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.

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.