How Marigolds are Like Grandchildren

20191019_132433-e1572392553845.jpgIt feels like just last week my marigolds were tiny plants. I clearly remember planting them in one of my favorite garden spots. Those marigolds grew to overflow during the summer months, giving a sunny welcome to everyone who came to our house. Recently, while I was pulling the faded plants for composting, my thoughts turned to the reality that grandchildren don’t stay little for long.

And yet, each phase of their development brings its own rewards. Like marigolds, grandchildren develop and spread their proverbial branches. That infant who snuggled against your shoulder may now be trooping off to school, or to work. Nothing can hold back the march of time. Keep the memories, but experience your grandchildren’s lives in the present. 

Clear your calendar to attend their school events, athletic competitions, and music recitals. Your presence speaks volumes about your commitment and love for them. Excuses are easy to find: physical distance, difficult family dynamics, illness, and an endless stream of “I can’t” because of whatever. 

From a biblical perspective, our primary responsibility as grandparents is to share our Christian faith with the generations that follow. If you don’t believe me on this, check out the following verse.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (NIV)

The stronger your relationship with your grandchildren is, the more likely they are to listen when you talk about your faith. Technology diminishes distances between you and out-of-state relatives, soft words soothe misunderstandings, and years of experiences equip us with materials for teaching. Don’t wait until it’s convenient. Make the most of every chance you have to tell your grandchildren why you trust Christ for your salvation.

Take a moment to pray for your grandchildren by name. Ask God to create opportunities for you to engage with them on a regular basis. Expect Him to respond in His perfect timing. His answers can be surprising beyond imagination and delightful above all hope.

Share how God has answered your prayers at barbhowe.com.

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.

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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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.

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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.

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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.