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.

A Gift That Can Only Come From You

rawpixel-191157-unsplashThe closer it gets to Christmas, the more I see FedEx trucks racing through my neighborhood. It almost makes me laugh to think how Santa’s annual run has been affected by the dawn of online shopping. Admittedly, I contributed a small measure to the congestion. Like my neighbors, I want to give gifts that family members want most, especially the children. But what do they really want?

I am blessed to spend time with my grandson. (Hint: technology makes this possible for grandparents who do not live near their grandchildren.) I’ve noticed something interesting that happens when our conversations are about him: he stops whatever he is doing and quiets down to listen intently. 

I believe children “need” to know they are loved by their grandparents. Some of the greatest gifts we can offer are words of encouragement and words of faith to guide them in life. Why not write a thoughtful note or letter as a permanent reminder of your love? 

Try this out. Choose a Bible verse that speaks of family generations. For example:  “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” (Psalm 127:3)

When you read this passage, what thoughts come to mind about your grandchild? Do you think about anticipating his/her birth? Are you reminded of the first time you saw this grandchild? What images come to mind about this child’s unique qualities? Your words have the power to give your grandchild encouragement and a never-ending reminder of your love.

Now, write a brief note or letter beginning with the following sentence:

I know God blessed me when you were born because…”

How will you package your gift? Here are some ideas. Write your message on a beautiful piece of stationery and put it in a frame. Wrap your special gift in a box and present it to your grandchild personally. Or, record a video of yourself reading the message and send it to your grandchild. Sharing your godly love for a grandchild is one gift that can only come from you.

Share your thoughts at barbhowe.org.

Strengthen Your Family With Faith

Grand Parenting

The book, Grand Parenting, by Dr. Josh Mulvihill is a must read for all Christian grandparents. It is packed with content that directly addresses four aspects of life vital to every family: cultural messages about the role of grandparents, God’s purpose and design for families, discipleship practices for grandparents, and practical steps to strengthen family relationships.

Drawing on verses found throughout Scripture, Grand Parenting contrasts misguided worldly messages with the eternal Truths presented in the Bible. Mulvihill reminds grandparents why their influence matters to the spiritual lives of their grandchildren, and why it is second only to that of parents. He examines different aspects of intentionally teaching grandchildren about Jesus as well as the importance of modeling a life of faith.

Grand Parenting is a resource to keep on your bookshelf, a reference you will want to pick up and review time and again. In addition to the information presented in this book, Mulvihill includes innumerable other discipleship materials available in the marketplace. Among them is a grandparenting video series with questions to use individually or as part of a group study. For more information about resources, visit legacycoalition.com.

Share your ideas at barbhowe.org.

Last-Minute or Lasting Christmas Gifts

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Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

Brick and mortar or online, stores are packed with people trying to find the perfect gift for everyone on their list. It might be quick to throw something in the cart and run to the checkout. But it only takes a few minutes to find a gift that packs an eternal spiritual impact on the lives of your parents, your children, and your children’s children.

Here are a few resources for gifts with a significant, memorable, and enduring shelf life:

Gospel Shaped Family

The Legacy Coalition

Bethany House Publishing – Grandparents

Let this be the year to give gifts of faith for generations yet to come.

Share your resource ideas at barbhowe.org.

Hope for Rejected Grandparents

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Photo courtesy of Julie Johnson on Unsplash

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

As grandparents, our access to grandchildren is dependent upon the relationships we have with our adult children. It can be a challenge to maintain that perspective when we do not agree with their decisions. Sometimes parents oppose a relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. They may even be separated by physical distance.

As disheartening as these situations may be, they are not a reason to lose hope. Rather, they are opportunities to trust God for the outcome while continuing to pray for His guidance in the way we react to our circumstances.

