Take a Break

Photo by Barb Howe

It surprised me to count the number of grandparents I know who are involved with raising their grandchildren. I’m not talking about the ones who get to see them during occasional holiday visits. I’m talking about the ones who are on the front lines of child rearing, supporting their adult children. It’s a tough job to keep up with the energy level of anyone younger than 20 years of age when you’re sporting a crop of grey hair. 

Allow yourself to take a break. It’s a good idea for everyone involved, including those grandchildren. Breathe deeply, take in the splendor of all the good things God has given. Genesis reminds me that He placed the first man and woman in a garden, so gardens are where I like to be when rejuvenation is what I need. A large, public landscape garden near my home is where I go to find year-round periods of refreshment.

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.”
Psalm 62:5 

Visiting this place also reminds me that any challenges I am facing have already been resolved by the Creator of all things. It gives me pause to recall the many times He has carried me through trials of many kinds. My job is to allow Him to work in me, to continue the transformation of my heart, so I can be more like Jesus. It is a huge task.

His reward to me is the blessing of peace, joy, and love. Perhaps that is why, in the first chapter of Genesis, God rested on the seventh day. I believe he was demonstrating to us the need for periodic moments of down time. It’s as if He is telling us to “take a break” so we can be reminded that our grandchildren truly are a blessing from the Lord.

“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”
Psalm 116:7 

Read more posts at barbhowe.org.

Life At the Speed of Age

Image Courtesy of NASA

My grandson cannot wait until his next birthday. His anticipation begins the day after his current birthday, meaning he dedicates approximately 364 days to the task. Several decades ago, I felt the same way. For children, the months between birthdays seem to travel at the speed of snail. For those who have been practicing adulthood for many years, time seems to pass at the ever-increasing speed of age, more akin to the speed of sound. 

In my youth, I considered life to be a long journey that would culminate in death at some inconceivable future date. Then reality hit home after a few friends and family members died with unexpectedly short numbers of years. All the observations from members of past generations about the brevity of life suddenly became real. 

James 4:14 says,
“What is your life? You are a mist
that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

While I hope for many more years, each day that passes brings me closer to the brink of eternity. Experience reminds me that not one of us knows what will happen tomorrow. We can only put it to use in the present what we have learned from the past. 

The awareness of this life’s brevity and the permanent home that follows ignited an urgency that I am running out of time to fulfill my most important task: sharing my reason for hope with the people in my life. How sad it would be to know I missed an opportunity to share that hope with the ones I love. It’s all about living at the speed of age.

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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.

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 #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.

Writing About Grandchildren – Inspiration #2 of 5

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Photo courtesy of 85fifteen on Unsplash

Special occasions are naturals for inspiration with built-in excitement and action. And they often involve memorable traditions or celebrations: Christmas, Easter, birthdays, and so on. Celebrations are like recurring distance markers on your road map that show how much ground has been covered.

I like to jot down specific details at the time they occur. They come in handy when I’m ready to write and want to include all the important stuff. Sometimes the little things that we might not consider valuable at the time provide family, cultural, and historical information for future generations. Include them. I’ve had many conversations with my siblings about our family, as well as items that were common to the era. They add a lot of interest.

Here’s a snippet from my grandson’s fifth birthday celebration. It makes me laugh every time I read it.

This was the most fun I’ve had on a birthday for as long as I can remember. I’ve learned by experience that anticipation is part of the fun. You chose the balloons for your party and went with me to pick up your Spiderman cake from the neighborhood Cub grocery store. You were so excited, you almost dropped the cake into our grocery cart. We took lots of photos during the party; my favorite is one of you getting ready to stuff a big ol’ hot dog into your mouth.

Will the children born 50 years from now relate to Spiderman, or play dates? Maybe not. These everyday items could become today’s version of dial phones and Dick Tracy secret code watches of yesteryear. Elements like this add a touch of nostalgia to a story, and that never seems to go out of style.

Of course, you don’t need to include everything from your notebook. Keeping the story focused is part of the territory. My notebook is still a source of chuckles, tears, and reminders of my many blessings. I hope you benefit these ideas.

Watch for three more sources of inspiration coming in future posts and on my website at SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.

Let me know if this is helpful at barbhowe.org.

Grandparenting at the Speed of Age

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Photo courtesy of Andre Benz on Unsplash

Time is experienced differently by children and adults. Have you ever found yourself thinking, “Didn’t we just celebrate” (a birthday, Christmas, or the start of summer) a few days ago?” From a child’s perspective, the time between annual events must seem endless. To me, not so much. The difference seems to stem from the ratio of years to age.

A one-year cycle represents something like 12 percent of an 8-year-old’s life, a far smaller percentage for those in my age range. I thought about this the day after my grandson celebrated a special event, when he suggested what he wanted to do the next time around, as if he might forget before it happened. Do your grandkids do this stuff?

From an eternal perspective, we are all speeding through time. The difference is that youth views life as a long road with an eventual end; oldsters reflect on the long journey traveled while pondering our ultimate destination. An abstract conclusion ages into an imminent reality. Having experienced this transition, I now view each new year as a possibility, eternity as a certainty.

Nobody can accurately count our remaining days on earth. That could be why some of us live as if today may be our last. One of our duties  as grandparents is to prepare future generations for eternity, and to do so in a manner that balances the delights of this life with the unimaginable joy of meeting our Savior face to face.

We are not responsible for bringing our grandchildren to faith in Christ. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit. Our duty is to present the Word of God to younger generations and encourage them by example. It means obeying the command given to us in Deuteronomy 4:9: “Be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”

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An Opportunity for Grandparents

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Photo courtest of Sarah Noltner on Unsplash

On March 9, 2019, New Hope Church in New Hope, MN is hosting a conference where Grandparenting is the subject and Dr. Josh Mulvihill is the speaker.

Conferences like this are designed to set aside time for anyone (from soon-to-be grandparents to those who have older grandchildren) to develop new friendships while exploring our role as faith leaders in our families.

About the Speaker

Dr. Mulvihill is the Executive Director of Church and Family Ministry at Renewanation, and is a founding member of the Legacy Coalition. He holds a PhD from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and has been a pastor for nearly 20 years. In addition, Dr. Mulvihill has authored and edited numerous books including: Biblical Grandparenting, Equipping Grandparents, Preparing Children for Marriage, Roots Kids Worship and Rooted Kids Curriculum.

Conference Topics:

  • Why Grandparenting Matters
  • Recognizing the Cultural Messages About Grandparenting
  • Understanding the Biblical Role of Grandparents
  • Discipling Grandchildren: 4 Biblical Methods Every Grandparent Can Do
  • Discipling Grandchildren: 4 More Biblical Methods Every Grandparent Can Do

Learn more about Dr. Josh Mulvihill at GospelShapedFamily.com

Learn more about The Legacy Coalition.

Conference Link and Registration

And, don’t forget to visit my website at barbhowe.org.