Thank You, Grandfather

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Photo courtesy of Rehan Syed of Unsplash

Most of my grandparents passed away before I was born. One was my maternal grandfather who emigrated to the United States through Ellis Island. Most of what I know about him came by way of oral storytelling passed down from generation to generation.

Some said he held a position similar to “town mayor” but gave it up when socialism was gaining a foothold in Eastern Europe. He reportedly envisioned conditions deteriorating during the early 20th Century. So he left his wife and their beautiful farmland to forge a new future in America.

As a non-English speaker, he worked as a laborer to earn enough money for my grandmother and their young family to join him. This grandfather died young, about one year after safely relocating his family to America. I am a United States citizen because of his selfless sacrifice. How I wish I knew more about him!

Have you ever wondered what future generations will remember about you? Memories fade and details become clouded with age. It’s the old “I’ll never forget” thing, until recollections grow dim. That happened with remembrances about my grandfather. I determined not to let it happen with my life.

In just a few hours each week, I compiled childhood stories to share with my extended family. Those stories turned into a small book that I distributed to them as gifts. It turned out to be easier and more fun that expected. A number of my relatives have thanked me for the effort.

Now it’s your turn. Set aside a few hours each week; mark it in your calendar. Start a Word or Google doc, or hand write your ideas into a journal. Before long, you’ll have a living history to pass along to your children’s children.

And let me know how it goes at: barbhowe.org.

A Gift That Can Only Come From You

rawpixel-191157-unsplashThe closer it gets to Christmas, the more I see FedEx trucks racing through my neighborhood. It almost makes me laugh to think how Santa’s annual run has been affected by the dawn of online shopping. Admittedly, I contributed a small measure to the congestion. Like my neighbors, I want to give gifts that family members want most, especially the children. But what do they really want?

I am blessed to spend time with my grandson. (Hint: technology makes this possible for grandparents who do not live near their grandchildren.) I’ve noticed something interesting that happens when our conversations are about him: he stops whatever he is doing and quiets down to listen intently. 

I believe children “need” to know they are loved by their grandparents. Some of the greatest gifts we can offer are words of encouragement and words of faith to guide them in life. Why not write a thoughtful note or letter as a permanent reminder of your love? 

Try this out. Choose a Bible verse that speaks of family generations. For example:  “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” (Psalm 127:3)

When you read this passage, what thoughts come to mind about your grandchild? Do you think about anticipating his/her birth? Are you reminded of the first time you saw this grandchild? What images come to mind about this child’s unique qualities? Your words have the power to give your grandchild encouragement and a never-ending reminder of your love.

Now, write a brief note or letter beginning with the following sentence:

I know God blessed me when you were born because…”

How will you package your gift? Here are some ideas. Write your message on a beautiful piece of stationery and put it in a frame. Wrap your special gift in a box and present it to your grandchild personally. Or, record a video of yourself reading the message and send it to your grandchild. Sharing your godly love for a grandchild is one gift that can only come from you.

Share your thoughts at barbhowe.org.

Strengthen Your Family With Faith

Grand Parenting

The book, Grand Parenting, by Dr. Josh Mulvihill is a must read for all Christian grandparents. It is packed with content that directly addresses four aspects of life vital to every family: cultural messages about the role of grandparents, God’s purpose and design for families, discipleship practices for grandparents, and practical steps to strengthen family relationships.

Drawing on verses found throughout Scripture, Grand Parenting contrasts misguided worldly messages with the eternal Truths presented in the Bible. Mulvihill reminds grandparents why their influence matters to the spiritual lives of their grandchildren, and why it is second only to that of parents. He examines different aspects of intentionally teaching grandchildren about Jesus as well as the importance of modeling a life of faith.

Grand Parenting is a resource to keep on your bookshelf, a reference you will want to pick up and review time and again. In addition to the information presented in this book, Mulvihill includes innumerable other discipleship materials available in the marketplace. Among them is a grandparenting video series with questions to use individually or as part of a group study. For more information about resources, visit legacycoalition.com.

