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.

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Fantasy Land

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Photo courtesy of NASA

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.

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Take a Little Trip

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Photo by Deanna Ritchie

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.

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Hidden in Plain Sight

Butterfly GardenHow 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.

Share your thoughts at: SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.

A Tale of Two Women

Spring FlowersTwo women linger over lunch by the window at a cafe. One is in her fifties. She wears a scarf around her head in the fashion common to one covering baldness that results from chemotherapy. The other is in her late twenties, midway through a pregnancy as evidenced by the swell along her midsection. They are having a leisurely mother-daughter lunch.

Leaning back into the chair and gesturing to make a point, the older woman carries on a dialogue while the younger woman rubs her belly and nods. Alternately, the younger woman talks while the older woman leans forward attentively. Their conversation is intentional.

Watching them causes me to consider the most important thing I want to share with people in my life, especially my grandson. I silently thank these two women for reminding me that whatever happens in this world is a temporary situation, but the course of our eternity is determined by the choice each of us makes to put our faith in Jesus Christ.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

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Connected Grandparents

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Courageous Grandparenting by Cavin Harper is the first book I read on the topic of Christian grandparenting. I picked it up at a conference held at my church a few years ago as a resource to help me navigate my complex new role. Back then, I had no idea there was a national network of Christian grandparents.

In addition to authoring books and establishing a communications network, Cavin writes weekly blogs and presents seminars on the topic. There is something comforting in knowing my challenges are common among grandparents, something even more comforting in knowing there are places to turn for answers that reflect biblical truths. Check out what Cavin has to say at: ChristianGrandparentingNetwork

During the past few years, I have discovered several others leading the charge into this growing life stage. It is a dynamic time in our culture when things we once held as true are being challenged at every level of thought. Cavin and others like him are pioneering the trail back to the Truth of God’s Word. Take heart. Connect with other grandparents who are putting on the full armor of God as in Ephesians 6:10-12.

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God’s Provision

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The birds were munching on seeds at feeders in the Minnesota Arboretum, at least five different species: cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, sparrows, and cedar waxwings. A few squirrels and chipmunks got into the action as well. Their entertaining antics reminded me that, in His divine care, God does not overlook even the tiniest of creatures.

And yet, the animals at the feeder carried on in business-as-usual fashion. They acted as if they would somehow have an unending supply of seeds available for the taking. They live in the moment, trusting an unseen provider. Young children live this way as well, trusting that their every need will be met.

As a grandparent, I find it easier to recognize such childlike faith. It’s probably the outcome of decades of learning to trust God to cover all my needs. God has given grandparents the responsibility of sharing our faith with younger generations. Doing so can be as simple as sharing how God has guided us through ordinary days, or through the biggest challenges of our lives.

The key is to stay alert for opportunities. They can be as fleeting as a bird landing on a feeder to munch a few seeds. Relax, pray, and when the moment presents itself, speak boldly about your faith.

Sliding Into Second Childhood

Lake Ann Sledding

The whole thing started when my grandson wanted a play date with a boy in his class. His request snowballed into two boys, five girls, one mom, two grandmas, and a grandpa congregating at the unofficial sledding hill of a local park.

As soon as our sled and Sno-Tube were out, the boys skidded their way down the hill. They tried every conceivable position to increase their speed: standing, sitting, or flattening themselves out. Their ultimate objective appeared to be ramming into one another with enough force to knock themselves into the air.

The girls took a little bit longer to finesse their way down the slope. They tested a brightly colored stack of plastic sleds from the back of another SUV until each found her perfect fit. Before long, their attention turned to snowball fights, building snowmen, and making snow angels.

All four adults stood at the top of the hill observing the crisscross of trails carved into the snow. “Are you going to try it?” the other grandma asked as she looked my way. Too late! I was already on my way down the hill. Everyone got into the act, screeching and laughing all the way down. 

By the time our shared play date came to a close, the adults were planning our next outing. My childhood flashed before my eyes. I reminisced about the days when a dozen or more kids escaped outside to construct forts, lob snowballs, and race back indoors for hot chocolate and dry socks.

Snow is falling as I write this. I’m smiling. It won’t be long before I’m sliding into the childhood excitement of winter with my grandson once again.

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True Treasures

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Among my collection of old family photos is one taken about 80 years ago. I know this because I recognize a toddler in the photo who is now in her early eighties. The photo includes faces of many other people, mostly adults. It’s interesting because some of the faces fade into the background.

This photo serves as a visual reminder of my own temporary imprint on earth. In a few short years, my face and name will begin to fade into obscurity. And 80 years from now, someone might pull up a digital photo of me and wonder who I am.

Don Moen wrote and performed a song titled “When It’s All Been Said and Done”. It’s one of my perennial favorites, probably because it tells such a compelling story. His message speaks about our life on earth in relation to our eternal home. The lyrics challenge us to consider whether we are living for something that matters beyond ourselves, or something that brings us temporary pleasure. 

In Ecclesiastes 1:14, King Solomon advises his sons that pursuing wisdom, pleasure, or success for our own satisfaction is like chasing the wind. At the end of his life, he admits that all his earthly treasures have become meaningless. He concludes Ecclesiastes with an admonition to revere God and obey His commands. What a spiritual legacy!

Do you find yourself chasing the wind? Or have you embraced the words of Matthew 6:19-20: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

At the end of life, we will all face the measure of how we choose to live today. Will your life count for meaningless treasures of earth, or eternal treasures in heaven? This will be the spiritual legacy you leave for generations to come.