Read It and Win

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Photo courtesy of Zelle Duda on Unsplash

How fun is that! Reading to your grandkids gives them a lifelong boost. Plus it gives you another excuse to spend time with them.

The ability of elementary school age children to read is one of the strongest predictors of career success during their adulthood. (1) Reading has been shown to improve a person’s vocabulary, creativity, intelligence, and empathy. Plus, reading reduces stress at the same time it helps individuals develop the discipline of perseverance. (2) 

Keep in mind that to be effective, readers needs to be engaged in what they are reading. That is to say, the greatest benefits kick in when reading is done for the purpose of increasing one’s knowledge and understanding of a subject. According to Ellen Parry Lewis, fiction author, reading is a necessary habit for successful businesspersons. (2) 

The choices of reading materials, both fiction and nonfiction, matter as well. When we fill our minds with positive, empowering messages and ideas that influence our lives and encourage community involvement, we can become agents of change. With that in mind, there is no better book to begin the habit of reading than the Bible.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work,” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) NLT.

When was the first time you read from the Bible with a grandchild? The last time? Grandparents have the power to influence grandchildren. Use it wisely. The best thing you can do for the eternal good of your grandchildren is to start early and continue to share biblical wisdom with them. Find an age-appropriate edition of the Bible that you can both enjoy. 

I know people who hold long distance Bible studies with their grandchildren via text or Skype. Their grandchildren are growing stronger in their faith because of all the love being poured out onto them. Obey God’s command to share His Word and let the Holy Spirit do His good work in your grandchildren. 

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think,” (Ephesians 3:20) NLT.

Share your thoughts at barbhowe.org.

References: 

  1. Reading and Life Success
  2. Read a Book! It’s Good for Your Career 

The True Spirit of Christmas Gifts

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Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Kids are not immune to the ongoing Christmas shopping frenzy. Like adults, they’re inundated with ads and solicitations to get that special something for that special someone. And, if they have any money, they may well be counting their pennies toward a specific item. This is an opportune time to teach them about managing their resources.

My parents used a simple method to teach this concept. Any allowance, birthday bucks, or earnings I received were divided equally into two piles: one to save, and one to spend. Ten percent of the spend pile was my church offering. The remainder was mine to use as I wished. It was a good system that taught me to give back a portion of what I had received, to prepare for long-term goals, and to intentionally steward my resources. 

At times when finances were tight, I made gifts for people. Simple handmade ornaments or home baked cookies always seemed to get warm responses. As an adult, I have come to understand what counts most in a gift is that it shows personal knowledge of the recipient and a desire to fulfill a need or desire. My gifts differ from person to person. But the gift that God offers is universal.

In the true Spirit of Christmas, we recognize that our Father in Heaven sent Jesus to earth in human form where He died and arose from the grave. Christ gave up everything so anyone who puts their faith in Him has the right to be called children of God. All we need to do is accept His ultimate gift. If you have never asked Jesus into your heart, follow this link to The 4 Spiritual Laws, by Bill Bright.

May the children in your life see the joy this simple truth brings to your life. Happy gifting, and Merry Christmas! 

Blessings to you from barbhowe.org.

The Season is Upon Us

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Photo by Heidi Sandstrom. on Unsplash

It seems to be starting earlier this year. Christmas decorations showed up in stores weeks ago, and now everyone I talk to is decorating their homes with trees, garlands, and all kinds of evergreen somethings. And here I am, still planning a Thanksgiving menu. I love the fun of it as much as anyone does, but only as long as the original reason we celebrate does not get lost in the excitement. 

Allow me to interject a chiche’ here. “It isn’t Christmas without Christ.” The gift of eternal salvation surpasses any trinket, electronic, wearable, or consumable you can find in a brick and mortar or cyber store. Amen to that! The question then centers on how to keep Christ at the center of the season.  

I made a list of the people on my gift list and slipped it into my purse. Along with reminding me to shop for them, it is a ready reminder to pray for them. Seeing their names prompts visual images of each person and usually conjures up a fond memory. (Imagine some lady walking around a shopping mall laughing to herself.)

