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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Never Lose Your Sense of Wonder

FireworksFireworks! What can be more exciting at the end of a festive day? Yes, there are still celebrations and community events that climax with explosive lights illuminating the night sky. They’re a big attraction for people of every generation. That is at least, for the curious ones.

It surprised me during a fireworks display to see a man standing in a front row spot, facing away from the show talking to someone. I sure hope the conversation was important, because the background scene above his head was spectacular. Children stood nearby, transfixed by the theatrics of light and sound. Seeing their enthusiasm brought a smile to my face.

Pop! Boom! Bang! Another firework shot into the air, sending tendrils of sparkling light across the velvety black sky. Beyond the man-made show, points of light made their presence known across the sky. Does the splendor of their showing fill me with awe as much as, or more than the one created by man? I can answer with an emphatic “Yes!”

Within moments the fireworks display came to an end and parents collected children to scurry home for bedtime routines. The sky once again returned to its quiet vigil. I remained a few minutes longer, contemplating the vastness of our universe, the magnificence of a Creator who could place countless points of light in an orderly, dynamic display. For those who put their faith in Jesus Christ, they are a reminder that we too are the work of an almighty God and Father.

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?”
Psalm 8:3-4

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Let’s Bake an Apple Cake

Apples
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.

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Endless Summer

Northern Pines beach

Some of life’s best experiences are eternally engraved into our consciousness. Summer days spent lakeside come to mind. Nothing quite compares to the chattering sounds of kids playing at a beach or splashing in the water.

This year, my husband and I took one of those “first” kind of vacations with our grandson at a Christian camp in central Wisconsin: Northern Pines. Their advertisements promoting the week long experience as a “vacation with a purpose” was spot on.

Following breakfast, morning programs had children age 0-8 attending Vacation Bible Study activities with others in their age categories while parents and grandparents attended their own studies. Families regrouped for lunch, afternoon free time, and dinner. All meals were included, eliminating any need to cook – or clean up. (That kicked the experience up a notch or two, possibly 10.)

Youth and teens participated in separate programs at adjoining sites with special times to spend with their families. During the evenings, Child Care Assistants, a.k.a. CCAs, cared for their assigned children while the adults attended worship and study time. (Whoever came up with this system had heavenly inspiration.)

Midway through the week I found myself sitting in the dining hall marveling at the way families interacted with old and new friends. It brought home the reality that heaven is not about floating around on clouds playing harps. Heaven is described in Revelation 21 as a place of fellowship for those who put their trust in Jesus. Now that is one endless experience I look forward to having.

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Prepare for Battle

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Photo by Samule Zeller on Unsplash

If Satan wants anything, he wants to prevent the spread of Christ’s message for salvation. When a grandparent decides to share their faith with a grandchild, it’s a sure bet the enemy will send some flaming arrows to block the communication. This is often referred to as spiritual warfare.

The weapons Satan launches might be directed against you and your family members, or they might show up as unexpected distractions. Just know the more fervently you work to honor God with your legacy, the more resistance you will face. Don’t give in. Let God take care of the details. If you’ve studied the Bible, you already know the victory belongs to Him.

You also know the opposition can get fierce. Let’s face it, if your testimony of faith were not powerful, Satan would not have any interest in trying to stop it’s spread. For this reason, consider the fact that you are facing opposition to be a testament to the glory of God. Get your battle plan in order.

“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Put on the full armor of God,
so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes,
you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,
with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith,
with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6: 10-17 NIV).

I sometimes find songs are helpful to keep my mind cleared from spiritual distractions. The Battle Belongs to the Lord, by Petra is one such song. Give it a listen. 

Are you facing a spiritual battle? Share your thoughts at: SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.

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.

 

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.

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Staying in Step

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Photo by Ceci Bravo on Unsplash

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.

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Bless These Kids

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Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

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.

Share your ideas at: SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.