Superpower Grandparents

I posed a question to a panel of theologians at a family camp designed for Christians. It went: “How would you counsel Christian grandparents to leave their faith legacy for their grandchildren when their parents are unwilling or unable to do so?” A large, collective groan from the attendees confirmed that I am not alone in this need. The panel members, all of whom were in the midst of raising young children, gave tenderhearted answers. Thankfully, they confirmed much of what I already am doing. They also offered added insights.

Their first bit of advice was to pray; pray for our grandchildren and for our children. (Note: It’s never too late to pray for your children.) There is never a time when prayer is not needed. There is never a time when we know better than God what our families need. There is nothing we are experiencing that God cannot change in an instant. I am reminded to lay my burden on God and then step aside and get out of His way. 

Secondly, one pastor reminded us that we are Superpower Grandparents. As the Farmers’ Insurance commercial tagline says: “We know a thing or two, because we’ve seen a thing or two,” grandparents have experienced what our adult children are now going through. It’s not that we swoop to the rescue wearing flowing capes, it’s that we care enough about our family members to prioritize their eternal salvation. We hold a powerful influence over the lives of our grandchildren, demonstrated in the way we speak and interact with them, and the example we demonstrate through our conduct. Second to their parents, we are the most powerful influences in their lives. I encourage you to use this influence wisely.

Finally, we exert a powerful influence over our grandchildren in the messages we speak to them. You have probably heard the saying that children live up to the expectations people assign to them. As influential grandparents, let’s remember to speak positive words into the lives of our grandchildren. When children grow up hearing things like, “You’re never going to amount to anything,” or “Why would anyone want to be your friend?” they believe it. When they hear us say things like, “God has a wonderful plan and a purpose for your life,” or “I thank God for allowing me to be your grandma,” our grandchildren internalize those positive affirmations. 

At the end of the Q&A at camp, one of the panelists strongly suggested that grandparents write blessings that grandchildren can read throughout their lives. It doesn’t matter if your words are profound. It does matter if they come from the heart; that’s what makes you a superpower grandparent. Ask the Lord to give you the words to reinforce your grandchildren’s walk with God.

“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.” Ephesians 6:10-11

You can stand up against evil. I have learned to rely on God when…

March to a Blessed Beat

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

If your grandchild has ever told you they felt like nothing special, you can honestly inform them the Bible and science concur: they are, indeed, very special.

You are unique in all the world. 

Consider all the possible combinations of human genetics. We know DNA, a.k.a., Deoxyribonucleic acid, is made up of four types of nitrogen bases: adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G) and cytosine (C). The complete DNA instruction book, or genome, for a human contains about 3 BILLION bases and about 20,000 genes on 23 pairs of chromosomes. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, the sequence of these bases determines what biological instructions are contained in a strand of DNA. For example, one sequence might instruct for blue eyes, while another might instruct for brown. And, that’s just for starters. The specific combination of DNA sequence strands that make up our bodies is uniquely our own. 

The Bible completes the picture of how God created each one of us to be distinctive by acknowledging our spiritual as well as our physical makeup. Perhaps your grandson has an endearing smile, a tender heart, or a laugh that lights up a room. Your granddaughter might have a curl in her hair that bounces with excitement when she is happy, a way of cuddling on your lap that makes you wish the moment could last forever. Each child has personality characteristics that make them distinctive.

Spend a few moments thinking about your grandchild. If asked to describe that child, what would come to mind? Allow your imagination to roam a bit, until a mental image becomes clear. Then pick up a pen and begin to write.

Some of my favorite things about you are …

Have You Blessed a Grandchild This Month?

Earlier this year, I suggested a way to pour forth blessings over your grandchildren using a selection of inspirational Bible verses and writing prompts. For me, it is a mindful way to present the ones I love before the Lord.

If you haven’t tried writing a blessing over your grandchild, I urge yo to pick up a pen and some paper. Here is a sample of the kind of message you might convey:

January – You are God’s creation. 

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)

We met on your first day of life. You were squirming around in an incubator after a challenging entry into this world. Inside a perfectly formed body, your fighting spirit was fully evident. At that time, I couldn’t have known how expertly our Lord had fashioned you for the path ahead. My prayer that day was for God to exert a powerful presence over your life. He has answered that prayer time and again. Your tender heart is one of His gifts. It is evident to people who meet you, even for brief periods of time. I pray for you to continue using everything that God had endowed upon you in ways that honor him and attract others to Christ. 

Choosing a Bible verse to write a blessing for a grandchild is something that brings blessings to both of you.

