safety that comes from a blessing like this.

 


BIble

Valerie - Yeah, and not just the safety and protection, but also just to be on mission, to help kids recognize that they can make a difference, even no matter their age, like eight and five or nine, 10. I love how God uses so many characters in the Bible that he uses the young to challenge and encourage. And I think that we are coming into a season where our young kids do need to stand up and step forward and recognize and take hold of what they're learning and what they're believing and not letting the world transform them too much. Very neat. Now you mentioned before that you've always been a storyteller, Eric, and the same with you, Meredith, a journalist. What led you to kind of make that pivot to be a children's book author?

 

Meredith -Yeah, it was absolutely when we became parents and started reading when our author journey started when Judah our son was about four months old our daughter Marin You know was three at the time three and a half Judah was you know new and A lot of the writing happened while one of us was bathing the kids and the other one was on their computer And we would just rhyme together. And so, it came out of reading a lot of children's books. We read to our kids a lot. We were reading to them in the morning and the evening and all the time in between. And, you know, there's so much research out there that shows how beneficial it is to read to your kiddos, to read aloud before they're able to read themselves.

Family Reading

And so we read a lot of books and we realized that maybe something was missing in the market. You know, we are about biblical context for kids and have both traveled to the Holy Land. Eric, like dozens of times, I've been there twice so the desire to be able to show them what the Sea of Galilee looks like, what types of fish do you fish for, what types of boats would Jesus have been in writing in. So that biblical context and accuracy, we just weren't finding a lot of books that had that. And so it inspired us. Why not? And so super grateful. I had the opportunity to interview Glenys Nellist, who is a prolific Christian children's book author, and that was a really special connection. We interviewed her about; Twas the Evening of Christmas. She joined in the studio and we kept that friendship going and Glenys has become a dear mentor and friend over the years. And she had a big role in encouraging us with our first manuscript. And so that, you know, sometimes it just takes getting started. You can have an idea, but until you put it to paper, it's just an idea. And so. And I think, you know, on my trips, when I take people to Israel, the one thing I always hear is, I wish I knew this earlier. Like, I wish I knew this. I wish I knew.

Because the context matters so much to the meaning of the story. And I think, you know, as teachers like we all are when we're children's book authors, we're all teaching, we realize the importance of the right questions, right? And I think in our world, we've often celebrated and in the way we educate kids, we've often triumphed, we hope they have the right answers. And I wonder if we need to teach our kids how to ask the right questions. When they start asking the right questions, man, then their faith becomes their own and they start to explore. So, you know, I love when we're reading to kids and they're like, well, what did they, what did they eat or what did, where did they go to the bathroom? You know, like there's, there's all these questions that you're like, wait a second. This story happened in a specific time, place, for a specific reason, with specific people. And once you start to realize that, then the flannel board

Children's library

pictures that you learn sometimes in Sunday school, it start to become real. And, you know, that's our hope, right? As Christian children's book authors are that we can make their faith real for them. And so, helping them ask the right questions, showing them fun things, giving them a love for the text. We were able to do that. And we just have so much fun making books. The children's book world is awesome because you pull in your literature, you pull in storytelling, but you also pull in art. And you get to explore these concepts through beautiful pictures. And so I believe that children's the children's book world is an art form. And you know, there's just beauty in all pieces and parts of it.

 

Valerie -It's really fun that you kind of noticed that because you have been a, what is it? A bit of a composer and a, of your own, piano albums, right? So do you see a lot of that composing and building, you know, making music as a part of your, I guess, writing process a little bit?

 

Eric -Yeah, I think so. I think you can paint a picture using many different mediums, right? Whether that's music, whether that's art, whether that's words. And I think the more I learn about the Bible, the more I see it as a picture book and not as a reference book. We read we like to read it as a reference book where we look for a book, you know, we look for verses, but it is a picture book. The problem is we live many years after it was written in a place far away from where it was written. So, we don't know these pictures. We don't know when the biblical authors talk about the desert or when they talk about, you know, Jesus is living water. We don't understand what that means, what it means for sheep to lie down in green pastures like our green pastures look very different than the green pastures from Israel. And so understanding those pictures just makes the text come alive.

 


Sheep Psalm 23

Valerie -Yeah, I think I had heard, Philip Yancey or someone talk about how Psalms 23 has a different meaning when you're over there in Israel because green pastures can be just a couple tufts of grass rather than what we see as the nice green lawns we have out front. And so it brings a whole new layer to that meaning. And I think kids are ready for that. They need that depth and understanding. And I know my kids are like, they're always ready with another question. And that makes me think deeper and dig deeper into my faith. And I think this next generation wants to know the depths of what God's word says. And I love that you guys are doing that. Now, what is one of your, I guess a book that's been most impactful to you guys in your lives other than the Bible?

