Goof Balls

The Driving Range

Here it is, the closest flag on the practice green where I am showing off my lack of golf skills. It’s about 120 yards out and with a little luck, I can bounce a golf ball about halfway to the flag. The few occasions when I manage to get near the goal come as total surprises. Those only happen after a lot of misses. I keep swinging through those crummy hits, partly because it felt good to exercise, and partly because I want to see if practice really does make perfect.

Being a writer, my thoughts automatically turn to the discipline of writing. Like golf, or any other learned skill, writing takes practice. Don’t try to write the next great novel on a practice round. Just see if you can improve one technique. Read a book on the topic, or try out some of the techniques your favorite authors use. Allow yourself the simple pleasure of practicing.

Several people have told me they would like to write a memoir for their grandchildren. What’s stopping them? “I’m not a good writer” or “I don’t have time” are the most common excuses I hear. That’s where practice rounds come in. They provide a chance to test out your skills without high expectations. Plus, practice doesn’t require a lot of time.

Try it. When you find yourself thinking about a grandchild, jot those ideas down in a notebook or on your laptop. You’ll gain a sense of accomplishment and might even improve your writing skill. Who knows, you might hit a perfect shot to your goal.

Thank God for Freedom

20170704_143839-e1499258503502.jpgIndependence Day is a cause for huge celebration in the town where I live, where three days of celebrations culminate in an annual fireworks display. People deck themselves out in red-white-blue and remind their young ones that we live in a country where freedom reigns supreme. We celebrate the men and women that fought to keep us free. For some, that freedom comes at great cost.

While watching this year’s parade, I noticed a few participants and onlookers were in wheelchairs. Others wore caps or shirts indicating a branch of service or a specific war. Over time, I have come to appreciate the sacrifices all military personnel and veterans have made on my behalf. In keeping with tradition, four planes flew overhead at the beginning of the parade. During the third pass, one plane veered away from the others, signifying pilots that did not return from their missions.

Our grandchildren need to know the right thing to do isn’t always the easy thing to do. That’s the approach Jesus took when He walked on earth. He spoke the Truth when political and religious leaders opposed Him. But unlike the valiant efforts of our military men and women, Jesus willingly sacrificed His life so all who put their trust in Him could have eternal life. The message is there in John 3:16. If you haven’t already done so, share it with your grandkids.

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Cars 3 Lessons for Grandparents

Cars 3 [1]
Image courtesy of Pixar Studios
This week, my husband and I took our grandson to see the new Cars 3 movie. It is a family friendly movie with a revved up story line. While it entertained our grandson, we caught the message that we are to share our wisdom with future generations.

In the movie, Lightning McQueen is an aging patriarch of auto racing who becomes a mentor to a talented but underappreciated young female race car named Cruz Ramirez. Their road is filled with potholes, but both rise to the challenges. He is forced to face the fact that an exciting chapter of his life can now only be seen in the rear view mirror. Under his guidance, Cruz gains confidence to pursue her dreams.

Through the process, Lightning has to dig deep into his past to unveil timeless lessons about work, ambition, and relationships. He hits overdrive, applying old-school techniques to Cruz’s high-tech training. The idea is clear that younger generations are eager to hear from their elders, willing to learn from them. In return, their enthusiasm gives a power boost for older models. It’s a win-win!

For me, the biggest message of Cars 3 is that God gives us no retirement plan. We might be slowing down, but as long as we have a few pistons firing, God wants us to continue sharing what we know about Him.

Resist the urge to put on the brakes. Take your grandkids to a movie – or to a ball game. Get to know their interests, hopes, and challenges. Tell them what you know about living a life of faith in God. Remember to tell me about your time together at:

The Upside of Powering Down

breno-machado-17850We had a blockbuster of a summer storm earlier this week. That’s saying something, because in my lifetime I’ve been in close proximity to a couple of tornadoes that came and went without much interruption to my life. The drill goes something like this: head to a windowless,  interior room (preferably in a basement), wait for the wind to pass, come out of hiding, assess damages, and resume normal activities.

This week’s storm was memorable in a different way. It decided to take out the electrical power for a large swath of my neighborhood, thereby rendering itself quite a nuisance. Temporary loss of power isn’t uncommon in my area. But losing power for more than a few hours is noticeable. This one had us down for 21 hours. That was long enough to seriously consider how much we take the use of electricity for granted.

I was home with my grandson when the storm hit. We got to sit downstairs with a smart phone in case a “duck for your life” alert was issued. It didn’t happen. We did spend some time reviewing those weather safety rules the meteorologists are always announcing on TV. We performed this little exercise for memory. No power means no TV, no WiFi, no computer… no whatever it is that uses electricity.

Admittedly, there were a few “I’m scared” moments. But, the storm’s upside came as a forced shutdown of normal activities. As happy as I was to hear the power kick in the following morning at 5:17 a.m. (according to my bedside clock), I understand those powerless hours were a gift in several ways.