Blessings by the Month

The Bible clearly instructs us, in places such as Deuteronomy, Psalms, and Ephesians, to pass along our testimonies of faith in God. This presents a wonderful opportunity for grandparents to pray special blessings over grandchildren throughout the year. 

Like adults, children enjoy reading notes and letters, especially ones that are written about them personally. When a grandparent puts their love for a grandchild into words, the messages become treasured keepsakes that grow deeper in value over time. The power of such words can have a positive impact for decades. 

Here is a way to pour forth blessings throughout the year. Starting with a selection of 12 inspirational Bible verses and writing prompts, send one personal note or letter each month to your grandchildren. Use the suggested Bible verses and prompts below, or choose others that speak to your heart. At the end of the year, you will have prayed 12 blessings over each of your grandchildren. 

January

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)
I remember when I first met you. You were…

February

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” (Psalm 127:3)
God blessed me when you were born. I know this because…

March

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14)
You are unique in all the world. Some of my favorite things about you are…

April

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)
You can always count on God. I know God will care for you. Trust Him when…

May

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
You won’t go wrong if you do what is right. When you give your best in all you do…

June

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” (Psalm 36:7)
You are loved even when you mess up. God’s love never ends. I know He forgives us because…

July

“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.” (Ephesians 6:10-11)
You can stand up against evil. I have learned to rely on God when…

August

“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.” (Matthew 17:20)
You can do all things with God. I have seen you show confidence in God when…

September

“Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20)
You have a lot to be thankful for. I am thankful to God for you because…

October

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
You are a reflection of God. I see the Holy Spirit working in you. It shows when…

November

“Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:19b)
One of my favorite songs reminds me of you. It says…

December

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)
Your Heavenly Father has something to tell you. In the Bible, you will find…

By the end of the year, you will have given your grandchildren a dozen reasons to put their faith in Christ. Think about this. God, who created the entire universe, stepped down from Heaven to take on human form as the person of Jesus. The only one qualified because of His sinless life, Jesus gave His life to pay for all the sins you and I have done. Jesus did this so we can live in Heaven with Him for eternity. All we need to do is accept His gift and allow Jesus into our hearts. Tell Him something like this: 

Lord Jesus, I need You. 
I am sorry for all the bad things I have done. (Romans 3:23) 
Thank You for dying on the cross to pay for my sins. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) 
I choose to trust You as my Savior and Lord. (John 3:18) 
I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and gave His life for me. (Galatians 2:20)
Lord, make me the kind of person You want me to be.

Let this be a unique year of blessing for your grandchildren. Give them a dozen reasons to put their faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Ho Ho Whole Lotta’ Memories

As has become a tradition at our home, our grandson plays a huge role in transforming our house into an exuberant display of Christmas greenery, ornaments, blinking lights, and so much more. It struck me how this decoration overabundance is replete with family memories spanning at least four generations. 

The carved wooden trio of gingerbread men made by my brother reminded me of long-ago years when our dad taught him how to use carpentry tools. A set of ornaments listing attributes of Christ caused me to pray for my sister, who sent them to me as a gift one year.

My husband expressed delight when he unwrapped the toy vehicles his father made more than 50 years ago when he was a high school shop teacher. Then, holding his copy in hand, my husband reminisced about the college professor who read the classic, A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas to his students  each year during this season.

Some of the most fetching moments occurred when my 10-year-old grandson dug through boxes filled with bubble-wrapped contents to find the things most dear to him. The first thing out of the box was the animated reindeer that plays a series of scratchy Christmas melodies as it nods its head. Following close behind came the Chihuahua that sings a Spanish version of “Where is Santa Claus” while shaking maracas. My grandson lined the Christmas stockings along the fireplace wall and hung his personal collection of  hand-made ornaments on the tree, beginning with the one he made while attending preschool.

It appears our efforts to intentionally instruct our grandson about Jesus are making a lasting impression. When I saw him carefully handling the soft-sided nativity set we found during his toddler years, his comment, “We need to set this up,” touched my heart. He then reminded us that part of our Christmas celebration is when he reads the 24 verses in his annual Chocolate Advent Calendar about the birth of Jesus. Any doubts about the impact we as grandparents are having on his faith were dispelled in that moment. 

“Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old
they will not turn from it.”
Proverbs 22:6

We are in the midst of reading the Book of Luke, 24 chapters through the first 24 days of December, the same way we did last year. It is a future memory and another tradition I hope our grandson will carry on long after we are gone. I am reminded that God faithfully fulfills His promises when we obey His command to teach future generations about Jesus.

Be encouraged to make faith-filled memories with your grandchildren, even if you do not see immediate results. Their minds are absorbing everything that you say and do. You may be delighted someday to see how God responds to your efforts.

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 

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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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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.

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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.