 If you’re like me, grandchildren hit the top of the list. What is the best thing you can give them? Hint: it has nothing to do with running up a huge credit card debt, but it has the power to last an eternity. It is the message of faith in Christ as our Savior. The fun part is that putting this wonderful gift into an alluring package is really quite simple.

Advent calendars, the kind that mark the 24 days leading up to Christmas with daily doses of Bible verses and chocolate, are a big hit at my house. During last year’s Christmas celebrations, my grandson decided to read  each of the Advent calendar messages aloud to our family. It planted Jesus right into the middle of our gifts, where He belongs. Truly, His is the greatest gift anyone can ever receive.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8

Let’s all get into the true spirit of Christmas. Let me know what you’re doing at barbhowe.org.

“The Others”

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Photo courtesy of Pablo Hermoso on Unsplash

A friend whose married child has children refers to the in-laws as “the others”. It is a lighthearted way of acknowledging a common grandparent role. I’m not sure if this relationship with “the others” is favorable or unfavorable, however, even the best circumstance poses its own set of challenges.

When relationships between in-laws is good and both sets of grandparents have financial resources, they might tend to overwhelm grandchildren with material gifts. We all experience the joy of giving. But, it can be problematic when it turns into a competition, or when the parents do not approve of the types of gifts that are bestowed on their children. As grandparents, we must remind ourselves that our adult children are the primary caregivers of our grandchildren and our role is to support their good decisions.

Alternatively, in-law relationships can be strained due to lifestyle choices, attitudes, or other elements. Let’s face it, being a grandparent does not automatically mean a person has strong moral character. Did I say that politely enough? Sometimes these circumstances require more prayer than we feel capable of praying. It is vital that we exhibit Christ-like attitudes toward people who do not accept Jesus as their Savior or live according to our personal standards. It could mean biting our tongue and earnestly asking the Holy Spirit for guidance time and again.

Above all, rely on the Holy Spirit to guide your attitudes and actions. Rely on God’s wisdom to direct your choices. Wisdom is promised in the Bible; all you need to do is ask for it. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you,” James 1:5.

As we embark on another season of Thanksgiving and Christmas when families are likely to encounter one another, remember that we who put our faith in Christ have a gift to share with the world that surpasses anything else. Be generous. Share the love you have received with “the others”.

Then, tell me how the Spirit guided your time with “the others” at barbhowe.org.

How Marigolds are Like Grandchildren

20191019_132433-e1572392553845.jpgIt feels like just last week my marigolds were tiny plants. I clearly remember planting them in one of my favorite garden spots. Those marigolds grew to overflow during the summer months, giving a sunny welcome to everyone who came to our house. Recently, while I was pulling the faded plants for composting, my thoughts turned to the reality that grandchildren don’t stay little for long.

And yet, each phase of their development brings its own rewards. Like marigolds, grandchildren develop and spread their proverbial branches. That infant who snuggled against your shoulder may now be trooping off to school, or to work. Nothing can hold back the march of time. Keep the memories, but experience your grandchildren’s lives in the present. 

Clear your calendar to attend their school events, athletic competitions, and music recitals. Your presence speaks volumes about your commitment and love for them. Excuses are easy to find: physical distance, difficult family dynamics, illness, and an endless stream of “I can’t” because of whatever. 

From a biblical perspective, our primary responsibility as grandparents is to share our Christian faith with the generations that follow. If you don’t believe me on this, check out the following verse.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (NIV)

The stronger your relationship with your grandchildren is, the more likely they are to listen when you talk about your faith. Technology diminishes distances between you and out-of-state relatives, soft words soothe misunderstandings, and years of experiences equip us with materials for teaching. Don’t wait until it’s convenient. Make the most of every chance you have to tell your grandchildren why you trust Christ for your salvation.

Take a moment to pray for your grandchildren by name. Ask God to create opportunities for you to engage with them on a regular basis. Expect Him to respond in His perfect timing. His answers can be surprising beyond imagination and delightful above all hope.

Share how God has answered your prayers at barbhowe.com.