  • It became a running joke to watch one another flip on a light switch for no apparent reason. We gained a new level of respect for flashlights.
  • With the fridge off limits and stove out of commission, our preferred lunch option was a few blocks away at the burger restaurant where power was not interrupted (a definite upside). Ditto for the dinner hour.
  • Back at home we assembled a puzzle, we colored, we read books, and we made up stories. We spent more time than usual directly interacting with one another.

My grandson seemed to relished the adventure and the extra measure of attention he had in the absence of electronic devices. We might try this exercise another day, except we will keep the fridge, stove, and lights turned on. 

How did you spend your time the last time you had to power down? Let me know at:

Give a Big Hurrah

dsc0166-e1496101143549.jpgThis is a weekend of graduations. On Friday, my grandson said goodbye to Kindergarten with a ceremony, a diploma, and a class picnic. His biggest hurrah is the end of afternoon naps. For me, it’s a reason to celebrate another milestone in his life. I noted some of his accomplishments: reading the entire Children’s Bible, mastery of the sign language alphabet, and an art portfolio that sings of his creative spirit.

Many of our friends were cheering their own graduates as well. The house parties and Facebook posts for elementary, high school, and college graduates lit up anticipation of the next great firsts as they bade farewell to the former. It’s easy to think the crisp edges of celebratory memories will resist fading. It’s natural to expect the coming years will brew up more reasons to celebrate. It’s common to forget this life doesn’t promise any nexts.

This is also the weekend we celebrate Memorial Day. It is a solemn reminder of those who sacrificed their remaining firsts so people like me can revel in the toothy grins of our favorite graduates. I share my appreciation for their sacrifices with my grandson, who has been known to freely erupt in a slightly off-key rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” at any given moment. I view it as part of his training as an American citizen to appreciate the blessings God has bestowed upon him. Give it a big hurrah!

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Our Greatest Feminist

Photo courtesy of Stefan Kunze

It surprised me to realize Jesus is a feminist, although it is should be no surprise considering the way He interacted with women in this world. Way back in Genesis 2:7, the “Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” It’s not until Genesis 2:21-22, after the garden had been planted, the rivers were nourishing it with heavenly waters, and Adam had taken up farming, that God introduced woman into His private paradise without so much as a mention of dust.

In contrast to the inequality argument some modern-day women profess, in God’s eyes, we have always been equal but different. Beyond the obvious physical characteristics, scientific research continues to reinforce the distinct qualities of male and female brains and genetics. I am a member of the female camp who appreciates how Jesus favored us. God did that!

The Bible contains numerous accounts of women who held positions of authority and ran successful businesses. Read a few about Lydia in Acts 16:12-15, 40; Philippians 1:1-10. Flip over to the account in Matthew 28. Mary and the other Mary were heading to the tomb where Jesus was placed after his death, only to find it empty. Talk about favoritism! The women were the ones who delivered the news to the men, who by the way were in hiding. (Granted, they were wanted by local authorities.)

When you talk to your granddaughters, do you remind them how Jesus demonstrated His love for women? Or, do you remain silent, leaving them to hear messages that are contradictory to the Word of God? I believe Jesus wants your granddaughters to be confident of themselves and to embrace the complementary role we have with men. Be an intentional part of that conversation.

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Six Big Lessons From a Pair of 6-Year-Old Boys

Photo by zivile-arunas

If you’re one of those lucky grandparents who interacts with grandsons (or boys in general) on a regular basis, these simple lessons could help keep you sane. For those whose grandsons are with you less frequently – say during holidays or out-of-town visits – keep these lessons handy. The same rule about sanity applies regardless of how often they are applied.

Lesson #1 – Let them be boys.

Give them space to get physical, both literally and figuratively. If that means a pillow fight in the living room, be sure the family heirlooms are safely stored away before the feathers fly. Trust me, this activity will only last for a few minutes, but the giggles will last for years.

Lesson #2 – Protect your property.

Plan diversionary tactics before the pillow fight begins. This reduces the need to blurt out such comments as “Watch out for that lamp!” or “Don’t try to knock off his head!” Instead, you might more calmly say, “Hey guys, let’s put the pillows back on the sofa (after we get it upright) and race the remote-control cars.” This tactic works most of the time.

Lesson #3 – Sometimes boys need to sit.

Slow the tempo with a few breaks to read stories. Ignore the initial objections and give them a few minutes to stop jumping on each other before you begin to read. Choose an easy-reader book on a topic of interest to them: dinosaurs, automotives, animals, or whatever… Before you know it, they’ll be pointing out “sight words” they learned at school. Score some points for providing a teachable moment. That’s about how long it will last.

Lesson #4 – Review lesson #1.

Expect to see more cars, wrestling, and/or makeshift weaponry as soon as a story is finished. You can’t keep a 6-year-old boy down for long. Divide that time in half if you’re dealing with two boys and divide that time in half for each additional boy. Put a reminder in the “notes” app on your phone, a pledge that you will allow your grandson to invite only one boy per play date.

