From 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My grandson is a big fan of anything related to dinosaurs, sharks, or sci-fi space exploration. It’s part of what makes him unique and part of what makes hanging around with him interesting. Exploring the things he cares about is one way to show that I care about him as an individual. This is true even though sci-fi things are not on my top 10 list of priorities.
You may have a grandchild whose interests reach an equally high level of enthusiasm, albeit not necessarily for the same subjects. Regardless of the topic, our grandchildren’s interests offer ready opportunities to share our faith. Start by meeting them where they are and listening to what they have to say. When it comes to fantasy, look for openings to direct your conversation to the difference between what is real and what is not.
For example, there is no proof that tooth fairies exist, but their legends follow traditions that have a way of getting passed down through generations. Tooth fairy traditions can be fun because losing teeth is a rite of passage for children, even though adults understand the stories have no basis in reality. The same can be said for a number of other traditions, such as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
By contrast, numerous historical records show Jesus is a real person who lived and died some 2000 years ago. No denying that. But what about His miraculous resurrection after spending three days in the tomb? Or His subsequent physical appearances over a period of 40 days? Check out what the Gospel writers have to say about this in their closing chapters. To believe Jesus did not rise from the dead is to say more than 500 people witnessed a common illusion at different times and places.
Perhaps the greatest evidence to the resurrection of Jesus is the response of His disciples. These are the guys who fled and hid when Jesus was arrested and crucified, but emerged into society at the end of those 40 days with a boldness that could not be explained by anything other than the fact that Jesus really is who He said He is. These are the guys who lost it all by worldly standards, but gained it all as measured by eternity.
Test out my idea the next time you and a grandchild get to talking about something that’s based on myth, fantasy, or legend. Hear what they have to say, and seize the moment to give them a loving dose of eternal reality.
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.
How many butterflies can you find in this image? During a recent stroll through a flowery butterfly exhibit, I marveled at the chance to hang out with some of the most enchanting members of the insect realm, as well as fellow camera-clad humanoids. My goal was to capture as many of said winged creatures in one photo image as possible.
Attempting to count them in the photos proved to be a more imposing challenge. How could it be so difficult to find so many butterflies in a still shot when it was so easy to see them fluttering in plain sight?
Then I wondered, “Do I fail to notice obvious things about my grandson? When I look at his face, am I content to see his exterior features, or am I seeking to catch a view of his innermost self? When he speaks, do I hear his deepest dreams, hopes, and fears? These days, I am making a more concerted effort to observe things about him that are hidden in plain sight.
When you think of a grandchild, do your observations end on the surface, or do you delve into the soul of who they are? What a delightful challenge it is to connect with a grandchild at a deeper level.