Never Lose Your Sense of Wonder

FireworksFireworks! What can be more exciting at the end of a festive day? Yes, there are still celebrations and community events that climax with explosive lights illuminating the night sky. They’re a big attraction for people of every generation. That is at least, for the curious ones.

It surprised me during a fireworks display to see a man standing in a front row spot, facing away from the show talking to someone. I sure hope the conversation was important, because the background scene above his head was spectacular. Children stood nearby, transfixed by the theatrics of light and sound. Seeing their enthusiasm brought a smile to my face.

Pop! Boom! Bang! Another firework shot into the air, sending tendrils of sparkling light across the velvety black sky. Beyond the man-made show, points of light made their presence known across the sky. Does the splendor of their showing fill me with awe as much as, or more than the one created by man? I can answer with an emphatic “Yes!”

Within moments the fireworks display came to an end and parents collected children to scurry home for bedtime routines. The sky once again returned to its quiet vigil. I remained a few minutes longer, contemplating the vastness of our universe, the magnificence of a Creator who could place countless points of light in an orderly, dynamic display. For those who put their faith in Jesus Christ, they are a reminder that we too are the work of an almighty God and Father.

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?”
Psalm 8:3-4

Share your thoughts at barbhowe.org.

Listen to the Kids

KIDSThere was a popular daytime television show during the 1950s called Art Linkletter’s House Party that featured humorous monologues and audience participation. In one of the show’s best-remembered segments, “Kids Say the Darndest Things”, Linkletter interviewed children between the ages of five and ten, garnering hilarious responses.

Kids don’t have filters on the things that come out of their mouths. They haven’t learned the finer rules of etiquette and social graces enough to hold back from stating the obvious. In their innocence, children blurt out things as they see them.

I was reminded of this when my grandson mentioned a few of my imperfections. He wasn’t trying to be mean. In a good-natured way, he was simply commenting on a few of my physical and behavioral flaws. Fighting against the wrinkling, sagging ravages of time is futile. It was his observations about things I commonly say that struck me most.

Taking time to listen to kids pays off. Hearing how I sound to young ears helped me to see myself from a different perspective. It gives me a chance to think about how my words might be interpreted differently than I intended, how the infection of my voice might alter the recipient’s understanding of my meaning.

My grandson and I talk a lot. That gives me ample opportunity to listen to his interpretation of what I’m saying, watch his body language, and self-correct what I’m saying. While I’m busy trying to teach my grandson something he needs to know, he is equally busy teaching me things that I need to know. This is why I think it’s important to listen to the kids.

Share how you Listen to the Kids at barbhowe.org.

Let’s Bake an Apple Cake

Apples
Three varieties of apples: Zestar, Sawa, and Crabapple

When a grandchild asks, who can refuse? I cannot find it in myself to deny any good thing my grandson asks of me. This is true when we are talking about matters of faith in Christ, when we are “searching up” information about how things work, or when we are putting our creative juices to work in the kitchen. 

I love it when my (not so) little sidekick asks if we can join forces to cook or bake one of his favorite dishes. Here is the recipe for an Apple Cake he requested – multiple times.

Apple Cake Ingredients and Recipe

For the cake

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened

½ cup applesauce

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 large apples, peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks

For the topping

1 tsp cinnamon

1 Tbsp turbinado sugar (such as Sugar in the Raw)

For the icing

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

5 tsp milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-inch tube pan, dist with flour. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, 3 tsp cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In an electric mixer, cream together butter, oil, applesauce, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy (about 2 min). Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Working in two batches, add dry ingredients into butter mixture. Fold in apples.

Spoon batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Combine 1 tsp cinnamon and turbinado sugar. Sprinkle over top of batter.

Bake until top is golden and a tester inserted in cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 min.

Allow cake to cool in pan for 15 min before transferring to a plate right side up. Allow to cool completely. Whisk confectioner’s sugar and milk together in a bowl to make icing. Drizzle over cake. Serves 16.

Do you have a favorite recipe using apples? Share it at barbhowe.org.

Fresh Perspective

Mt. RushmoreFrom time to time, we all need to get a fresh perspective on familiar old faces.

Everyone needs a break. Children get summer breaks from the rigors of school, which might be one of the reasons parents need an occasional break from the kids. A day or two might be enough to clear the mind and nourish the soul. It’s part of the “take care of yourself” advice many family experts advocate.