 

Meredith- Oh man. I would say, so recently, have you read Justin Whitmill Early's Habits of the Household, Valerie? It's, and I don't know how old your kids are, but with ours being five and eight, just the idea of establishing some things we do consistently that are liturgies in our life that help teach faith practices. And so Justin does a great job kind of chapter by chapter suggesting different things. And so we've implemented a lot of those, one of them being when we sit down to have a meal together, we light a candle just to kind of help set the

Habits of the Household cover

scene. And, you know, follow that with prayer and then sharing about our days. And so there are just some things that I'm excited to, hopefully, you know, when we're looking back on this special slice of life that is this season, those will be things our kids remember as part of our family faith practice. And so, you know, as we drive them to the school bus stop sitting and praying quickly, you know, it's kind of a sending prayer out, you know, as they get on the bus to head to school, you know. Justin just does a great job of suggesting some things that are easy to do, but do take some attention. I think we hope that our new book becomes part of those liturgies, family liturgies, right?

 

Valerie - Very neat. How about you, Eric? What's been an impactful book in your life?

 

Eric - Oh my goodness. Um, lately, I've been impacted by the author, John Mark Comer, and some of his work and his call back to discipleship. He has a new book coming out. He has one that talks about simplifying your life. So once again, life practices. But his newest book is about what it means to be a disciple really? And what does it mean to be an apprentice of Jesus? And realizing that, you know, it's about discipline. He has this little thing in there that

Practicing the Way Cover

says, disciple isn't a verb. It's not something you do or that somebody does to you. It's who you are. It's a noun. Right? So this idea that It's our job to apprentice Jesus, to follow him, to learn what he was like, to be like him, and then go do the things he did. And so I appreciate that callback. And that's a very cultural thing, understanding what a disciple is, understanding truly who God is calling us to be. And then how do we do that with our kids? So that's been a really powerful book for me. Lately, that reminds me once again, you know, in all the church stuff and all the stuff we like to add to what it means to be a Christian, you know, it comes down to being like Jesus But if you don't know what Jesus is like, it's hard to be like Jesus. So that requires spending time With Jesus and reading the Gospels and so yeah, so that that's I think that's been impactful to me, it's a good reminder. Anything that brings you back to this idea that we're apprentices of Jesus and how do we live and love like Jesus did is always good and helpful.

 

Valerie -It's very counter-cultural. You know, even in a Judeo-Christian culture, it's still that slowing down, you know, getting rid of self and focusing on someone else and doing something like somebody else is kind of foreign. It's very strange and it's not easy.

 

Eric -And I think part of it is also realizing that we're all discipled by something, right? We're all following something. And that's what's important to us with our kids too. And why we do what we do is because their lives are being shaped by something. And so if we can help shape their lives to know that God loves them and that they are precious and that they are children of God that would be awesome, right? So that's what we're all trying to do as parents.

 

Valerie -Exactly, just send them off with a blessing so that they can be a blessing to others. Just kind of like your book is saying. And I love the heart behind all that you guys are doing with your books. But what can we expect next from you two?

 

Meredith -Okay, so Valerie, this marks a special blessing for you in our sixth book. And our seventh one is going to be our second board book. And it's called Good Night Noah Good Night Ark. And so we are we are so excited about it. It essentially follows all the animals in the ark

Goodnight Noah, Good Night Ark Cover

and their good night routine. So, trying to you know, encourage our kiddos to brush their teeth and tuck in tight. Noah's doing the same with the animals. So, it's very sweet. And we're thrilled with how it turned out. It's another, we, Valerie, we love writing in rhyme, do in large part because that's how we love to read. We love reading rhymes to our kids. And so we're a little bit selfish that way as authors because we don't want the book to be too long. After all, we're tired at night when we're reading to our kids. We like to keep them, you know, a nice length. And then we like to read and rhyme. And so it's another rhyming picture book and the illustrations were done by Marta Palacio and they're beautiful. Can we show it? We can show the cover. Yeah, it's not out yet, but It's coming. It's coming.

 

Valerie -Very fun. There's always a need for a new goodnight book because you're always looking for something new. I think I found a trend in goodnight books when my kids were little that usually in the last sentence was always the word again. So what did the kids say? Again! Read it again! It's like, no, it's time for bed! But yes, almost every little children's book we used to read was end with again and I'm like, I need sleep too. Too fun. I look forward to seeing that one when it pops out because I know is one of my favorite Bible stories and so it's always fun to see all the different versions of that and all the different animals that you know get highlighted in those books are always fun.  Now where can people find out more about you and your books?

 

Eric - Yeah, so our website is Fresh Wind Studios can find all of our books there. You can also find our websites, which are www.ERICSCHROTENBOER.com and Meredith's website as well. But we're on Facebook and Instagram. I think if you search our names, you'll be able to find us. So, take a look. Oh yeah, there aren't very many, yeah, Schrotenboers out there, also, we have a new website for the special blessing for your book Eric and Meredith Schrotenboer, so you can find us all over the place.

 

Valerie - And we'll make sure to have those links in the descriptions too so people can get to them easily. So, thank you guys so much for joining me today.

 

Eric- Yeah, thank you for having us. It's been a really, really a lot of fun.


Meredith- A delight Valerie, thank you so much.

 

Valerie -It's been my pleasure. Thank you for joining Eric, Meredith, and me on this episode of the Bookworthy podcast. Check the show notes for any books or links that we discussed and let us know in the comments what is your favorite ice cream flavor. Also, help other families find Bookworthy by leaving a review wherever you're listening from, and we'll continue to discover more great books together.


Happy reading.


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