Caryl Waller Krueger is a Child Development Specialist, author of 15 books and lecturer on parenting and family living, Bible researcher and speaker, and BibleWise’s Director of Parenting with the Bible. During our interview, she shared how the Bible has influenced her life and career and has made her believe that everything’s possible with God. She shares how she has been able to “turn mourning into dancing,” write books and articles, reach out to help others, provide helpful parenting and family advice, and more.
How did you become an author of parenting and family life books?
I first got into professional writing when I was a go-fer for the editor of the Chicago Tribune and proofread and edited his scripts. Eventually, after having worked for ad agencies, I started my own advertising agency, handling small local accounts, doing all the writing and lay-outs. At that time, my husband was lecturing on real estate, and I’d travel with him. As women were not involved that much in real estate then, I started lecturing about family life to the women. They asked for copies of many of my ideas, and when my secretary was sending them out, she suggested that I write my ideas down and sell them in a book. So, I wrote Six Weeks to Better Parenting. When we traveled, we sold my book to parents. It sold like gangbusters. So, I pitched an idea for another book, 1001 Things to Do with Your Kids, to that publisher, but they didn’t want it. Abingdon Publishers, who publishes Strong’s Concordance, did, and it became a book club selection. I like Abingdon because they let me mention God or the Supreme Being in my books, as well as Christmas and Hanukah. I’ve written for major newspapers and magazines, such as Parade, Sunset, the LA Times, and Parents, and have lectured in 31 states, Canada, Europe, and the U.K. on both parenting and my second career, Bible research. I was also called by TV and radio stations for interviews to help parents and children cope when the space shuttle went down.
How did you help them cope?
On national radio, I explained that this was an opportunity for parents to talk with their children and teach them that life is eternal. The astronauts were doing brave things here, and they are doing brave things now, but just out of our sight. I also talked about the need to pray for comfort for the families of the astronauts. People seemed to like the point of view that it wasn’t the end for these astronauts.
What was it like to run your own company?
It was refreshing. I had to stand on my own merits. I relied on prayer. That time in my life was important because I could be creative in my own way. There are times in life, not just in business, when we need to stand on our own two feet and not rely on others. Even if you have a wonderful support system, it’s what you desire and how you pray about it that’s important. I feel very strongly about the need to accept the strength of our wholeness. There are those who don’t have strong support groups to help them through challenges. But that doesn’t mean they’re missing anything. We all can know that regardless of our human support system, we have the greatest support system in the world. When it comes right down to it, it’s you and God.
What have you found in the Bible that has influenced your books or your life?
My personal motto is Biblical: “...with God, all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). I truly believe that. I didn’t think when I was 8 years old and wanted to be a donut maker because I loved donuts so much that I would ever become a lecturer and writer with books translated into 8 other languages. I’ve done things I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing because God has made them possible. I’ve gone around the world with my husband, to Asia with our family, and have visited orphanages in China and Vietnam. I love the line from Isaiah 43:6 that says, “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” This is meaningful to me in two ways: 1) one of our four children is adopted and three of our nine grandchildren are adopted from Asia; 2) looking at that statement more broadly, I see that it encourages me to include all the children of the world in my prayers. God doesn’t know boundaries of countries. I think we have to look beyond our immediate family to the family of the world. We need to love them all. We also have to turn off the cacophony of the evil in the world. We can’t think of evil and dwell in a heavenly place at the same time. So, we have to make a choice as to what we’re going to have in our consciousness. If we’re spending a lot of time watching violence on TV, which can fill a whole evening, rather than engaging in worthwhile activities, we aren’t shutting off the cacophony; we’re accepting it. You shut it off -- no matter what “channel” it comes through -- by not paying attention to it, not giving it credence. When I have suffered hurts or great disappointments, I like this from Psalm 30:1: “Thou hast turned my mourning into dancing.” We have to quit our mourning in order to hear the dance music, the joys of life. It comes down to what we want to accept in our consciousness, what we want to emphasize in both our conversations and activities.
How have you turned “mourning into dancing”?
