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.

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.

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

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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.

Speak Boldly as a Lion

 

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Photo by Tom Skarbek-Wazynski on Unsplash

Blurring the line between leisurely pastimes and lessons of faith may be as easy as popping a video into the player on a rainy afternoon. Its a chance to sit down with a grandchild for a respite from the constant motion. (In my case, said motions often involves dodging projectiles and bracing for body slams.) With the right video, I have found it is possible to get even the most physically active child to park it long enough to have an in-depth conversation.

A few days ago my grandson and I watched the Narnia movie together. And as we watched, I made a point of explaining the parallel between Aslan and Jesus as well as the one between the White Witch and Satan. C. S. Lewis made them obvious enough that even a child could follow what was being presented. All I had to do was ask a few questions and toss in a few comments about the allure of sin and its destructive outcome. (I’m told by a reliable source in my home that my grandson and I engage in some pretty lively discussions.) We also talked about the power of Jesus’ love to overcome death for those who trust in Him.

It has been a few years since I read the entire Chronicles of Narnia. I’m now tasked with locating the source of the western lamp-post near the wardrobe entrance and determining when the castle at Cair Paravel came into existence. Hopefully, these answers will fuel my grandson’s interest in the story line enough to get him reading the other books in the Narnia Chronicles. I do this because part of my job as a Christian grandparent is to share the reasons for my faith.

Share your thoughts at: SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.

 

Equipped to Disciple

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Contrary to messages from post-modern culture saying we deserve the right to endlessly pursue leisure, God has given a biblical mandate that we are to impact future generations with the Gospel. Quite honestly, His plan offers a more fulfilling use of our time as well as a greater sense of joy.

It means learning to partner within our Church community to accomplish His plan. But, where does one begin when churches overlook the powerful influence grandparents have on their grandchildren? I suggest picking up a copy of the book Equipping Grandparents from Legacy Coalition. In fewer than 100 pages, this little gem packs valuable insights from some of today’s powerhouse faith leaders.

Equipping Grandparents broadens the definition of “family” to recapture the inter-generational worship and shared activities that once typified church communities. It’s time to incorporate this creative approach in the shared objective of passing our faith to the youngest generation. It’s a “win-win” for church leaders and members alike. 

Visit the Legacy Coalition website.

Share your thoughts at: SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.

Growth Chart

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Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

It seems like just yesterday when my grandson was an infant. With a hint of nostalgia, I remind myself that as of one week ago he advanced to the rank of 2nd grader. Sometimes it seems improbable that he is growing so quickly. Whereas I once read baby’s board books to him, he now reads children’s stories to me. Instead of me arranging crackers and sippy cups on his baby tray, he now sets our dinner table with plates and silverware.

It’s all good stuff, all part of his march to adulthood. The other day, I noted a conversation we were having had notched up on the maturity level. His ability to defend a stated viewpoint has advanced, and he knows how to locate documented information (mostly online) to support his ideas and assertions. As well, he holds me to a higher standard of accountability for the things I say and do.

At seven years of age, he is beginning to understand the intricacies of ethical choices that people make. His words belie an understanding of the way people relate to one another, and a growing awareness of right and wrong. Quite naturally, he recognizes the presence of a Creator God who set the standard for human behavior.

One of our long-standing habits is reading together the accounts from a Children’s Bible. He has favorite stories, but my husband and I intentionally slip in a few different ones to expand the breadth of his biblical knowledge. This practice affords us opportunities to hold the kinds of conversations that cut through the superficial and draw from the wisdom God is waiting to unfold for us. It makes me eager to chart the direction of his growing understanding of God; mine as well.

Share your thoughts at: SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.