Share your ideas at barbhowe.org.

Last-Minute or Lasting Christmas Gifts

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Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

Brick and mortar or online, stores are packed with people trying to find the perfect gift for everyone on their list. It might be quick to throw something in the cart and run to the checkout. But it only takes a few minutes to find a gift that packs an eternal spiritual impact on the lives of your parents, your children, and your children’s children.

Here are a few resources for gifts with a significant, memorable, and enduring shelf life:

Gospel Shaped Family

The Legacy Coalition

Bethany House Publishing – Grandparents

Let this be the year to give gifts of faith for generations yet to come.

Share your resource ideas at barbhowe.org.

Hope for Rejected Grandparents

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Photo courtesy of Julie Johnson on Unsplash

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

As grandparents, our access to grandchildren is dependent upon the relationships we have with our adult children. It can be a challenge to maintain that perspective when we do not agree with their decisions. Sometimes parents oppose a relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. They may even be separated by physical distance.

As disheartening as these situations may be, they are not a reason to lose hope. Rather, they are opportunities to trust God for the outcome while continuing to pray for His guidance in the way we react to our circumstances.

One widow was disheartened when her son and daughter-in-law moved out of state, taking her two grandchildren with them. Opposing this grandmother’s faith, the father severed all contact between her and his children. After weeks of prayer and fasting, the grandmother began sending gifts and cards filled with words of hope to her grandchildren. At their insistence the father relented, allowing visits between his children and their beloved grandmother to resume.

A divorced man found himself left out of his daughter’s family celebrations. After coming to faith in Christ, he admitted his hot temper and accusing words contributed to the distance between him and the people he loved. With a contrite heart, he humbly reached out to his daughter, asking her to forgive his past sins. She was hesitant at first. But after he consistently and respectfully persevered, the daughter opened her home, and eventually her heart to him. He now has a thriving relationship with his daughter and grandchildren.

These two grandparents chose to trust in God when there was no evidence or human reason to believe their damaged family relationships would be restored. Rather than give up, they persisted, they prayed, and they pursued the goal of restoration. In doing so, they cast their anxieties to the Lord and trusted Him for the results.

To anyone who is facing this dilemma I say, “Don’t give up.” With utmost humility, ask God to pave the way for you to have a godly influence on the lives of your grandchildren. Be patient. God already know what you need and what your grandchildren need. And remember to give God all the glory for the way He answers your request.

Share your stories of hope at barbhowe.org.

Jot it Down

JournalWhen I told a friend about a memoir book I wrote for my grandson, he said, “I wish one of my grandparents had done that for me.” I’ve heard his sentiment expressed countless times by people who would love to know how older members of their families felt about them. Adults want to know how childhood experiences helped form them into the people they are today.

Thinking back, my grandson’s memoir came to be in a roundabout way. I started jotting down notes from each of his early childhood visits, a journal of sorts. Nothing fancy, just a  record of his growth milestones. Then I began reading some of the entries I had written. His first steps inspired a life lesson about getting back up and trying again. Facing the giant playground slide became a life lesson about conquering fear.

Before long, real-life stories about my grandson’s experiences began to reminded me of various accounts I was reading in the Bible. It was easy to find verses that expressed the same life lessons I was penning into my journal. (In fact, there was often more than one verse that could be applied.) I rewrote each story about my grandson’s life into a memoir, ending each chapter with a relevant verse from the Bible.

Including Bible verses underscores the reality that God’s Word is as valuable now as it has ever been. It also serves as a reminder that despite all the advances being made in today’s world, human nature does not change. We are all flawed creatures in need of our unchanging, ever-present, all-knowing, loving Savior. 

When you think of something you want to say about your grandchild’s life, jot it down! Who knows? Your words may become more valuable than you realize. Someday you may have a grandchild who says, “I am so thankful that my grandparent cared to write about me, and to share their faith in Christ.”

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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.