Step-grandparents are the real deal. That day when I became one years ago is clearly etched in my memory. My husband and I were returning home from an out-of-town event when my phone buzzed to life with the eagerly anticipated news: our grandson had arrived. It was a highly emotional moment.
Getting to know a child from birth is an entirely different experience than marrying a single father who already has a son. Painful losses happen in kids’ lives when their families split. Without question, stepparents play a pivotal role in family dynamics. It takes time and patience to build a relationship, and that includes relationships we have with children. I would probably be a better step-mom if a “do over” were possible. But now, I focus on doing my best as the parent of an adult.
That said, being a grandparent is one of many blessings that resulted from sticking with it through thick and thin. My grandson doesn’t care that we’re not genetically linked. He only cares that I am a safe, loving grandmother. That probably explains why our guest bedroom has morphed into his second bedroom. It’s all part of staying in step.
When was the last time you prayed a blessing over your grandchildren? I’m talking about an intergenerational blessing like Jacob prayed over the sons of Joseph. The kind that a grandparent prays over each grandchild to guide them in the future.
I always wondered how people in ancient days knew when it was time to pass along their faith legacies. How did they know what to pray? Is there a way to carry on this tradition today in a way that suits contemporary life but still suits our desire to pray for their salvation? Here are my thoughts.
First, take some time to think about your grandchildren as individuals. Allow yourself to get a clear image of one child in your mind’s eye. Pull out some photos if that helps. Consider all that you know about this child’s personality, interests, and hopes. Give yourself as much time as you need to fully explore who this child is.
Second, think of a specific time or event in your grandchild’s life that prompts a memory. It could be a happy or a sad memory, because in life we experience both. The key is to find a memory that prompts a strong emotional response in your heart. Jot down some notes about it. When did it occur? Where? What happened? How did it end?
Third, pray for God’s guidance while you look for a Bible verse befitting your grandchild, one that you want them to embrace. I look for uplifting messages. For example, your grandchild might have faced an important decision. Proverbs 3:56 says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Finally, write a note or short letter to your grandchild about the memory. Include the Bible verse and your prayer for them relevant to the experience. Write it as something they can read now and when they are grown as a reminder of your relationship with them. In this way, you give them a double blessing.
Many of my friends have shared stories of vacations they took with a grandchild, one-on-one excursions to destinations of shared interest. I’m looking forward to the time when my grandson and I can do that. I’m even starting to consider options; the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, and London, England are some of my preferences.
Right now, his vacation dreams lean in the direction of adventure parks and fast action entertainment. Hopefully, his ideas and mine will fall more closely in line by the time we are ready to travel together.
Travels such as these allow sufficient time away from daily life to bond more deeply with a grandchild. There is something spiritual about stepping aside to engage with the heart of another person. Changing the scenery and schedule also affords a natural setting to share innermost ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
Of course, it may not be necessary to leave home at all. Grandparents who don’t live near their grandchildren are stepping out of the routine simply by welcoming them to come for a visit. I know a few grandmothers who periodically arrange visits with out-of-state grandchildren. Sometimes their visits are a springboard to travel with one grandchild at a time to places of shared interest.
For me, the most important incentive for spending time alone with my grandson is to speak intentionally about my faith. If there is only one memory about me that he can carry throughout life, I hope it is that I was a devoted follower of Christ. If you knew your grandchild could only carry one memory of you through life, what would you want that memory to be? I encourage you to share that word with them.
When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with your grandchild about marriage? Perhaps I should rephrase that to ask if you have ever talked with your grandchild about what it means to be married in the context of God’s plan? My grandson first brought up the topic when he was around the 4-year-old mark. That was my early warning to prepare for a lot of questions in the future.
These days, I’m gleaning significant insights from the book, Preparing Children for Marriage, by Josh Mulvihill. In his book, Mulvihill addresses marriage, sexual purity, and dating within the context of God’s perfect plan. I appreciate his no-nonsense approach and targeted references to Bible verses that support his points.
In today’s ‘anything goes’ culture our grandchildren need all the help we can give. Mulvihill encourages adults to speak boldly and honestly with their children and grandchildren about the real reason God created marriage.
During a recent overnight visit, I tucked my now 7-year-old grandson in with a prayer for his future wife. It’s not too soon start, especially in light of his early warning. I am thankful for Mulvihill’s insights, and his encouragement to be intentional when talking with grandchildren about such an important topic.
Two women linger over lunch by the window at a cafe. One is in her fifties. She wears a scarf around her head in the fashion common to one covering baldness that results from chemotherapy. The other is in her late twenties, midway through a pregnancy as evidenced by the swell along her midsection. They are having a leisurely mother-daughter lunch.
Leaning back into the chair and gesturing to make a point, the older woman carries on a dialogue while the younger woman rubs her belly and nods. Alternately, the younger woman talks while the older woman leans forward attentively. Their conversation is intentional.
Watching them causes me to consider the most important thing I want to share with people in my life, especially my grandson. I silently thank these two women for reminding me that whatever happens in this world is a temporary situation, but the course of our eternity is determined by the choice each of us makes to put our faith in Jesus Christ.