This same advice applies to grandparents who are actively engaged in caring for grandchildren. My husband and I recently took a road trip – just the two of us. It gave us time to talk about ideas that were getting pushed to the background of life. It gave us a chance to refocus our goals, see our lives with a new perspective. We had those “what if…” and “would you ever…” conversations in the uninterrupted quiet of our vehicle.

During our travels, I saw endless varieties of cars towing pop-up campers, trucks hauling fifth wheel campers, and self-contained Class A RVs. I have friends who look forward to traveling around and parking theirs in campgrounds throughout the country. My husband and I carried on animated discussions about what it would be like to take road trips in them. It’s good to know your preferences, but fun to consider other options.

Along the way, I reminded myself that some retreats happen right at home. Staying put eliminates the stresses of planning, preparing, and packing. It just takes some undisturbed time to engage in a favorite hobby, start or finish a project, or take a nap.

However you do it, spend some time apart from the grandkids. You’ll gain a fresh perspective on the priorities in your life. You might find yourself anxious to give big hugs to the most wonderful grandchildren on earth: yours, of course.

Share what you do to gain a fresh perspective by leaving a message at barbhowe.org.

Endless Summer

Northern Pines beach

Some of life’s best experiences are eternally engraved into our consciousness. Summer days spent lakeside come to mind. Nothing quite compares to the chattering sounds of kids playing at a beach or splashing in the water.

This year, my husband and I took one of those “first” kind of vacations with our grandson at a Christian camp in central Wisconsin: Northern Pines. Their advertisements promoting the week long experience as a “vacation with a purpose” was spot on.

Following breakfast, morning programs had children age 0-8 attending Vacation Bible Study activities with others in their age categories while parents and grandparents attended their own studies. Families regrouped for lunch, afternoon free time, and dinner. All meals were included, eliminating any need to cook – or clean up. (That kicked the experience up a notch or two, possibly 10.)

Youth and teens participated in separate programs at adjoining sites with special times to spend with their families. During the evenings, Child Care Assistants, a.k.a. CCAs, cared for their assigned children while the adults attended worship and study time. (Whoever came up with this system had heavenly inspiration.)

Midway through the week I found myself sitting in the dining hall marveling at the way families interacted with old and new friends. It brought home the reality that heaven is not about floating around on clouds playing harps. Heaven is described in Revelation 21 as a place of fellowship for those who put their trust in Jesus. Now that is one endless experience I look forward to having.

Share your thoughts about heaven at barbhowe.org.

Integrity Speaks

One-way street
Photo by Andres Urena on Unsplash

“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,” (Proverbs 10:9).

One of my early “Dad” memories is from a time we were returning home from an ice cream parlor. Quite by mistake, he drove the wrong way down a side street that had recently been designated one-way in the opposite direction we were traveling. Realizing his error, Dad attempted to turn off at the first intersection. However, a police officer who was parked beyond the intersection saw Dad.

I vividly remember sitting in the car and listening as Dad calmly explained the reason for his error. He received no sympathy. The officer issue a ticket that Dad respectfully accepted and paid without grumbling. 

A person’s true character is revealed when they do not get the answer they want. It has been more than 60 years since that event and nearly 40 years since Dad’s passing. Still, my memories of Dad are filled with examples that showed he was a man of integrity and honorable character.

Most of what children learn from adults comes not by the words they hear but by the actions they see. Kids have a way of knowing when these two things are incompatible. Integrity, or the lack of it, is especially notable when we choose to do what is right in the eyes of God instead of doing what “I want” to achieve a short-term personal gain.

How would you measure up? The question should give you pause. A large part of the spiritual legacy you leave to your grandchildren will be evidenced by the integrity you display on a daily basis. Jesus demonstrated how to do what is right under all circumstances. And, He promised to help us stay strong when temptation hits us in the face. Ultimately, your reputation for doing what is right will show your children’s children the right way to live. And that is more valuable than gold.

Share your thoughts at: SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.

Prepare for Battle

samuel-zeller-364234-unsplash
Photo by Samule Zeller on Unsplash

If Satan wants anything, he wants to prevent the spread of Christ’s message for salvation. When a grandparent decides to share their faith with a grandchild, it’s a sure bet the enemy will send some flaming arrows to block the communication. This is often referred to as spiritual warfare.

The weapons Satan launches might be directed against you and your family members, or they might show up as unexpected distractions. Just know the more fervently you work to honor God with your legacy, the more resistance you will face. Don’t give in. Let God take care of the details. If you’ve studied the Bible, you already know the victory belongs to Him.