Three Things I Learned From A Writing Conference

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Photo courtesy of The Climate Reality Project on Unsplash

When you think about your “best” work as an ideal instead of an achievable reality, continuous quality improvement becomes the impetus behind everything you write. Think of it as a challenge to expand on existing knowledge. In the same way carpenters fill their toolboxes with new gadgets, we writers need to fill our minds with creative new approaches to our craft.

Here are three useful ideas I picked up from a recent writing conference.

  1. Learn from others. No matter how well I think I’ve done on a writing project, inevitably there is another person who gave the same idea a different twist. That doesn’t mean my idea was not as good. It simply means I now have a new tool for my kit. 
  2. Refresh what you already know. Skills get rusty when they’re not used. Conferences are great places to jump start writing enthusiasm. They may also present an array of publishing, audio, and video resources to explore after the conference.
  3. Make new friends. Chatting one-on-one with a new acquaintance over lunch is a great way to get to know them; it’s called networking. At the last conference I attended, a lady I met invited me to attend a monthly writer’s luncheon group as her guest. A few others made plans to start a writer’s critique group. 

Now, here’s a bonus reason to attend a writing conference. Writing is challenging work. But, God designed us to live in community and give back to others what we have learned from our own experience. Your participation at a conference might be the very thing an aspiring writer needs, your encouragement a spark to help them reach for their “best” work. It’s a wonderful way to share your own legacy of writing.

Now give me your thoughts at: barbhowe.org.

The Sweet Taste of God’s Word

Jonah Cake and Whale

Put the Word of God to taste. That’s not a typo and it’s not a suggestion to flippantly ingest Bible accounts. It’s an idea to help get messages from God’s Word into the hearts, and stomachs, of your grandchildren. Success is nearly 100% guaranteed.

Take the book of Jonah for example. How many times have you read to your grandchildren about Jonah’s exploits? Probably quite a few times. It seems to be a perennial favorite among the younger set. In four short chapters, this account captures the essence of God’s sovereignty, mercy, and love for His creations. This is where the inspiration to feed the belly as well as the soul kicked in. 

Starting with a disobedient prophet deliberately defying God’s instructions, the story gets really interesting. Jonah’s journey takes a three-day hiatus in the belly of a whale before he figures out not obeying God’s command is a really dumb idea. Repentance is the thing that frees Jonah from certain doom and leads to the Ninevite’s redemption. Kids eat this up, especially when it is served in a tasty manner. Here’s what I did.

Using a cake molded as a ship and a watermelon carved as a whale, I created a visual depiction of Jonah learning his lesson about disobedience to God. Think of it as biblical food art. Then, while my grandson and I filled our bellies with dessert, I filled his mind with the full account of Jonah’s encounter with God, and God’s blessing on Nineveh. 

The beautiful thing about this idea, aside from eating cake, is that you don’t even need to bake a cake. Pick one up from the bakery and print out an image that represents the Book of Jonah. Then proceed as above to partake in the sweet taste of God’s Holy Word.

Find the Book of Jonah at BibleGateway.com.

Share your ideas at barbhowe.com.

Writing About Grandchildren – Inspiration #5 of 5

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Photo courtesy of J Korpa on Unsplash

Dreams comprise the fifth and final category of my inspiration series. I suspect this is the most underutilized source of writing inspiration that people draw upon. Don’t ignore dreams. They can be a potent wellspring of insights.

During the day, our thoughts are barraged with information and choices. But while our bodies rest, our minds go to work. Decision filters shut down when the day is done and leave the door open for the night crew. Think of dreams as your mind on brainstorm mode, offering endlessly creative ideas without interruption. 

Those periods of transition between consciousness and unconsciousness, when our minds still hang in the balance, can uncover emotional treasuresDreams help us sort through things that matter to us. 

Here’s an example from a memoir:

I awoke this morning from a frightfully vivid nightmare. You have formed the habit of running toward the street whenever we were outside. I stopped you every time. Still, the fear remained that a day might come when my reaction time would be too slow to prevent you from being harmed. Through the haze of awakening, I dreamed I was chasing you down our driveway, grabbing you from the path of a speeding car, and pushing you to the side as the car’s front fender closed in. I was immediately reminded of how precious you are to me.

