[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.

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.

Writing About Grandchildren – Inspiration #1 of 5

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Photo courtesy of Helloquence on Unsplash

Inspiration for writing about grandchildren comes from a variety of sources. As I began working on my grandson’s memoir, the most unexpected sources of inspiration prompted the most interesting stories.

It began with a journal of our time together when he was a newborn. What a blessing that was! Now, if you imagine my journal is some sort of beautifully bound book with lined pages headed by inspiring quotes, you are partially correct: it does have lined pages. This journal is a spiral-bound promotional giveaway with a business tagline emblazoned across the cover. It was the handiest way for me to record notes at the time.

I now use Microsoft Word software as a writing tool, but still rely on handwritten notes to capture details that happen when I am nowhere near a computer. Use what works best for you. The method you choose to keep notes is less important that the discipline of keeping them.

Now, about that inspiration. My stories came from five different categories of inspiration, the first of which is milestones. I consider milestones to be significant changes in physical or cognitive development, the kinds of events that often bring smiles to our faces or tears to our eyes. Children love stories about themselves.

Here’s an example of a milestone story:

One of the first routines we started with you was reading. We did that because early childhood development experts reported kids were more likely to succeed in school if someone read to them right from the get-go. I followed this advice from the time you were able to be tucked snugly by my side as I read.

Think about it. This is when you were honing your skills at holding up your head, rolling over from your back to your tummy, and discovering your fingers and toes. One afternoon, I caught you and grandpa reading a Christmas book. You were sporting a pacifier and a very attentive countenance. Suffice to say, you both appeared to be enjoying the time together.

Do you see the milestones? “Discovering your fingers and toes” and “rolling over” are two insights pulled from my journal. Notice the phrase,“you both appeared to be enjoying the time together.” That observation might have been lost without a quick note of reminder. If you’re an audio type, make a recording instead. Then, use them when you are ready to write. You will be glad you did.

Four additional sources of inspiration will be shared in future posts and will be available on my website at SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.

Let me know if this is helpful. Share your thoughts 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.”

Send your comments to barbhowe.org.

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.

Welcome to the Grandparent Club!

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Photo courtesy of OC Gonzalez on Unsplash

The feeling of becoming a grandparent for the first time cannot adequately be described in words. It’s something that can only be defined in heart language, with its overflowing measure of joy, hope, and delight. Entering the grandparent club is a heady experience, to be sure.

I still recall one special moment when I held my infant grandson. As our eyes met, I realized my role in the long list of “everythings” he would need to learn. I read somewhere that grandparents contribute the greatest influence over children’s lives, second only to that of the parents. It caused me to think of all the ways we, as grandparents, have to contribute.

We can:

  • Teach grandsons how to be powerful men, or train them to be men of integrity.
  • Teach granddaughters how to be influential women, or encourage them to develop strong inner character.
  • Teach young ones to love their neighbor, or show them how to help others when needs arise.
  • Teach our grandchildren about God, or live in a way that demonstrates a daily commitment to Christ.

Here’s the catch: none of these ideals are mutually exclusive. They are all compatible.

I can honestly say, “Being a Christian grandparent is an action adventure, not a spectator sport.” Each day is a contest of will and stamina. But we all have a playbook – the Bible – to help us become star athletes. Let’s all get in the game.

We have a command from our Heavenly Father to pass along our faith to future generations. It’s our duty and an honor. Welcome to the club!

Tell me about your grandparenting experience at: barbhowe.org.

Make a Note!

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Photo courtesy of Alvaro Serrano on Unsplash

recent occasion of closet cleaning reminded me how much value written words hold for us. Inside a long-forgotten box on a top shelf in the closet I found a stack of letters written to me by my mother, who passed away nearly 40 years ago. I began reading.

Most of the letters contained family news. Near the middle of the stack, I found a little card with a personal message in my mother’s handwriting, expressing her love for me. What a treasure!

She did not use a lot of words, but the ones she did use touched my heart – again. I won’t repeat them here; they’re private. What I will share is encouragement and a little guidance for you to put your words of love on paper for a special someone.

Read below, and insert (selected words or phrases) from the lists that express your thoughts and feelings. Feel free to combine thoughts or insert your own words in place of the ones listed.

Dear (Name),

On the day
(you were born),
(your adoption was finalized),
(I became your stepparent),
(you became my grandchild),
(I became your grandparent),
my life changed forever.

I felt
(overwhelmed),
(more emotions than I could count),
(a loss of words),
(blessed beyond measure),
(tears of joy running down my cheeks).

The first time
(I held you in my arms),
(you looked into my eyes),
(our hands touched),
I knew
(you were a blessing from God),
(I would always love you).

I hope you will always remember
(you are one of a kind), 
(you are wonderfully made), 
(I will always love you).

Love,

(Your Name)

Here’s an example of how your message might look when you write it out:

Dear Emma,

On the day I became your grandparent, my life changed forever. I felt blessed beyond measure. The first time I held you in my arms I knew you were a blessing from God. I hope you will always remember you are wonderfully made. I will always love you.

Love,

(Your Name)

These few sentences are short enough to fit into a greeting card or one one sheet of writing paper. Yet the message they carry is enough to fill a book. And it only takes a little time to leave a big impact in someone’s day, even 40 years later. Try it!

Send your thoughts to 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.