You also know the opposition can get fierce. Let’s face it, if your testimony of faith were not powerful, Satan would not have any interest in trying to stop it’s spread. For this reason, consider the fact that you are facing opposition to be a testament to the glory of God. Get your battle plan in order.

“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Put on the full armor of God,
so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes,
you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,
with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith,
with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6: 10-17 NIV).

I sometimes find songs are helpful to keep my mind cleared from spiritual distractions. The Battle Belongs to the Lord, by Petra is one such song. Give it a listen. 

Are you facing a spiritual battle? Share your thoughts at: SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.

Speak Boldly as a Lion

 

tom-skarbek-wazynski-226342-unsplash
Photo by Tom Skarbek-Wazynski on Unsplash

Blurring the line between leisurely pastimes and lessons of faith may be as easy as popping a video into the player on a rainy afternoon. Its a chance to sit down with a grandchild for a respite from the constant motion. (In my case, said motions often involves dodging projectiles and bracing for body slams.) With the right video, I have found it is possible to get even the most physically active child to park it long enough to have an in-depth conversation.

A few days ago my grandson and I watched the Narnia movie together. And as we watched, I made a point of explaining the parallel between Aslan and Jesus as well as the one between the White Witch and Satan. C. S. Lewis made them obvious enough that even a child could follow what was being presented. All I had to do was ask a few questions and toss in a few comments about the allure of sin and its destructive outcome. (I’m told by a reliable source in my home that my grandson and I engage in some pretty lively discussions.) We also talked about the power of Jesus’ love to overcome death for those who trust in Him.

It has been a few years since I read the entire Chronicles of Narnia. I’m now tasked with locating the source of the western lamp-post near the wardrobe entrance and determining when the castle at Cair Paravel came into existence. Hopefully, these answers will fuel my grandson’s interest in the story line enough to get him reading the other books in the Narnia Chronicles. I do this because part of my job as a Christian grandparent is to share the reasons for my faith.

Share your thoughts at: SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.

 

Equipped to Disciple

equipping_grandparents_3d

Contrary to messages from post-modern culture saying we deserve the right to endlessly pursue leisure, God has given a biblical mandate that we are to impact future generations with the Gospel. Quite honestly, His plan offers a more fulfilling use of our time as well as a greater sense of joy.

It means learning to partner within our Church community to accomplish His plan. But, where does one begin when churches overlook the powerful influence grandparents have on their grandchildren? I suggest picking up a copy of the book Equipping Grandparents from Legacy Coalition. In fewer than 100 pages, this little gem packs valuable insights from some of today’s powerhouse faith leaders.

Equipping Grandparents broadens the definition of “family” to recapture the inter-generational worship and shared activities that once typified church communities. It’s time to incorporate this creative approach in the shared objective of passing our faith to the youngest generation. It’s a “win-win” for church leaders and members alike. 

Visit the Legacy Coalition website.

Share your thoughts at: SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.

Growth Chart

aron-visuals-320023-unsplash (1)
Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

It seems like just yesterday when my grandson was an infant. With a hint of nostalgia, I remind myself that as of one week ago he advanced to the rank of 2nd grader. Sometimes it seems improbable that he is growing so quickly. Whereas I once read baby’s board books to him, he now reads children’s stories to me. Instead of me arranging crackers and sippy cups on his baby tray, he now sets our dinner table with plates and silverware.

It’s all good stuff, all part of his march to adulthood. The other day, I noted a conversation we were having had notched up on the maturity level. His ability to defend a stated viewpoint has advanced, and he knows how to locate documented information (mostly online) to support his ideas and assertions. As well, he holds me to a higher standard of accountability for the things I say and do.

At seven years of age, he is beginning to understand the intricacies of ethical choices that people make. His words belie an understanding of the way people relate to one another, and a growing awareness of right and wrong. Quite naturally, he recognizes the presence of a Creator God who set the standard for human behavior.

One of our long-standing habits is reading together the accounts from a Children’s Bible. He has favorite stories, but my husband and I intentionally slip in a few different ones to expand the breadth of his biblical knowledge. This practice affords us opportunities to hold the kinds of conversations that cut through the superficial and draw from the wisdom God is waiting to unfold for us. It makes me eager to chart the direction of his growing understanding of God; mine as well.

Share your thoughts at: SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.