Time is running out… The American family is in crisis… These are messages I’ve heard repeatedly during the past few days, warnings that few would dispute.
A pastor wisely shared a quote: “Crisis is a good editor.” It referenced a commentary he read about the 9/11 tragedy, when the basics of life were broken down to the few that really mattered. For the briefest of moments, nobody cared how their portfolio stacked up, what kind of car they drove, or whether their fashions were trendy. At that moment, we contemplated our own eternities.
A longtime friend visited us recently. She has never been married and never had children. She did, however, keep herself actively involved in the lives of children. Now as a grandmotherly figure, she talks candidly about her childhood goals and dreams, and how God graciously allowed her to realize them.
While visiting, she expressed an interest in writing about her journey from child to adult. This lady has a story worth hearing. Truthfully, we all do. Everyone gets hit with situations that challenge the foundations of our faith. And it sometimes takes years to overcome unwarranted guilt or shame.
That’s what makes the life messages we share with children so valuable for them. Our stories give us the power to help children face personal problems, such as self-image and self-esteem, before they grow into full-blown crises. The more transparent we allow ourselves to become about our own childhood experiences, the better we create opportunities to speak wisdom into the lives of children and to impact their futures in positive ways.
The beautiful thing is that it works with other people’s grandchildren as well as your own. You never know when they might need to hear your story. Be generous with your stories and the wisdom you have gained from living through difficulties. The best part is that you don’t even need to have grandchildren to do it.
You probably know plenty of children who could benefit from the positive Christian message of an adult who has been where they are now and allowed God to carry them through. They do not need to be your grandchildren.
Question: Why would any self-respecting, sensible, mature woman choose to go fishing with her family to celebrate her birthday instead of spending a day hanging out at a spa or tasting her way through multiple courses at a gourmet eatery? Here are five reasons.
Reason #1 – Because her family consists entirely of males, all of whom jump at the chance to fish – especially if it involves fishing off a pontoon on a beautiful day. Plus, they get really excited about your birthday when it involves something they really like to do.
Reason #2 – Because said males made the effort to pull together a gourmet picnic lunch to accompany said fishing trip and you didn’t have to lift a finger. You just have to sit and smile a lot.
Reason #3 – Because cruising around a lake on a pontoon for an entire afternoon on a beautiful day is something you enjoy, even if no fish make it onto the vessel.
Reason #4 – Because spending time with your family can be more fun than spending the day alone – even if it means no masseuse is involved.
Reason #5 – Because, hey why not? Maybe, just maybe, said woman likes to occasionally dangle a little bit of fishing line in the water.
The big lesson I learned about choosing how to celebrate special occasions is to tap into the things everyone in my family loves. It is a blessing to think this will undoubtedly become a fond memory for all of us, especially my grandson. One of the best moments was when my he said, “I want to do this for my birthday.” I could have guessed that one.
This summer my writing detoured in the direction of teen boys as my grandson grows ever nearer to the double-digits (age 10). The series of short stories I began in June seems to be blossoming into a novel about two teenage cousins. It’s been a fun journey so far with generally positive responses to initial readings.
One of my characters’ exploits involves calf roping on a dairy farm. All of my relevant past experiences were quickly tapped for this one before I launched into research. When my available resources were tapped, including conversations with my sister who once owned a non-dairy farm, I still had a few doubts about my story’s accuracy. I needed to know how the calf in my story would be likely to respond to the situation presented.
Question: where does a city girl find someone with expertise about Jersey calves?
Answer: the Minnesota State Fair Dairy Barn.
It didn’t take long to find a young lady who was managing her family’s livestock at the Fair. I introduced myself, explained what I was writing ,and asked if she would answer a few questions. My subject matter expert graciously confirmed all of my assumptions about the personality quirks of a Jersey calf, and she appeared to enjoy being consulted on the topic.
This encounter reinforced some valuable lessons for me and other grandparents:
We are never too old to learn something new.
Give credit to younger generations for the things they know.
A friendly inquiry is a handy tool for conducting essential research.
Many thanks to the young lady who shared her expertise about dairy farming, especially Jersey cow behavior.
If I ran a poll of all the single dads I know, none would be likely to say raising their kids alone was a preference. My observation is they made the best possible choice under difficult circumstances, if they even had a choice. Dads who take on the solo role of raising kids deal with the same issues that single moms do. All single parents travel a tough road, however, dads often get little recognition for their efforts.
It doesn’t seem to matter if the kids are toddlers or teenagers. Single dads juggle work schedules, school schedules, home maintenance, and all the other details of daily living – cell phones in hand and timetables down to a science. Their favorite pastime appears to be napping, if and when said opportunities present themselves.
As a grandparent, you might have a single dad in your circle of family and friends. Consider it a chance to connect with two generations at one time with something good for all parties involved. The dads get an extra hand, eyes, and ears to keep track of the kids, the kids get extra attention, and you get to see the world through fresh, young eyes.
A few days ago, my husband and I took a couple of single dads and their kids fishing on a rented pontoon. We brought snacks, tackle, and poles. While the kids fished and ate nonstop, the dads kicked back to relax. We drifted our way into an evening that nobody wanted to end. It inspired me to consider other things we might do together.
I have found one of the simplest ways to connect with my grandson is to spend time doing things we enjoy in common. The best part is that we have time to relax and talk to each other while we’re engaged in a fun activity.
I’ve been working on my watercolor painting skills. Trust me, I need lots of practice. When my grandson is with me during the summer, we occasionally sit on the porch and paint together. I sometimes explain techniques I am learning or we talk about the subjects we are painting.
We were both painting outdoor scenes a few days ago. Mine was a big sky over a farm, his was a small sky over a volcanic dinosaur-inhabited landscape. The conversation about our subjects flowed seamlessly into a discussion about God’s creation. Mostly he talked while I listened.
My grandson told me things he learned from Genesis during his first year of school. We talked about Noah and the Ark; how Noah did what God commanded; and how God saved Noah, his family, and the different kinds of animals from the flood. Double bonus: time to paint and to share our faith!
When was the last time you introduced one of your grandchildren to a favorite hobby? I highly recommend it.
During the off season, I use the best quality canned tomatoes available to make my grandson’s favorite Homemade Tomato-Basil Soup. That all changes mid-summer, when the vines in my little veggie garden start kicking out mouthwatering, vine-ripened fruits. This week, I fulfilled my grandson’s menu request – and watched it vanish before my eyes. Start to finish, it takes about 20 minutes to make this flavorful soup.
Ingredients (approximate measurements)
1 tablespoon each, olive oil and butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
10-12 fresh, ripe garden tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 handful fresh basil, torn or chopped
(Optional) small amount of milk or cream
In deep pan, slowly heat onion in olive oil and butter until translucent. Add garlic and cook an additional minute or two. Add salt and pepper.
In separate pan, lower tomatoes into boiling water and heat for 1 minute. Remove from pan with slotted spoon and place in a bowl to cool. Remove cores and skin, discard. Use your hands to smash tomato pulp. Add to onion-garlic mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook 5 minutes. Add basil leaves.
Use an immersion blender (or standard blender) to mix ingredients to desired consistency. If needed, thin mixture with a small amount of water or tomato juice. Adjust seasonings to suit your family’s tastes. Serve with a sprinkling of grated cheese and/or chopped basil leaves.
My grandson likes a little milk added to his serving bowl to reduce the acidity of the tomatoes. He mixes it into the soup with the bit of cheese I sprinkle on top.
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.
Independence 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.
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: SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.