Lesson #5 – Boys like to play with food.

Let them help prepare their own dinner – after they wash their hands, of course. Try something easy, say, “Make Your Own Pizzas”. Portion off thawed pizza dough and let each boy roll out his own crust. Then provide sauce, cheese, and pepperoni as toppings. (That’s probably all you’ll need, unless you have a culinary child prodigy who prefers exotic ingredients like green peppers or olives.)

Lesson #6 – Let them pray.

Before the guys tear into their pizzas, give them time to thank Jesus for the food they are about to eat. You might be surprised by what you hear when they are given the opportunity to express thanks in their own words. Sometimes, not always, in addition to thanks for food you may hear thanks for the time they had to play together and thanks for the people who allowed them to just be 6-year-old boys.

Bonus Lesson – For those who have granddaughters.

Take heart. For the most part, the lessons presented above apply to girls, except there is more pink and lace involved. Let them be girls, and let their interests drive the choice of activities. Yes, this might involve nail polish on grandpa’s fingernails to go along with his intriguing new hairstyle. Just keep a comb and some polish remover handy for after they leave.

Add your own lessons to the list at:


Vertical Vision

A photo (10)Saguaro cactus takes about a century to reach towering heights. It’s impressive to realize one of its seeds planted on the day a child is born might still be going strong when that child’s grandchildren have grandchildren of their own. It is during the latter years that the cactus makes its most iconic visual statement, pointing high into the heavens, sheltering families of birds, bats, and other desert animals.

Grandparents can be a lot like the Saguaro. After decades of living, those of us who reach our “mature” years have already overcome many of the challenges today’s younger generations are first experiencing. But, we have the advantage of knowing what it is like to grow up in a more innocent time with fewer distractions. We didn’t need reflecting gardens or meditation circles to calm the chaos.

As a child, I learned about my parents’ faith from the way they lived as well as the words they used. They were content with what they had and worked to improve their situation. I learned to appreciate their strong Christian ethics. Because of their financial sacrifices, I attended a private school that reinforced their lessons and laid down a solid base of knowledge for my continued education.

It wasn’t until years later that I fully appreciated what they had given to me. It helps to remind myself of this during times when I question the value of what I’m doing to teach my grandson about faith in Jesus. My grandson sees my struggles, but he also sees how God gives me strength to persevere when I would rather give up.

Children learn by what they observe. That’s one way vertical vision works. Vertical vision works best when I lift my eyes upward to the Father, who sustains me during the dry periods and refreshes my spirit. That is one lesson I hope to pass along.

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Kindergarten Romance


Romance begins early in life. Case in point: my grandson gives me a daily, person-by-person account of who in his kindergarten class is in love with whom. His definition of a healthy romantic relationship is: “She’s nice to me all the time and I’m nice to her all the time.” I have to admit that’s a pretty good place to start.

The love poems known as Song of Songs in the Bible are attributed to King Solomon. In the context of six songs, a man and a woman pour out their passions for one another. The poems explore the joys and challenges of romantic relationships from the heady fervor of a first kiss to the deep-seated conclusion of matured love. The thing is, children do not typically learn about love from poems. They learn about love by observation.

Children are subjected to the flawed secular portrayal of romance. But they also see the way adult family members demonstrate love for one another. Be aware, your romance is showing. The things you do are more telling than the words you use. Let them see you work through personal differences and face challenges together.

Teach them about romance by letting them see you holding hands and holding embraces. Show consistency in the way you interact with one another and with them. Welcome them into the circle of a family hug. It gives them a sense of stability. And remind children that they are genuinely worthy of love. This gives a true picture of God’s plan for romance.

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I was reminded last week that we all need to be taken care of from time to time. All the men in my family took turns dancing with the flu bug. My workout routine one day amounted to sprinting between the sick grandchild on the living room sofa and the equally sick husband propped up on our bed. Neither could muster enough energy to do anything beyond those things the flu makes one do.

Admittedly I’m not a doctor or a nurse. But during breaks between sprints, I consulted WebMD online and a wellness reference book we keep on hand for situations like this. I wanted to find out what I could do to help my guys regain a state of health. Thumbing through the pages seeking answers reminded me that our Great Physician has given us the most useful health reference book of all time. It’s called the Bible.

His reference book has answers for our every need, even the ones we don’t yet know we have. In Mark 2:17, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” God understands our persistent need for healing. He knows we are incapable of helping ourselves without Him. And He generously provides the services of the ultimate caregiver, the Holy Spirit, who ministers to our spiritual welfare. What a refreshing thought!

Addendum: That old adage “what goes around comes around” proved to be true at our house. A few days after my nursing duties were performed, I was down for the count fighting my own battle with the flu. This time my husband was the one wearing a nurse’s cap.