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
Courageous Grandparenting by Cavin Harper is the first book I read on the topic of Christian grandparenting. I picked it up at a conference held at my church a few years ago as a resource to help me navigate my complex new role. Back then, I had no idea there was a national network of Christian grandparents.
In addition to authoring books and establishing a communications network, Cavin writes weekly blogs and presents seminars on the topic. There is something comforting in knowing my challenges are common among grandparents, something even more comforting in knowing there are places to turn for answers that reflect biblical truths. Check out what Cavin has to say at: ChristianGrandparentingNetwork
During the past few years, I have discovered several others leading the charge into this growing life stage. It is a dynamic time in our culture when things we once held as true are being challenged at every level of thought. Cavin and others like him are pioneering the trail back to the Truth of God’s Word. Take heart. Connect with other grandparents who are putting on the full armor of God as in Ephesians 6:10-12.
During a women’s retreat where the life stages of attendees spanned early adult to grandmother of many, I was impressed by the transparency one 20-something woman demonstrated. She prayed for forgiveness of an addiction to pornography. Her revelation impressed me.
My first reaction was finding a face to put on a growing statistic among young Christian women. (If you don’t believe this, check out DirtyGirlsMinistries.com and CovenantEyes.com.) The casualties of sexual immorality suddenly became real and relevant in the tearful prayer of one of its victims. It pierced my heart to see her pain.
When I shared this experience with a friend, she reminded me that young adults want to engage in open, honest dialogue with people of their grandparents’ generation about tough topics like this. The thing is, meaningful communication can only happen when we grandparents are open and honest about our lives. It can be challenging. Our generation was taught not to “air your dirty laundry.” Maybe it’s time for a wardrobe update.
In Genesis, God created sexual intimacy to be a gift, not the plague many in younger generations are experiencing. You may know a young adult who is dying inside to talk about this or another personal challenge. I urge you to take off the cloak of pride and discuss tough topics openly and honestly with your children’s children. Getting real may be one of the most empowering gifts you can give.
The birds were munching on seeds at feeders in the Minnesota Arboretum, at least five different species: cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, sparrows, and cedar waxwings. A few squirrels and chipmunks got into the action as well. Their entertaining antics reminded me that, in His divine care, God does not overlook even the tiniest of creatures.
And yet, the animals at the feeder carried on in business-as-usual fashion. They acted as if they would somehow have an unending supply of seeds available for the taking. They live in the moment, trusting an unseen provider. Young children live this way as well, trusting that their every need will be met.
As a grandparent, I find it easier to recognize such childlike faith. It’s probably the outcome of decades of learning to trust God to cover all my needs. God has given grandparents the responsibility of sharing our faith with younger generations. Doing so can be as simple as sharing how God has guided us through ordinary days, or through the biggest challenges of our lives.
The key is to stay alert for opportunities. They can be as fleeting as a bird landing on a feeder to munch a few seeds. Relax, pray, and when the moment presents itself, speak boldly about your faith.
Independence Day is a cause for huge celebration in the town where I live, where three days of celebrations culminate in an annual fireworks display. People deck themselves out in red-white-blue and remind their young ones that we live in a country where freedom reigns supreme. We celebrate the men and women that fought to keep us free. For some, that freedom comes at great cost.
While watching this year’s parade, I noticed a few participants and onlookers were in wheelchairs. Others wore caps or shirts indicating a branch of service or a specific war. Over time, I have come to appreciate the sacrifices all military personnel and veterans have made on my behalf. In keeping with tradition, four planes flew overhead at the beginning of the parade. During the third pass, one plane veered away from the others, signifying pilots that did not return from their missions.
Our grandchildren need to know the right thing to do isn’t always the easy thing to do. That’s the approach Jesus took when He walked on earth. He spoke the Truth when political and religious leaders opposed Him. But unlike the valiant efforts of our military men and women, Jesus willingly sacrificed His life so all who put their trust in Him could have eternal life. The message is there in John 3:16. If you haven’t already done so, share it with your grandkids.
This week, my husband and I took our grandson to see the new Cars 3 movie. It is a family friendly movie with a revved up story line. While it entertained our grandson, we caught the message that we are to share our wisdom with future generations.
In the movie, Lightning McQueen is an aging patriarch of auto racing who becomes a mentor to a talented but underappreciated young female race car named Cruz Ramirez. Their road is filled with potholes, but both rise to the challenges. He is forced to face the fact that an exciting chapter of his life can now only be seen in the rear view mirror. Under his guidance, Cruz gains confidence to pursue her dreams.
Through the process, Lightning has to dig deep into his past to unveil timeless lessons about work, ambition, and relationships. He hits overdrive, applying old-school techniques to Cruz’s high-tech training. The idea is clear that younger generations are eager to hear from their elders, willing to learn from them. In return, their enthusiasm gives a power boost for older models. It’s a win-win!
For me, the biggest message of Cars 3 is that God gives us no retirement plan. We might be slowing down, but as long as we have a few pistons firing, God wants us to continue sharing what we know about Him.
Resist the urge to put on the brakes. Take your grandkids to a movie – or to a ball game. Get to know their interests, hopes, and challenges. Tell them what you know about living a life of faith in God. Remember to tell me about your time together at: SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.