Compare Notes

Photo courtesy of Alvaro Serrano on Unsplash

Admit it, the world we live in doesn’t always make sense. A quick glance at the news reminds us that our country is undergoing a long season of trepidation and rebellion. Given the conflicting deluge of messages thrust upon us daily, it’s nearly impossible to know what to believe. Thankfully, there is one source of information we can rely upon for absolute truth: the Bible. Eternal wisdom flows from its pages.  

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God,
keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations
of those who love him and keep his commandments.”
Deuteronomy 7:9

We probably all have concerns for our grandchildren’s physical and spiritual well being. Having many decades of experience, we’re reminiscent of the Farmers Insurance ad tagline, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.” Our perspectives and collective wisdom are vital for these young ones. That old cliche’ reminding us “it takes a village to raise a child” hits home here. Please, allow God to be at the center of it all. 

It is a blessing to have friends that share the same concerns for their grandchildren as I do for my grandson. We support one another with prayer, encouragement, and advice, much as mothers of young children do amongst themselves. Think of it as comparing notes with other people whose ultimate goal aligns with yours: to spend eternity with our grandchildren and other believers in heaven. Be sure to bring a notebook the next time you meet.

 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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[Insert NAME Here]

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Photo courtesy of Jon Tyson on Unsplash

One of my favorite things to do is make up new lyrics to popular songs. Most of all, I like to insert names into songs to make them personal. When my grandson was a toddler, he frequently asked me to “sing song” whenever we were together. I knew he meant the Sunshine song with his name inserted to help him identify with the message.

It goes like this:

“You are my sunshine, my only [Insert NAME Here].
You make me happy when skies are grey.

You’ll never know dear, how much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.” 

Try it with your young grandchildren and watch smiles fill their faces. It’s easy. Plus, you don’t need to have a great voice to elicit their approval. When they can identify with the song personally, it’s easier for the verses to roll off the tongue into the memory. 

In a similar spirit, a friend told me she likes to insert her name in spaces when reading Bible verses that talk about our relationship with Christ.

For example, Ephesians 2:8-9 would read:

“For it is by grace [Insert NAME Here] has been saved,
through faith—and this is not from yourself,
it is the gift of God— not by works,
so that [Insert NAME Here] cannot boast. 

This simple technique is a way to remind the ones we care deeply about, in addition to ourselves, that our God cares for each of us intimately and values each of us. Inserting our names into verses does not change the way God loves us, but it may help us to respond to Him personally. And all you need to do is sing a favorite verse with your grandchild’s name inserted. How simple is that!

Share the things you do to stay in personal contact with God at: barbhowe.org.

May I Have Your Attention, Please?

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Photo courtesy of Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I’m beginning to understand what it means to do without things I once considered necessary, activities that once seemed paramount to normalcy. It is remarkable how quickly the world I am accustomed to can come to a virtual standstill with COVID-19. This imposed lifestyle change causes me to ponder, could it be a gift wrapped in plain brown paper? 

God uses circumstances to push us to stronger degrees of faith. James 1:2-3 tells us our trials and temptations can be catalysts to help fulfill His purposes. When our faith is being tested, our perseverance has a chance to grow in ways that cannot happen by any other means.

You may be struggling to maintain contact with children and grandchildren who are not physically or emotionally close. You may be spending more time than usual assisting your adult children with their children’s education. Or you may fall somewhere in between. Wherever you stand, ask yourself: “Have I included God in the situation? Have I put my worries into His hands?” 

In all circumstances, you have an almighty advocate on your side, ready to direct you in the way you should go. James 1:5 advises those who lack wisdom to ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault. It is a powerful promise to all who believe and do not doubt. 

“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.” 

Proverbs 3:5-6 

Does God have your attention? Look to Him for guidance. He is never further than a prayer away.

Share how you put your faith in God at: barbhowe.org.

Thirty-Three Years

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The cemetery where grandpa is buried

An out-of-state ministry trip with my husband included a visit to my grandfather’s grave site. We never met in person, since he passed away decades before I made my entrance to this world. I know him through the myriad of stories family members shared about his life. From what I have learned, my presence here is due to his personal sacrifices.

This grandfather emigrated to the United States from Poland in 1913 during an era of significant unrest, leaving behind his family and successful business. As an alien who did not speak the common language of his new home, he took work upon arrival as a laborer and saved enough of his wages to bring his wife and three children safely to America. My mother was one of those children.

The following year, they welcomed a fourth child into the family. Then, at age 33, my grandfather died of complications from pneumonia. The entire transition from planning their immigration to his death covered approximately three years. He accomplished much in that short period of time.

I couldn’t help but compare the similarities between his story and that of Jesus. Each man dedicated three years to successfully accomplish his mission. Their lives came to an end at exactly the same age. But whereas my grandfather sacrificed his comforts for the well-being of his family, Jesus gave up his royal throne in Heaven to become the sacrificial Lamb for all who put their faith in Him.