One widow was disheartened when her son and daughter-in-law moved out of state, taking her two grandchildren with them. Opposing this grandmother’s faith, the father severed all contact between her and his children. After weeks of prayer and fasting, the grandmother began sending gifts and cards filled with words of hope to her grandchildren. At their insistence the father relented, allowing visits between his children and their beloved grandmother to resume.

A divorced man found himself left out of his daughter’s family celebrations. After coming to faith in Christ, he admitted his hot temper and accusing words contributed to the distance between him and the people he loved. With a contrite heart, he humbly reached out to his daughter, asking her to forgive his past sins. She was hesitant at first. But after he consistently and respectfully persevered, the daughter opened her home, and eventually her heart to him. He now has a thriving relationship with his daughter and grandchildren.

These two grandparents chose to trust in God when there was no evidence or human reason to believe their damaged family relationships would be restored. Rather than give up, they persisted, they prayed, and they pursued the goal of restoration. In doing so, they cast their anxieties to the Lord and trusted Him for the results.

To anyone who is facing this dilemma I say, “Don’t give up.” With utmost humility, ask God to pave the way for you to have a godly influence on the lives of your grandchildren. Be patient. God already know what you need and what your grandchildren need. And remember to give God all the glory for the way He answers your request.

Share your stories of hope at barbhowe.org.

That Thing About Babies

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Photo courtesy of Jessica-to-oto-o at Unsplash

There is an intrinsically attractive quality that babies possess. It’s not that they have an interest in serving those around them; quite the opposite. Babies expect their caregivers to attend to their every need, day or night at the slightest whim. They are oblivious to the needs of moms and dads who are forced to function while severely sleep deprived.

So, what is it about babies? I believe their vulnerability and responsiveness to people is the thing that makes babies so attractive to virtually everyone.

I once watched a video of an infant who cried uncontrollably until her father whispered into her ear, “Everything is alright.” At the sound of his voice, she immediately ceased from bawling and started to coo softly. This loving father was able to calm his baby with three simple words.

Imagine the impact his words might have over the course of her lifetime. When this little girl heads out the door for her first day of school, her first date, or her first job, will she carry in her heart a reminder of this loving father? I hope she does. And I hope her father is thinking about how he will pass along his legacy of love to her children and to her children’s children.

Babies don’t stay babies for long. Ask anyone who has ever experienced parenthood. It gets more difficult over time to remember what developmental milestone that child accomplished at three months of age, or nine months of age. Each is worth recording. Every nurturing emotion is worth recording, even if they’re recorded years later.

If you haven’t already done so, why not start a journal of recollections from your grandchild’s early years? That’s how my memoir to my grandson began. If your grandchildren are older, try contemplating their unique personalities and talents.

Now imagine yourself writing a letter to each one about a special place they hold in your heart. Tell them how you are blessed for having had them in your life. The thing about babies is they don’t stay babies for long, but they never outgrow the need to feel loved for who they are.

Share your ideas at barbhowe.org.

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.”

Visit me at barbhowe.org.

Endless Summer

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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.

Share your thoughts about heaven at barbhowe.org.

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.

Equipped to Disciple

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Contrary to messages from post-modern culture saying we deserve the right to endlessly pursue leisure, God has given a biblical mandate that we are to impact future generations with the Gospel. Quite honestly, His plan offers a more fulfilling use of our time as well as a greater sense of joy.

It means learning to partner within our Church community to accomplish His plan. But, where does one begin when churches overlook the powerful influence grandparents have on their grandchildren? I suggest picking up a copy of the book Equipping Grandparents from Legacy Coalition. In fewer than 100 pages, this little gem packs valuable insights from some of today’s powerhouse faith leaders.

Equipping Grandparents broadens the definition of “family” to recapture the inter-generational worship and shared activities that once typified church communities. It’s time to incorporate this creative approach in the shared objective of passing our faith to the youngest generation. It’s a “win-win” for church leaders and members alike. 

Visit the Legacy Coalition website.

Share your thoughts at: SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.