When the idea popped into her mind, Lisa Tawn Bergren just wanted to go back to sleep.
It was 2 a.m., after all, and Bergren didn’t feel like writing down silly middle-of-the-night thoughts.
She got out of bed anyway. God was telling her to, she says.
“He gave me the whole story,” Bergren, a lifelong Christian, said. “The characters and everything.”
She was sort of grumpy about it, but she wrote. She wrote for an hour. And she didn’t expect the writing session. If it sounds good at 2 a.m. it probably won’t sound good when the sun comes up, she thought.
In the morning, though, she looked at the words on her computer screen and thought, “Huh. This might have some legs.”
Later that day, Bergren read what she had written to her kids. Bergren started crying. The story — which starts with a polar bear cub asking Mama Bear, “Where did I come from?” — felt special. That was the first time a parent read “God Gave Us You” aloud, but it was far from the last.
“God Gave Us You” was published in 2000 and is part of a series that has sold more than 2.5 million copies. Before then, Bergren had been reading her two young daughters a lot of “I love you”-themed books, but none of them mentioned faith. If her kids were going to learn about love, Bergren wanted them to hear about God’s love.
“It’s a message I wanted my children to know,” she said. “I just wanted that to be an option.”
Bergren created those options. In 13 “God Gave Us” illustrated books, the Colorado Springs author has written about such topics as heaven, sleep, angels and Christmas.
Last month, the latest book, and perhaps the most foundational, in Bergren’s series came out: “God Gave Us the Bible.”
Described as Little Cub and Mama Bear’s “greatest adventure together,” the book includes 45 Bible stories geared for children ages 3 to 8.
The book starts with “The Creator Creates” about the first chapter of Genesis and runs through the book of Acts with the final story titled “Paul Spreads the Good News.” There are stories called “Joseph and His Cool Coat” and “Jesus Gets ‘Lost.’”
Each narrative is accompanied by dialogue between characters such as Mama Bear and Little Cub, who asks questions like, “What does Genesis mean?” and “Hey, Mama, did Noah have a motor on that ark so he could could steer?”
Bergren said she wanted to write a book that “tackles big subjects and big questions” for kids to help “build the faith of even the littlest hearts.”
From an early age, Bergren has always had faith. But it hasn’t always been easy.
After college, she headed to Park City, Utah, to try out being a “ski bum.”
“I thought it sounded like a fun gap year,” she said. “There were a lot of people around me who were super lost and searching. I felt lost.”
Her mother sent books by Christian authors and Bergren listened to Christian music on the radio. She felt God pull her back. On a whim, she flew to Israel and spent three weeks there with her cousin. The trip had an impact on her.
Bergren then moved to Southern California and worked for a music company, a job that would lead her to helping start WaterBrook, a Christian publisher backed by Pensuin Random House. It’s based in Colorado Springs.
Over the years, Bergren has heard a lot from readers about the influence of her “God Gave Us” series. The books have drawn families together. The books have been a source of comfort and started conversations about religion. The books have helped people of all ages find faith.
In “God Gave Us the Bible,” Bergren wanted to break down the Bible because, she said, it can seem overwhelming. And not just for young readers.
Recently, Bergren has started a tradition of reading the Bible from beginning to end over the course of the year. Some books are harder to get through than others.
“I wanted a T-shirt that says, ‘I survived Leviticus,’” she said.
If she could introduce kids to the Bible early in life, she said, then maybe the text wouldn’t be as overwhelming.
Bergren, who has written nearly 60 books in a variety of genres, said the next book in the series will be “God Gave Us Prayer” and is due out in 2021. That could be the final one, too.
“I kind of see these as the bookends to the series,” she said.
It now includes more than a dozen titles, but the most popular is still the first one Bergren wrote years ago at 2 a.m.
“God Gave Us You” has outsold all Bergren’s other books combined. She jokes that she almost slept through it.