The respect I feel for this grandfather is real. It does, however, pale in comparison to the reverence I hold for Christ Jesus. It is because of His great love for me, as well as all who call upon his name in genuine faith, that I am intentional about sharing Christ’s message of salvation with my grandson as well as those around me. I look forward to the day when I will meet all who have gone before me to eternity with the Creator and Author of life, the One who walked this earth for 33 years.

Share your family’s stories at barbhowe.org.

The following video from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is a guide through the Steps to Peace With God.

The Season is Upon Us

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Photo by Heidi Sandstrom. on Unsplash

It seems to be starting earlier this year. Christmas decorations showed up in stores weeks ago, and now everyone I talk to is decorating their homes with trees, garlands, and all kinds of evergreen somethings. And here I am, still planning a Thanksgiving menu. I love the fun of it as much as anyone does, but only as long as the original reason we celebrate does not get lost in the excitement. 

Allow me to interject a chiche’ here. “It isn’t Christmas without Christ.” The gift of eternal salvation surpasses any trinket, electronic, wearable, or consumable you can find in a brick and mortar or cyber store. Amen to that! The question then centers on how to keep Christ at the center of the season.  

I made a list of the people on my gift list and slipped it into my purse. Along with reminding me to shop for them, it is a ready reminder to pray for them. Seeing their names prompts visual images of each person and usually conjures up a fond memory. (Imagine some lady walking around a shopping mall laughing to herself.)

 If you’re like me, grandchildren hit the top of the list. What is the best thing you can give them? Hint: it has nothing to do with running up a huge credit card debt, but it has the power to last an eternity. It is the message of faith in Christ as our Savior. The fun part is that putting this wonderful gift into an alluring package is really quite simple.

Advent calendars, the kind that mark the 24 days leading up to Christmas with daily doses of Bible verses and chocolate, are a big hit at my house. During last year’s Christmas celebrations, my grandson decided to read  each of the Advent calendar messages aloud to our family. It planted Jesus right into the middle of our gifts, where He belongs. Truly, His is the greatest gift anyone can ever receive.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8

Let’s all get into the true spirit of Christmas. Let me know what you’re doing at barbhowe.org.

“The Others”

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Photo courtesy of Pablo Hermoso on Unsplash

A friend whose married child has children refers to the in-laws as “the others”. It is a lighthearted way of acknowledging a common grandparent role. I’m not sure if this relationship with “the others” is favorable or unfavorable, however, even the best circumstance poses its own set of challenges.

When relationships between in-laws is good and both sets of grandparents have financial resources, they might tend to overwhelm grandchildren with material gifts. We all experience the joy of giving. But, it can be problematic when it turns into a competition, or when the parents do not approve of the types of gifts that are bestowed on their children. As grandparents, we must remind ourselves that our adult children are the primary caregivers of our grandchildren and our role is to support their good decisions.

Alternatively, in-law relationships can be strained due to lifestyle choices, attitudes, or other elements. Let’s face it, being a grandparent does not automatically mean a person has strong moral character. Did I say that politely enough? Sometimes these circumstances require more prayer than we feel capable of praying. It is vital that we exhibit Christ-like attitudes toward people who do not accept Jesus as their Savior or live according to our personal standards. It could mean biting our tongue and earnestly asking the Holy Spirit for guidance time and again.

Above all, rely on the Holy Spirit to guide your attitudes and actions. Rely on God’s wisdom to direct your choices. Wisdom is promised in the Bible; all you need to do is ask for it. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you,” James 1:5.

As we embark on another season of Thanksgiving and Christmas when families are likely to encounter one another, remember that we who put our faith in Christ have a gift to share with the world that surpasses anything else. Be generous. Share the love you have received with “the others”.

Then, tell me how the Spirit guided your time with “the others” at barbhowe.org.

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.

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 #4 of 5

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Photo courtesy of Nick Morrison on Unsplash

The helplessness and vulnerability of a newborn can bring out our innermost feelings of awe and wonder. Their complete reliance on adults for every need is enough to stir emotions and soften the hardest of hearts. It often leads to introspection, a form of inspiration that flows from the heart.

Unlike inspirations that are sparked by events and activities, introspection is a more considered approach. It requires us to reach deeply into our own experiences to retrieve thoughts that might not be among the first to surface. Conversely, they may be the very thoughts that jump out and grab our attention without warning.

Now, take a look at an example of inspiration that relies heavily on introspection.

Your attentiveness and response to lights, sounds, and voices at only a few days old was remarkable. I placed you on my lap facing up, cradling your head in my hands. You looked directly into my eyes, as if you were trying to communicate. “Can you sense how much joy I feel when you are so near?”

I have never met a parent (or grandparent) who didn’t feel a loving connection with their new babies. Forget scientific explanations. Instead, focus on the bonding that takes place when you are interacting with the children in your life. I truly believe God uses this type of bonding to cement relationships between children, their parents, and their grandparents.

Everyone needs to feel loved. Don’t hesitate to tell children how much you love them. Be extravagant with positive words of love and encouragement. They never go out of style.

When did you have a moment of introspection about a grandchild? Share your experiences 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.