I think people need to remember that when someone passes on, our duty is not to wish them back or particularly grieve. We have to find a solution to our sadness in remembrance. I can remember a time when a family member had passed on, which was very difficult for all of us. Everybody else fell apart. I really realized that falling apart was not part of God’s kingdom. God didn’t plan to make me unhappy or distressed or discouraged with life. I had to find appreciation and joy in what I did have, in the rest of my family that I had here with me, and not grieve for what I didn’t have. I had to trust that the one who had gone on was not missing anything, was not missing love, activity, etc. That individual had those, and more than likely, had better counsel than I was giving. It’s a matter of loosing them and letting them go forward. This was particularly helpful when other close family members passed on. I had an opportunity to practice what I had learned and see them as “going on,” not passing out of my life. I was so glad that I did not dissolve into great gushing tears. I was able to face it all with equanimity.
You mentioned visiting orphanages. How did this come about?
We wanted to do something special for the Millennium. We heard that Vietnam was supposed to have one of the best celebrations at one of the best resorts. So, we also took this as an opportunity to visit Vietnamese and Chinese orphanages. As we were tourists, we had a van and a translator. We had prepared gifts in advanced for them -- toys for children, blankets for babies, and such. This sense of giving had just become a part of our lives. When my husband and I were first married, we were very poor and could hardly furnish our apartment. A man and his wife gave us two chairs and knick-knack shelves that were so helpful. We asked him how we could ever repay him. He said, “You don’t repay me; you pass it on.” Years later, there was a young couple in our church whose parents would not pay for their wedding reception. So, we gave them a wedding reception for 200 people. They, too, told us they didn’t know how they could repay us, and we told them to hand it on to someone else. About 10 years later, they wrote and said they had handed it on. A young woman wanted to pursue a career that required her to travel across the ocean, but she didn’t have enough money. So, they were sponsoring her. If we were all doing this, there wouldn’t be poverty and want.
It seems that reaching out to others is natural and important for you.
I think I was raised to look out for other people. My mother made an extra dinner every night and put it on a tray for a handicapped woman who lived down the street. My dad and I would go every night, pick up the dinner tray from the night before, drop of that night’s dinner, talk with her, and then go home. My parents also took people into their hearts and homes and parented people that needed parenting. I think my parents set this example. Their practical love for others influenced my life. I can remember a Christmas when I decided our family was going to spend the morning at an interfaith care facility. Instead of our traditional Christmas morning, we got up at 5:00 am. and went to serve low income and homeless people a breakfast of meat, mashed potatoes, and more; made lunches; and handed out Christmas presents we had wrapped at home. We still look back on that as a very special time.
Did you turn to God to help you write your family life books?
All the time! A friend of mine has a line, “Well, I need to listen to what the Father-Mother God is telling me.” It’s especially important, as a speaker, to train yourself to listen because the good ideas are not coming within your brain matter but are gifts from God. I found that when I did my Bible research in the morning, the parenting books almost wrote themselves in the afternoon. I was so uplifted and excited about what I found in the Bible that it made what I was sharing with the parents who might not even know the Bible much easier. It made the whole experience a joy. I still continue this practice: each morning, when I’ve finished my Bible reading and studying, I listen quietly for 15 minutes to God, and then I grab a writing tablet because the ideas come so quickly. Of course, I had to discipline myself to settle in and do my writing. If you want to write ads, books, poems, or even thank-you letters, you have to practice your skill. I have been a writer since childhood. I still write our own children every Sunday and our nieces and nephews every month or two to share the joys of our lives and let them know we love them.
What practical steps did you take to find ideas for your books, and what have you learned?
My education was important, of course, but the main thing that helped me write the books was my experience with my own children and the several hundred people who helped contribute ideas. Every idea in my books has been tested, researched. When I wrote the marriage book, I had a huge survey of couples married from 18 months to 65 years. When I wrote The Ten Commandments for Grandparents, I made sure I covered the points in Moses’ Ten Commandments and also interviewed 300 grandparents of every age and religion in the world. I continue to attend conferences to keep up-to-date on current parenting issues. One of the Montessori school learning sessions I attended was on Down syndrome. There was a boy in our Sunday school labeled that way, and no one would teach him. So, I took him on, and we had a wonderful learning time. He ended up graduating from a special high school and got a job at a mailing company. I learned not to label people. I’ve also been a room mother 17 times, which taught me a lot about helping children get along; a leader for Camp Fire Girls and Boy Scout groups; and president of 11 Boards. Through these experiences, I’ve learned not to tread on other people’s feelings. Everyone has a right to his or her own opinion. I’ve learned to listen, discuss everyone’s opinions, and eventually come to some happy conclusion.