The message is clear. It also shows that not everything you write in your memoir needs to be an actual event. This example shows the emotional relationship with a child in the context of a pending traffic accident that, thankfully, did not happen. 

Happily, dreams may also uncover our tenderest feelings about such experiences as the moment we first see our grandchild. Make the most out of yours. Use those waking moments to note your dreams and convey your love to your grandchild.

Share your ideas at barbhowe.com.

Click below to read other inspirations.

Inspiration #1

Inspiration #2

Inspiration #3

Inspiration #4

Writing About Grandchildren – Inspiration #4 of 5

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Photo courtesy of Nick Morrison on Unsplash

The helplessness and vulnerability of a newborn can bring out our innermost feelings of awe and wonder. Their complete reliance on adults for every need is enough to stir emotions and soften the hardest of hearts. It often leads to introspection, a form of inspiration that flows from the heart.

Unlike inspirations that are sparked by events and activities, introspection is a more considered approach. It requires us to reach deeply into our own experiences to retrieve thoughts that might not be among the first to surface. Conversely, they may be the very thoughts that jump out and grab our attention without warning.

Now, take a look at an example of inspiration that relies heavily on introspection.

Your attentiveness and response to lights, sounds, and voices at only a few days old was remarkable. I placed you on my lap facing up, cradling your head in my hands. You looked directly into my eyes, as if you were trying to communicate. “Can you sense how much joy I feel when you are so near?”

I have never met a parent (or grandparent) who didn’t feel a loving connection with their new babies. Forget scientific explanations. Instead, focus on the bonding that takes place when you are interacting with the children in your life. I truly believe God uses this type of bonding to cement relationships between children, their parents, and their grandparents.

Everyone needs to feel loved. Don’t hesitate to tell children how much you love them. Be extravagant with positive words of love and encouragement. They never go out of style.

When did you have a moment of introspection about a grandchild? Share your experiences at barbhowe.com.

Writing About Grandchildren – Inspiration #3 of 5

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Photo courtest of Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

You have probably experienced times with a grandchild that spark your own reminiscing. These instances happens throughout the year, with or without prompting. Long forgotten memories do pop up when we least expect them. They are not restricted to time or season. 

There is no law saying you can’t share stories from your past. They are always relevant. Your stories of reminiscing give children a glimpse into the reality that human nature stays the same despite all the technological advances that are being made.

In the same way that milestones and special occasions spark ideas, reminiscing can be fun. I think of it as conducting an archaeological dig into the past to talk with grandchildren about memories being made today. Here is an excerpt from a letter written to a grandchild in the days leading up to Christmas:

I remember when you were barely old enough to help decorate our home for Christmas. Setting up our Christmas tree that year prompted one of my childhood memories.

When I was 10-years-old, my Dad lost his job due to a workforce reduction, This was at a time before artificial Christmas trees were common. Our family budget was severely limited while he searched for a new place to work.

During the weeks leading up to Christmas, I heard my parents talk about the price of Christmas trees and how they might be able to work it into the budget. I began to wonder if we were going to have a Christmas tree that year. Now, to be honest, I cannot recall any year during my childhood when we did not have one, but I also cannot remember most of those trees.

This tree was different. I clearly remember when…

Imagine the different directions a memory like this might travel. Your stories could prompt your grandchildren to consider how today’s ordinary activities will look different in their later years. They will certainly revisit the time you shared with them. Perhaps the most important element of your reminiscing is giving them a reason for hope when they struggle through the inevitable challenges of life.

So, let your remembrances flow onto paper. Allow your grandchildren to see how people work through their difficulties. Use your words to share a message of hope and faith in our loving Lord.

Shortly after Christmas, the dad in the story found a new job. The entire family emerged stronger in their bonds, and stronger in their faith. Use your life stories as a way to strengthen the faith of your grandchildren. The rewards are eternal.

Share your remembrances at barbhowe.com.