As a child development specialist and a parent, what’s important for parents to know to be effective?
- The importance of loving each child for who he or she is.
- Teaching them family standards: ethics, religion, compassion.
- Meaning what you say and saying it only once. This is what I call being “The One Chance Mom.”
Parents need to let their children know what they expect from them. Once the standards are set, and you tell them the consequences of failing to abide by these standards, parents need to be true to their word and follow through. You tell them once, and you don’t keep telling them or reminding them. For instance, you tell them if they don’t clean up the spilled paint, there will be additional restrictions. You take away whatever is meaningful to them, appropriate to their age and the situation. You’re really letting them know the parameters. But a lot of parents don’t mean what they say. I just heard a conversation between a mother and a child. The mom told her child that he couldn’t have more than one piece of candy a day. So, right after the child had one, he asked his mother for another, saying that it was just a little one. The mom said it was okay. After he had finished that one, he found another one he said was small, and his mom agreed. He ended up having a lot more candy than his mom had originally told him he could have. As a parent, you have to mean what you say. We also need to educate our children about the consequences of temptations ahead. The stats say that if we can keep our children clear of drugs until they’re 20, they probably will never get into them. So, we need to be very aware of our children’s lives: Will there be a chaperone at a party? Will the parents be present and visible at certain times? Some parents are afraid of their children and abdicate parenting to them. But children need and want their parents’ guidance.
It’s also very important for both parents and children to read together regularly -- the classics and especially the Bible. Every truly educated person knows the Bible. I encourage families to have children’s Bibles so that they can read the stories with their children. After you read a story like the “Prodigal Son” with your children, you can talk about what it means. I’ve told my twin grandchildren that this story shows that their parents love them equally but that they won’t always get the same exact gifts; they’ll get different things. The parable also shows that if you make a mistake, you can fix it. The Bible is really the instruction book for life, that’s why it’s important to read it together as a family.
You’re also a Bible researcher and lecturer. How did that come about?
A woman named Dorothy Herfurt, who had her doctorate degree in theology, needed a speech on Bible women for a Bible conference. She asked my husband if I’d do it and he accepted for me! That was my first of 26 years at an international Bible conference. I even owned the conference, along with two other people, for a number of years. As a result, I’ve done 26 non-denominational Bible lectures, which are on everything from the Psalms (I’m considered a specialist on Psalms); the Sermon on the Mount; the gospels; and more. One of the big sellers is “Fear Not, Only Believe!” I’ve also talked about how to overcome grief: “From Grief to Glory.” “Always Safe in God’s Care” is a talk people seem to like. Shop BibleWise offers a lot of these. (See Parenting with the Bible for more of Caryl’s work.)
As a specialist on Psalms, what are some of your favorite and why?
We all love Psalm 23, which has given me comfort and reassurance when loved ones have passed on. Then, of course, Psalm 91 has an answer for every human dilemma. And Psalm 139 just soars: “If I ascend up into heaven thou are there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” No one is alone, lost, out-of-touch, or estranged with the assurances of this psalm. After my lecture on Psalm 139 was available, many care facilities bought it to play during the night when guests were not able to sleep. I was surprised one day to receive a call from a man who had been taken to a hospital having had a stroke that affected both sides of his body. They were able to help him regain use of one side, but they said the other side was permanently paralyzed. The night before he was to be sent home in a wheelchair, he listened to the tape. The line, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (139:14), stood out to him. He said, “I realized that God did not make half a man, but a whole man, and I thought of that through the night. The next morning I sat up, put both feet on the floor, and walked out of the hospital.” It was a complete healing. And the power of the words of the Bible brought his healing.
You’ve had an amazing career of service. How did you do it all?
I have learned to listen to what God is saying to me. I find that as my best friend and heavenly Father-Mother, God provides both comfort and inspiration. This communication brings amazing new ideas and the ability to accomplish a lot in a short time -- and